Inside Toronto: Livelihood Project helps newcomers get ‘job ready’

Finding a job can be tough, especially for newcomers, but one Toronto-based organization is trying to make that search easier with an innovative platform called the Livelihood Project.

Developed by Arash Samimi and Parin Kothari, the digitally-based mobile career coach combines digital technology with behavioural science to equip newcomers with the skills they need to secure a job and build a career in a changing work environment.

“We want to close the gaps in communication and sources of information. We want to help people to navigate their career journey,” said Samimi. “We want to build a job-ready workforce through skilled training.”

The project has earned Samimi and Kothari a Mitacs Entrepreneur Award. The non-for-profit organization, Mitacs, partners with companies, government and academia to promote Canadian research and training.

“Being a recipient of this award lets me know we’re doing something right. The bar is set high now,” Samimi told Metroland Media.

He and Kothari first had the idea for the project two years ago with the influx of Syrian refugees coming into the city. They thought it was the perfect time to look into the gap employment services

“During the first year of newcomers coming to Canada, there are many agencies that successfully help them to become integrated in the community in a social aspect. But the second layer, which is their economic integration, basically finding a job, is where the problem begins and the gaps are,” said Samimi.

The project has three components. The first is a mobile app equipped with an artificial intelligence engine that breaks down careers into a set of skills. The second is a personalized career map and the third is a hands-on workshop where newcomers can learn and build on the skills needed for their specified career.

There is also a behavioural assessment done to help decide what personality traits the newcomer possesses and if it fits with the career they want. If it doesn’t, it also suggests career paths for them.

From there, newcomers are coached and supported as they start out their career journey. For newcomers with very basic skills they are given a job at the Livelihood Café in Kensington Market to help learn soft skills, such as leadership, communication and teamwork.

Since launching in 2016, the Livelihood Project has a cohort of 12 newcomers from Syria, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan to help with pilot testing and development.

According to Samimi, his project provides something employment service centres are lacking with regard to helping newcomers integrate economically into society.

“One of the biggest differences is that the current employment service centres are about resume matching and it’s very mechanical and rigid. The mindset that exists right now is more toward  job matching,” Samimi explained

“We don’t give them a job but we make them job ready. We figure out what their motivations are and their transferable skills and help them do something worthwhile.”

The technology is expected to have a full-scale launch in 2019, until then it remains in its beta testing form.

By: Hilary Caton