There is a pressing need for greater training of settlement counsellors – those on the front lines of welcoming newcomers to Canada – as their role changes in response to rising immigration levels and an increasingly complex settlement landscape, according to a new CERIC-funded project research report. The pan-Canadian research from two Toronto-based consultants identifies eight critical competencies that could form the basis of training to help settlement counsellors be successful as the job is redefined and the range of work is extended. While the focus is on the role of settlement counsellors, many of the insights, conclusions and recommendations can be applied to other categories of front-line settlement workers.
Canada is widely acknowledged to have one of the strongest settlement sectors in the world. At its core are 500 non-profit organizations that deliver programs and services to help newcomers adjust to life in Canada, including by improving their labour market outcomes. Front-line settlement counsellors are one of the initial points of contact for immigrants, helping them adapt and participate in Canadian society. But with the ongoing rise in immigration levels that will see more than one million newcomers welcomed between 2019 and 2021, the report highlights that settlement service agencies cannot address the challenges alone.
The report, The Competencies of Frontline Settlement Counsellors in Canada, from Iren Koltermann of eCaliber Group and Dan Scott of Calience Research and Consulting, found that the work of settlement counsellors needs to go beyond a traditional approach of providing direct services to immigrants to include building capacity in communities that welcome newcomers. The role of settlement counsellors now fundamentally has two parts, each based on capacity-building: empowering newcomers and empowering destination communities.
The eight critical competencies to help settlement counsellors be successful include the ability to:
- Discern the strengths and identify the needs of newcomers
- Assist newcomers to navigate social and economic systems
- Help newcomers gain understanding of Canadian society and culture, and nurture a sense of belonging
- Advocate for the well-being of newcomers
- Contribute to building environments of unity in diversity
- Uphold integrity
- Promote learning
- Foster initiative