Arian Vidal: My Friend in Canada

“ISANS has been my friend in Canada.” Arian Vidal repeats this several times with great emotion. Arriving from Cuba in 2009, Arian and his wife, Marisol, wandered into the YMCA Centre for Immigrant Programs where they were referred to Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia.

“We didn’t know anyone. My wife could speak English, but I could not.” ISANS arranged for a year of English classes for Arian, while Marisol worked in housekeeping. Arian was a mechanical engineer for 12 years in Cuba – seven years working in heating, ventilation and air conditioning.  “But you can’t do much if you can’t read and write the language of a country,” he says, adding that he still doesn’t consider himself fluent and finds using the telephone challenging.

Through ISANS Arian took a course called Orientation and Communication Skills for Engineers.  He also took Pre-Employment Workshops, Computer Skills training and two online courses covering job hunting and writing resumes and cover letters.

Arian was employed with a moving company and as a painter. He then became an estimator at Atlantica Mechanical as part of the ISANS Work Placement Program.  His six weeks turned into a full-time job.  “If you are working with other Canadians, you have to prove yourself,” says Arian.  He had the basic skills, but coming from a country with no competitive market or heated buildings provided challenges. “When I didn’t know something, I looked it up on the internet.”

Arian loves his work and speaks highly of his manager. “Not many people hire immigrants. People have reservations or they are afraid. He is not.”  Atlantica Mechanical Special Projects manager Harry Grant says Arian has a great work ethic and was especially attractive to the company as he has ventilation experience. Grant appreciates the ISANS process and through ISANS found a project manager as well. “It’s great for us as they already see who’s suited and bring us the resumes.” A work term allows the company time to assess the candidate.  “When we bring people in, we discover they are more highly qualified than we realized.”

Arian is thoughtful about the immigrant experience. “As an immigrant you have to be really clear of what you want. You have to be realistic and have your feet on the ground.” He recalls a teacher who told him he’ll never be from here, and in time he won’t belong in his home country either. He knows life can be difficult and he misses most everything about Cuba – the weather, food and friends.  “It’s not easy to make friends. It’s a different culture. I play baseball, not hockey.”

But life is falling into place. Marisol is working at ADP, a payroll management company where she speaks Spanish with international clients. They soon will buy a house, and their son Alejandro, six, is settled into French Immersion.

Arian recalls as a boy looking through a calendar his father brought home from Canada. He had a feeling then that this would be a good place to live.