Mar 6, 2017

Inside Spread Cover

It was early Tuesday evening when Kristel Manlig-Marfil got to Langara’s main campus for her cover story photo shoot. She was bundled up for the chilly February night in a long black winter coat and came with her husband, Ralph, directly from her job in Burnaby. It had already been a long day for them, especially for Kristel who was five months pregnant, but these types of days weren’t uncommon for the soft-spoken couple. They’ve long been on a journey of perseverance and purpose, and Langara was playing a part in helping them reach their destination.

In 2015, Kristel and Ralph migrated to Vancouver via the Canadian Federal Skilled Worker immigration program hoping to improve their personal and professional lives. Both had earned bachelor’s degrees in Electronics and Communications Engineering in the Philippines, but because of timing and industry standards, they were ineligible to work as engineers in BC. They found themselves in a career transition.

Kristel had worked in her profession in Asia for several years. After passing her Electronics Engineer Licensure Exam in 2007, she landed her first job in the semiconductor field. A few years later, she moved to Singapore where she worked as an industrialization engineer in a smart card manufacturing company for almost six years. Unfortunately, residency was unstable there, so Kristel and Ralph had to look elsewhere for work. Her parents were already living in Vancouver so it was inevitable she would explore career opportunities here.

Determined to work as an engineer in BC, Kristel and Ralph joined the Skills Connect employment program, which helped them, move into careers matching their experience and background. “They connected us with employers and introduced us to other programs that would enhance our skills in accordance with Canada’s system. That’s where we found out about Continuing Studies’ Introduction to Engineering in BC (IEBC) Program,” she shares.

Kristel didn’t hesitate to register. Aside from Langara’s established reputation, she found the IEBC program well-balanced. She liked that it taught industry specific skills and strong awareness of Canadian workplace culture. “It was a very good introduction for engineer immigrants like us,” she remarks. “The teachers are all accomplished, industry-specific professionals. They provide valuable insights from their experiences, what specific steps to take, and they push us to find the courage to pursue the job that suits our credentials. The practicum was perfect for connecting students and employers, and I was able to enhance my credentials according to Canadian standards.”

While Kristel’s journey is far from over, she remains thankful for the resources she’s been able to access in order to get her to where she is. She noted that employment and education programs are valuable for skilled immigrants like her who are driven to reach their professional goals but are susceptible to bumps in the road that could derail their career transition.

“Though the process of adapting to a new country is not new for us, it’s never easy. It's a different environment, different people, and another set of rules and systems to adjust to. The IEBC program helped me gain industry specific skills and gave an overview of how to transition myself in the engineering field here in BC. We also felt a great sense of relief that the Government of Canada was so supportive of new immigrants.”

“Naturally, I was frustrated when I discovered I’d have to take a few steps back in my career. Most of the skilled immigrants (specifically engineers) we know have taken survival jobs and ended up staying there permanently,” she says. “It’s common, but there are also success stories of people who have taken actions to get back into their respective fields. They’re inspiring.” With her drive, hard work, and determination, there’s little doubt Kristel is also on her way to becoming one of them.

Kristel Anne Marie Manlig-Marfil works at Kodak as an Optical Mechanical Technician. She is expecting her baby boy in June.

View the Continuing Studies 2017 Summer Guidebook online.