"Boss Women": Celebrating the 2016-17 Business Office Skills Graduates

"This morning, I reflect on a journey that started out with hesitant, tentative steps. We see just how far we have come...It has been an honour and a privilege being part of this journey with you all. I regret nothing."

With these inspiring words from Keisha Cummins, Business Office Skills graduate and class valedictorian, twelve women successfully graduated from the BOS program, and prepared to take the next step in their careers, on January 27 at a special graduation ceremony at Centennial College.

These “boss women” – as the group affectionately refer to themselves – completed a 12-week course that combined classroom learning with 100 hours of hands-on work experience, in order to receive their Business Office Skills certification. Four graduates have already found employment at an insurance company, an Employment Ontario service provider, a law firm and a security agency. The remainder of the graduates are actively job-searching with help from program partner The Labour Education Centre, and hope to secure employment soon.

“Changes are inevitable,” said Keisha, in her graduation address. “It was inevitable for us to be here, and it is indeed gratifying to see that our graduating class of 2016-17 matured and became proficient, ready to tackle the business world and further our education, despite the obstacles.”

The Business Office Skills program seeks to address the challenges newcomers face in transitioning into paid employment. The students in this class came to Canada from countries as diverse as Tajikistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Jamaica, Colombia, Iran and Ukraine, and some have been living here less than a year. According to Statistics Canada, Ontario has the highest unemployment rate amongst newcomers in Canada, at 9.5 percent. A major barrier to gainful employment is a lack of Canadian work experience. The BOS program helps newcomer women to not only learn the skills they need to succeed in the workplace, but also allows them to put those skills to use with relevant Canadian experience, as well as gain connections and references that will help in future job searches.

With this class, thirty-two women have now graduated from the BOS program since it began in 2014. We’re looking forward to welcoming the next class, starting in February, as the program continues.   Grateful thanks to our generous program funders: CIBC Community Investment, The Slaight Foundation, The Sprott Foundation and State Street Corporation. 


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