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Jamaican students complain of lack of jobs after training

Teacher in classroom with eager students.

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Some Jamaican students who signed up for B.C.-based courses in the hopes of gaining employment as resident-care aides in Canada say those jobs have not materialized.

And students also say they have been stonewalled in efforts to get refunds of fees they paid to Marmicmon, the B.C.-based firm that co-ordinated the program.

Marmicmon and its principal, Michael Patterson, acted as the matchmaker between students in the program and prospective employers in Canada, students said.

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"He told us that their responsibility is to bring employers from Canada to interview us and for them to offer us employment," Dorothy Thompson, a student who registered for courses to become a resident-care aide, said Wednesday in a phone interview.

Ms. Thompson, 40, said she spent about $8,000 on the program, including a $1,500 consulting fee to Marmicmon.

The fee, she was told, would help offset the costs of bringing employers to Jamaica and providing their accommodation, she said.

"Basically we are paying him to place us in jobs," she said.

Most provinces, including B.C., have labour regulations that prohibit charging workers fees for jobs.

Mr. Patterson did not return a call for comment.

This month, The Globe and Mail reported that Alberta and B.C. are investigating companies linked to Mr. Patterson.

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B.C. is investigating a company called Hire Pro Drivers, which is run by Mr. Patterson and focuses on hiring professional truck drivers.

Alberta, meanwhile, is looking into a complaint it received last year concerning allegations of fees being charged for a work placement.

Ms. Thompson said she signed up for courses as a resident-care aide in the hopes of landing a job and furthering her education in Canada.

Since starting the program three years ago, she said she has encountered problems that include a change in the Canadian school that was partnering with Jamaican institutions to offer the program as well as uncertainty about whether the qualifications she obtained would meet immigration guidelines for skilled employees.

Another former student, who asked that her name not be published, said she went to a job fair arranged by Marmicmon last year expecting to meet multiple potential employers.

Instead, she said, only three employers showed up to an event jammed with several hundred students. Fewer than 20 students ended up being hired after that event, she said.

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"If we had known back then what we know now, we would never have done the course," she said. "I did this in order to get an opportunity to go there [Canada] to work."

Her credentials have not helped her much in Jamaica where wages for resident-care aides are low, she said.

Sprott Shaw College has a two-year agreement that expires this year to offer a care-aide program in Jamaica, school officials said Thursday. The program was the first of its kind for the college, which has 20 campuses in B.C.

Under the agreement, Sprott Shaw provides its curriculum and sends examiners to ensure its course standards are met. But it does not make any commitment to placing students in jobs.

Qualifications for care aides vary from province to province, says Dianne Girard, director of information services with Sprott Shaw.

The college has communicated with some students to provide information about guidelines in other provinces and can try to connect graduates with its potential-hiring network, she added.

"Even though we haven't committed to doing anything about job placement with Jamaica, we certainly want these students to have any help that we can provide," Ms. Girard said.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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