Parlez-vous francais? If you do, and if you're looking for employment opportunities, the 2004 Bilingual Job & Training Fair promises an audience with dozens of companies looking for skilled, bilingual individuals.
Now in its fifth year, the two-day job fair at the National Trade Centre is free and provides a great opportunity for job hunters to connect with more than 70 companies.
Now in its fifth year, the Bilingual Job Fair takes place today and tomorrow at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at The National Trade Centre. More than 70 companies from a variety of industries -- including government, financial services, health, employment agencies, education and more -- will be on hand to speak with job hunters.
Organizers expect this year's two-day fair to draw record crowds. "In the past we had about 1,200 attendees," says Rose Handy, manager of client services, Jobs & Carrieres Infos, an employment newspaper for the bilingual job market. "This year we're going for 4,000."
The expected increase in attendance is due to a new format for the fair. "In the past it was a one-day, five-hour event, and we always had people coming after the fair was closed hoping to get in," explains Handy. "So this year, for the first time, we're trying a different format - a two-day event."
Admission is free (don't forget to bring your resume) and attendees are encouraged to "go from booth to booth to see what employers are looking for, and what they're offering," says Handy. "This year we're also introducing conferences on a variety of topics, and we're looking forward to a panel discussion covering 'How to prepare French-speaking people for the job market.' "
The equivalent of a corporate dating service, the fair helps unite eager employers with skilled workers they would have trouble finding on their own. Handy says employers in the GTA don't realize how many skilled, bilingual workers live in the Toronto area. "They think that to fill French-speaking positions they have to recruit in Quebec or New Brunswick."
Employers also seem to perceive that the Toronto area suffers from a lack of skilled, bilingual labour.
"But at this point we don't know if it's just a perception on the part of employers, due to the fact that they don't know just how many bilingual individuals are in the job market," explains Handy. "We, on the other hand, have a sense that there are more bilingual positions out there than we have bilingual workers for."
Being able to communicate in two languages is an asset, but only if an employee is aware of it.
"When you're bilingual you're entitled to a better salary than a person who speaks only one language," Handy explains. "But if you don't request a higher salary from your employer, don't expect him or her to bring up the subject. They won't say a thing."
If an English-speaking person is making $12 an hour, for example, a person who's required to speak two languages, doing the same job, should be getting at least $15 an hour, says Handy.
Although predominantly catering to the English-French market, simply due to the realities of living in Canada, the job fair also has limited prospects for employees who speak English and Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, or Cantonese. "Our job fair used to be just for the English and French, but we're trying to open it up to other languages in harmony with the demands we're getting from employers," concludes Handy.
The show is on today and tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the National Trade Centre.
For more information, call 416-781-9780, or visit www.bilinguallink.com.
(Jack Kazmierski (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is a Toronto-based freelance writer and editor.)
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