Special thanks to Niall Monk Carry and Shane Cadogan in Vancouver for volunteering this content to help others following their path to Canada.
Note: This article is written for Vancouver, British Columbia, but the advice is applicable to all provinces in Canada.
I have been working with Adults with Disabilities (mainly Autism) for the same organization since I arrived in 2008. I originally started on a part-time basis and was given a full-time contract after a three-month trial. From my experience, this seems to be fairly common as employers like to be as sure as possible about an employee before offering a full-time contract, so don’t be put off if you’re offered part time to start. My experience here has been great when compared to Ireland as the overall standard is much higher than back home. There is a huge amount of flexibility with regards shifts, ranging from day programs to residential homes involving evening and night shifts, with many organisations providing some excellent ongoing training at work.
The vast majority of organisations are located in the suburbs of Vancouver with only a small amount located near the city, so be prepared to look outside central Vancouver. The best way I found was to Google “community living organizations” and “adults disabilities day programs”. I found my current job, however, in the non-profit section of craigslist. There have been quite a few cuts made to the budgets of disability organizations over the past few years and some employers are finding it difficult to post jobs due to the cost, so even if you can’t see job postings from an employer send in your resume anyway as they could be hiring.
- They look for a College/University Diploma/Degree. There is nothing better than experience in this line of work, however, so if you have a decent amount of experience an employer may take you on even without a qualification.
- A valid First Aid with CPR is a must for most organizations. If you turn up to an interview with a newly acquired First Aid with CPR it looks good to the employer and means you can start straight away as opposed to having to do a course before you can start. The are two training bodies offering training almost every week that are accepted Canada-wide: 1) The Canadian Red Cross — www.redcross.ca/, and 2) St. Johns Ambulance Canada — www.sja.ca.
- A recent police cert for both the country you have just arrived from and for Canada. Even if you have just stepped off the plane they usually require a Canadian one for their records.
- A valid BC driver’s licence, with many organisations looking for a Class 4 driver’s licence. Dont be put off if you don’t have this or even if you don’t drive, but having a valid BC licence, especially a Class 4 licence, would give you a huge advantage in the employment process.
Mental Health by Niall Monk Carry
I have had a degree in Applied social studies in social care since 2007. My experience in Canada was working in downtown Vancouver, firstly with an organisation called Family Services of Greater Vancouver in a drop-in resource centre and another big project downtown called Covenant House Youth shelter programme. The work was great and helped me make some great connections with clients and other coworkers. I worked with homeless youth at risk of drug use. To get in to this type of work you need at least two years of experience working with at risk youth and/or challenging behavior and/or drug-using youth, otherwise it can be difficult.
My previous experience in Australia also working in a detox for youth programme was a definite help in getting these jobs. I have found, in general, emails don’t always work but it did work with Family Services who invited me to call them when I got to Vancouver. Through a friend of a friend I got in contact with Covenant House, so networking in Vancouver is a massive help. Working in these jobs, you connect with other agencies in referrals such as te Ministry of Children and Family Development, which is the Social Services and Child Protection wing of British Columbia. In Family Services I started working as a relief worker. Be prepared to work a lot of overnights to start and then you will find your feet and get day shifts and on to full-time work. There are plenty of Canadians to cover your job so getting an LMO is very difficult unless you are a registered Social Worker, very experienced or in a hard to fill social work post. There are lots of services in Vancouver for youth and adults in shelters drug services. There are a lot of mental health services in Vancouver.
For those with little experience, get any some general Canadian work experience and try to volunteer a few hours a week in some social care setting as this may open doors for you. Also, for those thinking of moving to Canada, you do need a medical examination for each visa. Experience is the key in Canada but there are definitely opportunities in this area of work in Vancouver. Just be prepared to start on low wages and unsociable hours, but stick it out and it will be worth it.