Skills for Change

Skills for Change is known for pioneering programs that respond to shifting immigration and workplace trends and lead to employment. The first program, in 1983, was an office training program that successfully led all its first graduates, a group of women from Southeast Asia, into full-time employment. We take pride in our track record and the recognition of our agency within and outside the Greater Toronto Area and province as a leader in services to internationally trained immigrants. We serve 14,000 people annually.

skills for change servicesOur Impact Why We Exist


We envision a Canada where every immigrant succeeds.


We provide learning and training opportunities for immigrants and refugees to access and fully participate in the workplace and wider community.

Our Story What We Do

Our Story began in 1982

In 1982, five English as a Second Language teachers identified a need and shared a vision for integrated skills and language training. That vision became Toronto Office Skills, the former name of the agency. As the immigrant/refugee community needs changed, the agency evaluated itself, restructured, and raised funds to acquire a building and what emerged from that process is the agency, as we know it – Skills for Change.

From its inception, Skills for Change assumed a leadership role to address policy issues, undertake public education and research on issues affecting immigrants and refugees. At the same time, we pioneered innovative service models specific to internationally trained professionals.

Now a range of accelerated programs are offered to fit the needs of the people arriving from all parts of the world. Services offered include information and referral, French and English language assessment, English language instruction, integrated language/skills training, employment preparation, business skills, mentoring, entrepreneurship skills, skilled trades and settlement services.

Accolades and Accomplishments

Skills for Change has received the following recognition: Citizenship and Immigration Canada Citation of Citizenship Award; Conference Board of Canada Community Learning Award; and Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration Newcomer Champion Award.

Our Programs How We Do It

SfC supports diversity at work for immigrants and refugees via a variety of programs and services that include:

  • Intake and Assessment
  • Language Training
  • Occupation-specific Employment Preparation Programs ( Accountants and Bookkeepers, Medical Practitioners, Engineers, Electricians and Millwrights, Customer Service Professionals, Clerical and Administration, Teachers)
  • Skills Upgrading
  • Settlement Services
  • Employment Resource Centre
  • Mentoring
  • Computer-based Training
  • Leaders in Residence
  • Gender-based Analysis and Service Delivery thorugh Gender lens

New Pioneers Awards

The New Pioneers Awards is a Toronto's premiere community driven public education event that showcases the accomplishments of newcomers in six areas including Arts, Community Service, Entrepreneurship, Science and Technology Youth and SfC Graduate. The Toronto community nominates these outstanding candidates and community volunteers select the recipients. For the past 18 years, the NPA has brought newcomers and corporations together to celebrate newcomer achievements and highlight the contribution newcomers have made to the Toronto community and Canada. In 2008 the NPA moved from individual recognition to collective action with the founding of Pioneers for Change (PfC), is a volunteer-driven alumnus of past NPA award recipients who come together to harness their collective skills, experience, passion, ideas and networks to support the newcomer initiatives SfC undertakes.

Funding and Program Partners


  • CIBC
  • Western Union
  • Blakes
  • Carranza Barristers and Solicitors
  • CGAO
  • Sun Life Financial
  • TD Bank Financial Group
  • Xerox
  • Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration ( Ontario)
  • Ernst & Young
  • C&D Graphics
  • KPMG
  • Fidelity Investments
  • Hydro One
  • Professional Engineers of Ontario
  • OMNI & Citytv
  • The Toronto Star
  • Ming Pao Daily News
  • Canadian Newcomer Magazine

Program Impact

Since 1993 , SfC has worked with many community and business leaders, has received hundreds of nominations and has selected and recognized over 100 outstanding newcomers for their contribution to our community. Through the NPA, SfC has raised the bar of awareness on newcomers' value to our community by hosting the annual NPA event bringing together corporations, business and community leaders and representatives from all three levels of government. All sponsorship dollars generated through the NPA are used to fund the many Programs and Services SfC makes available to immigrants and refugees.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Toronto relies heavily on high immigration levels to sustain its population and fill jobs. Without immigration, the City’s population would have shrunk an estimated 10% between 2001 and 2006.  And almost half (44%) of recent immigrants (in Canada 5 years or less) in the City in 2006 were between the ages of 25 and 44 years when they moved; almost one-quarter (23%) were under the age of 14.”

“A number of high-performing organizations in the GTA have made diversity a strategic priority, but in all sectors, visible minorities represent on average, just 13% of the region’s leadership." 

Participant Vignette

With over 100 outstanding newcomers who have received the coveted New Pioneers Award over the past 18 years, it is difficult to select just one award recipient to represent the breadth and depth of the talent and enthusiasm these extraordinary immigrants bring to our Toronto community. From scientists, entrepreneurs and artists to educators, dancers, and physicians, we have had the honor to share the stage with individuals from across the world who now proudly call Canada their home. To get an in depth perspective of the lives and stories behind these individuals, we invite you to visit our NPA website at

Mentoring for Change

  • Skills for Change developed a mentoring model and pioneered mentoring services for internationally trained professionals (ITPs) in 1993 by offering mentoring in the fields of accounting and finance, engineering, bio-technology and IT.

 As our mentoring model proved its effectiveness and gained popularity in assisting ITPs, the demand for mentoring increased and our services expanded to include mentoring for teaching, trades, social services, banking, sales and marketing, human resources, and other professions, as well as mentoring for language skill development and settlement mentoring.

The Mentoring for Change model includes a thorough orientation to mentoring program for both mentees and mentors including clarification of roles and responsibilities as well as ongoing support and check-ins for mentoring pairs from dedicated mentoring staff.

Today mentoring for ITPs is recognized as one of the most effective interventions leading to successful employment, settlement and language skill development.

Funding and Program Partners


  • Toronto Community Foundation
  • The United Way of Greater Toronto
  • The Counselling Foundation


  • Brampton Public Library
  • Ryerson University
  • City of Toronto
  • Toronto Region Conservation Authority
  • St. Michael’s Hospital

Program Impact

Through participation in mentoring programs, internationally trained professionals experience significant reduction in barriers to employment, settlement and language skills development. They are better prepared to enter and succeed in the labour market as well as to participate in and contribute to society as a whole. By enabling newcomers to succeed in Canadian society and engaging established Canadian professionals as volunteer mentors, mentoring programs contribute to health and vitality of all Toronto communities. In 2009/2010 Skills for Change facilitated 359 mentoring matches through our employment, language and settlement mentoring programs.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"The earnings gap between recent immigrants and Canadian-born workers has widened significantly over 25 years. In 1980 recent immigrant women earned 85 cents for each dollar received by Canadian born women. By 2005, the ratio was 56 cents even though the educational levels of recent immigrant earners had grown faster than those of their Canadian-born peers during the period." In response to this widening earnings gap, Mentoring for Change is positioned to help immigrants and refugees who are new to the GTA (and Canada) by matching them with mentors who can support them in the three “Cs” of immigrant need, namely building Confidence, honing effective workplace Communications skills and making Connections in the workplace. Our experience has shown  that newcomers significantly increase their chances for securing meaningful employment commensurate with their international experience when they’re supported by a business mentor during the job search process.

Participant Vignette

An internationally trained engineer, S.D. participated in Mentoring Program with Skills for Change starting in December 2009. After an assessment of his skills and needs, S.D. was matched with a Professional Engineer mentor working with the Ministry of the Environment. In the course of a four month mentoring relationship, S.D.'s mentor was able to arrange a relevant volunteer opportunity for S.D. with a department of the Ministry of the Environment.

"This volunteering position and the experience I obtained by working with a group of Engineering Professionals have helped to obtain a position with York Regional Municipality as an Engineering Assistant. I got this job offer on May 13, 2010. I am very excited to get this job offer. I thank you very much for your time and hard work to arrange a mentoring opportunity for me at the Ministry; I thank [my mentor]. for his time to guide me during the course of the mentoring program and afterwards to arrange a volunteering opportunity, to help to get Canadian experience, and to provide a very good reference to the York Region."

Gender-Based Analysis (GBA) and the Leaders In Residence (LIR) project

Gender-Based Analysis (GBA) and Leaders in Residence (LIR) project is an innovative multi-year initiative funded by Status of Women Canada. Approximately 50% (over 7,000 per year) of the SfC clients are immigrant women and these numbers are projected to steadily grow[1]. Hence, the need for GBA titled “Gender Consideration When Developing Programming for Immigrant Women”, which identified systemic and domestic barriers that immigrant women face in accessing equitable services.

From 2001 to 2006, Canada’s population of immigrant women grew by 14%, a growth rate four times faster than that of Canadian-born women, which only increased by 3.4%.  During this same period, about 579,800 women immigrated toCanada, accounting for 69% of the growth of the female population. (StatisticsCanada) 

Funding and Program Partners

The Status of Women has generously supported the inception of this program since 2011 with the budget of $389,298. 

The program is delivered by SfC staff, Immigrant Women Leaders In Residence past and present fellows and volunteers.  

Program Impact

The GBA resulted in the improved service delivery at SfC and a new approach to program design for women through the gender-based lens. In the GBA of barriers impeding immigrant women’s full integration into Canadian society, it was identified that the concept of leadership and development of leadership skills among immigrant women was one of the areas that needed intervention. Specifically, the vast majority of the GBA participants viewed leadership through an exclusive lens of management in the workplace or politics. 

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

“As a society we can no longer afford to operate in isolation from one another. Our problems are too complex for any one solution alone. Our collective impact can create the kind of change our society, and indeed our world, needs.  We owe it to each other, and to ourselves, to experiment with the power of collective impact.”

Anne Gloger, Storefront Director, East Scarborough Storefront

Participant Vignette

SfC first Leader in Residence, Tinashe Mafukidze, was an actively engaged emerging leader in the community, tacking issues on social change such as HIV/AIDS, immigrant and settlement, diversity, conflict and genocide, access and inclusion, poverty, youth and community engagement. However, when she became a first Leader in Residence, she said that she was “very humbled by this opportunity and saw it as a learning opportunity to advocate for immigrant women who are often left in the margins of whatever sector you are”. Tinashe, who was born in Zimbabwe and who came to Canada when she was 15 years old also points out that: “My mother’s own story was so inspiring for me because she is honestly … a great reflection on what challenges immigrant women face when we come to this country and don’t have social connections.”

As a former LIR, Tinashe continues showing her commitment to the immigrant women’s cause: she supports the LIR project and its new Leaders in Residence, and continues sharing best practices and lessons learnt. In her own words, Tinashe’s life is:

“a series of projects - some complete and many in progress. I'm on a mission to intentionally live and love a lot more.”

What You Can Do

New Pioneers Awards

Activities a donation will support

Your generous financial support for the NPA will enable us to:

  • Provide our newcomer recognition event expertise to other like-minded immigrant serving agencies across Canada
  • Expand the types and number of recognition (and awards) to newcomer in new areas of accomplishments ( i.e. Leadership, Customer Service Excellence etc.)
  • Help us to recruit and engage volunteers in our NPA Nomination, Selection Teams and Pioneers for Change alumnus

Donation impact

Your generous support to the New Pioneers Awards event and Pioneers for Change action group will:1. Support our ability to continue showcasing newcomer talent in the Toronto community

2. Provide a forum for businesses, community leaders and newcomers to meet, celebrate and engage in meaningful dialog

3. Heighten our efforts to affect positive change for newcomers to Toronto through the advocacy and support work of the Pioneers for Change action group

4. Support the integration of newcomers into our business and social communities

Mentoring for Change

Activities a donation will support

Your generous support to the mentoring programs at Skills for Change will:

  • support ongoing recruitment of new mentors in high need and underrepresented professions
  • help with transfer to new database technology for faster mentor/mentee matching and improved ability of mentoring staff to support active mentoring pairs
  • allow us to plan and execute mentor training, engagement, appreciation and retention activities throughout the year
  • allow for review and updating of mentoring curriculum and training materials to reflect current best practices and new emerging needs around employment retention for ITPs

Donation impact

Your support to mentoring programs will result in one of the most agile, responsive and engaging mentoring programs serving ITPs in Toronto providing opportunities not only for internationally trained professionals but also for established Canadian professionals to give back to the community while enhancing their leaderships skills, improving cross-cultural communication and in turn being catalysts of positive change in their workplaces and wider Toronto communities.

Gender-Based Analysis (GBA) and the Leaders In Residence (LIR) project

Activities a donation will support

The strategic activities will be as follows:

  • Research, evaluation and documentation of best practices of a GBA methodology to program intake;
  • Research, evaluation and documentation of Immigrant Women Leaders in Residence feedback on the implementation of their respective projects; 
  • Research, evaluation and documentation of best practices that will enable replication of the LIR program within other neighbourhoods/organizations;
  • Documentation and promotion of the Immigrant Women Leaders in Residence individual projects and their impact on the immigrant women, who participated in them. This will include video, photographs, and a printed brochure;
  • The stories of impact will be also available on the SfC web site in downloadable format and disseminated among organizations that are interested to replicate LIR program.

Donation impact

With an investment of $30,000 in 2014, SfC will be able to document and disseminate the results of its GBA report: “Canadian Immigrant Women: Overcoming Barriers”, and to embark on building partnerships with intermediaries and non-traditional stakeholders who are dedicated to advancing equal access to programming for immigrant women with the goal to replicate a LIR model in two new communities, ultimately recruiting 8 new LIR participants by 2016.  


Aranzazu Ruiz-Arijon
Junior Project Manager
Charitable Number: 121471858RR0001

Finance & Governance


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