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Catholic Family Service Society Opens Newcomer Centre

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By Frank Flegel

Newcomers to the province through Regina will now have additional help as they improve their English language skills and learn what it takes to obtain and keep a job in their new country. Regina’s Catholic Family Services Society (CFSS) opened its newcomer centre June 28 at the request and help of Immigration Canada. 

“Immigration Canada identified missing needs for newcomers and approached CFSS last year and requested the organization develop programs to meet those needs. CFSS was provided with a grant of $1.4-million to get a program up and running. We are targeting folks who have lower level English than what traditional employment counselling service does, with a focus on youth and women,” said Sandra Urban, newly appointed CFSS Executive Director. She was appointed April 1, 2017, following the retirement of David Sax.

Catholic Family Services had unsuccessfully applied to Immigration Canada for other programs and their application was kept on file. So, when the department went looking for an organization to fill what was identified as a gap in services for newcomers, CFSS was approached in 2016. “Our employment classes are unique,” said Urban. “When folks are in class, they are looking at things that would be unique in the Canadian workforce culture, something that we would take for granted, but if you’re new you wouldn’t know how to have a conversation about things like employee discipline, for example. So, we supply some cultural context. Once they leave class, the program follows them for the next six months to see if they need any help in applying for jobs, giving them some coaching on preparing for interviews. If they have a job, we’ll work with them and their employer if there are any hiccups.”

The Centre will also provide counselling and family support for newcomer families which is mirrored after its regular services. The Society sees this as being a preventive measure, an upstream approach to help families become established within the community now, before they may have to become more dependent and have to access support through Social Services.

Catholic Family Services is 80 years old in 2017, and Urban said the organization is building on a successful history by opening the Newcomer Centre.  The Centre occupies the entire third floor of a three-story building located just off the west side of the downtown business core. “It’s more space than we need right know but it gives us room to expand,” said Urban.  The Centre will employ one employment counsellor, two classroom teachers, a program manager, two family support workers and a counsellor, plus administrative support staff.