Good-paying jobs are hard to come by in Jamaica, and Canada is a popular destination for many Jamaicans in search of a better life.
But a B.C.-based company is being accused of exploiting that desire by dangling the prospect of employment for people who complete costly training courses.
The Globe and Mail reports students who took courses set up by Marmicmon Integrated Marketing and Communications, which is headquartered in Penticton, B.C., to become resident-care aides in Canada have tried in vain to get refunds when no jobs were forthcoming.
Students told the Globe the company and its principal, Michael Patterson, matched students in the program with prospective Canadian employers.
"He told us that their responsibility is to bring employers from Canada to interview us and for them to offer us employment," Dorothy Thompson, who paid $8,000 for the program, including a $1,500 consulting fee to Marmicmon, told the Globe.
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Thompson said she was told the fee would help offset the cost of bringing employers to Jamaica.
"Basically we are paying him to place us in jobs," she said.
In most provinces, including British Columbia, labour regulations forbid charging workers a fee to get jobs, the Globe noted.
Companies linked to Patterson, who did not respond to the Globe's request for comment, are being investigated in Alberta and B.C., the paper said.
The Globe reported last week the B.C. Employment Standards Branch was looking into Hire Pro Drivers, which connects Canadian companies looking for truck drivers with potential employees from other countries, including Jamaica. The agency would not give details of the probe.
Meanwhile, Patterson and Marmicmon are under investigation in Alberta over complaints the company solicited fees in exchange for job placements, the paper said.
Patterson told the Globe last week that he had not been contacted by authorities in either province, referring further questions to his lawyer, who did not respond.
Marmicmon lists several Jamaican and Canadian education institutions as partners on its website.
Thompson said she signed up for resident care-aide courses through the company in hopes of landing a job in Canada and furthering her education, the Globe said.
In the three years since she began the program, she said there have been problems, including a change in the Canadian school partnering with a Jamaican one to offer the course and uncertainty whether the qualifications she earned would be good enough to meet Canadian immigration standards for skilled employees.
Another former student, who did not want her name used, told the Globe she attended a job fair arranged by Marmicmon last year expecting to meet many potential employers, only to discover just three had shown up. Fewer than 20 students among the hundreds who turned up were offered jobs, she said.
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Marmicmon's name also came up in a report by Jamaica's Gleaner newspaper alleging the country's Pre-University School, another of Marmicmon's partners, advertised that the Canadian government and Jamaica's Labour Ministry sanctioned its practical nursing program.
Patterson clarified to the Gleaner that the school's program does not have federal backing.
"The memoranda of understanding signed by the Ministry of Labour are not signed with the federal government but with provincial publicly funded colleges," he told the Jamaican paper.
NorQuest College, the Alberta school that partnered with the Pre-University School in the program, suspended its involvement in 2011 because the Jamaican school did not meet contractual obligations, the Globe said.
Patterson has now shifted his focus to the industrial sector to satisfy the demand for truck drivers and heavy-duty mechanics, the Globe reported.