The Ukrainian Canadian Congress and a local church are helping prepare Ukrainian newcomers for work in Manitoba by offering a low-barrier food handler’s course in Ukrainian.
Around 115 Ukrainian newcomers took the day-long course, held in the basement of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. It’s the third time the course has been offered in the past year, and according to Ukrainian Canadian Congress board member Michelle Kowalchuk, demand for the course is high.
“Within about two hours, it was half filled,” she said. “By the time I woke up the next morning, we had 130 people signed up.”
Kowalchuk said the course materials were translated from English to Ukrainian by a Ukrainian newcomer who arrived in Winnipeg several months ago. It is offered for free, as many of the students came to Canada with little money and a low level of English.
“We know there’s lots of people who need this training in order to get employment, and often people are coming into entry level jobs,” Kowalchuk said. “For them to have to pay for training, it’s a huge barrier.”
The course is taught by a registered dietician with a Ukrainian translator, and the provincial exam is also in Ukrainian. Lunch is also served mid-day free of charge.
Some students, like Lina Frank, have never worked in food service before. Frank worked at a bank in Kyiv before coming to Winnipeg six months ago.
“I want to know the law in Manitoba, about food, food handling, cooking,” she said. “How to work with food.”
Others, like Yurii Yatskiv and Ohleh Durda, have years of experience. They worked together as sushi chefs in Ukraine and Poland. Within a week of being in Winnipeg, they’d found jobs at a local sushi joint, which prompted them to take the food handling course.
“We just showed what we were able to do, and we were hired immediately,” Yatskiv told Global News through a translator.
According to the province’s website, not everyone who works in a restaurant needs to complete food handler training, but depending on the number of staff, establishments must have at least one certified handler on shift or on their roster. The province also requires the operator of the establishment to have successfully completed training.
Mark Myrowich is the CEO of Myrowich Staffing Agency, which focuses on hiring Ukrainian newcomers. He says that connecting skilled workers to their industries in Manitoba can be a challenge, and that certifications like the food handler’s course can help people get their foot in the door.
“I’ve heard many that have said, ‘We’ve given out our resumes to 200 different places, and nobody has taken us,'” Myrowich said. “They’re frustrated by that.”
Those who pass the exam will be able to add “Certified Food Handler” to their resume. And some may take their foodservice careers further and go into business for themselves.
“We would like to enhance our knowledge here, improve our skills,” said Yatskiv, “and in the future potentially open our own sushi restaurant.”