National Director, Client Success, Windmill Microlending
Highly skilled immigrants often struggle to get their credentials recognized in Canada. Windmill helps ease this transition by offering affordable loans.
Immigrants and refugees to Canada face numerous challenges to settlement and integration – housing, childcare, and finding employment.
While many of these individuals are highly skilled, educated, and experienced professionals, they may lack recognition of their credentials in Canada, presenting a barrier to establishing their careers. The process to get certified, licensed, or retrained can be long and costly, and without credit history or collateral, it’s difficult for them to access the funds to pay for their education. As a result, many end up taking on low-paying “survival” jobs, well below their skill level.
Microloans to finance education, upskilling and retraining
Funded by the public and private sectors, Windmill is a national charity that offers microloans of up to $15,000, to help skilled immigrants and refugees finance their education, upskilling, and retraining in Canada. “We understand the situation they’re in, so by offering loans at lower interest rates without them having to provide a credit history, collateral, or co-signers, we’re making it affordable and accessible,” says Paula Calderon, Windmill’s National Director, Client Success.
Loans are for programs of up to two years in duration and candidates are eligible to apply for more funding once they’ve repaid the loan in full. Along with educational funding, the loans can be used for licensing exam fees, assessments, books and materials, living allowance, or even childcare costs as they pursue their education. As well, Windmill helps newcomers develop an understanding of the Canadian financial system and build independence. “Our goal is to see them succeed and contribute to the Canadian economy. We educate people on the intersection between career planning and financial planning to help them understand how financial products can enable, rather than be a burden when well managed,” Calderon says.
Each loan is flexible and geared to the individual’s plan and needs. All participants work with a dedicated client success coach, who supports them for the entire journey – from intake to loan repayment. Windmill also offers mentoring and other career planning and online digital resources. The 98% loan repayment rate shows that clients are achieving career success, financial stability, and contributing to the Canadian economy much faster than they would without such support. On average clients more than triple their income after working with Windmill and return to their chosen careers. “We see this as a direct return on investment to donors, funders, and the country overall,” says Calderon.
A client’s journey – retraining for a career in cybersecurity
Victor Vazquez immigrated to Canada from Mexico five years ago and worked in the public diplomacy department of a foreign consulate until early 2020 when he lost his job during the COVID-19 pandemic. This sudden disruption prompted him to re-evaluate his life and career goals and consider a career in cybersecurity – something that had always interested him.
As he started researching opportunities, he discovered the Windmill website by serendipity. “At first, I thought it sounded too good to be true, but then, I realized it was a not-for-profit run by people who simply wanted to give immigrants like me a chance to be competitive in this market,” says Vazquez.
Through Windmill, Vazquez acquired a loan to take an intensive, three-month online Bootcamp program to become a certified information systems security professional. He is now a newly hired application specialist for a software company. “I would not have been able to succeed without Windmill,” The communication was terrific all the way through, and my client success coach just made everything easy for me,” he says.
To learn more about Windmill Microlending and the supports, coaching, and resources Windmill offers, or to find out if you are eligible for an affordable Windmill loan, please visit windmillmicrolending.org