A non-profit known for its work in building homes for those in need is getting a helping hand from trade’s people from war torn Syria.

As part of the pilot project, Habitat for Humanity is offering newcomers courses in Canadian building techniques, materials and even helping with language skills.

With the help of instructional videos and a translator, Kevin Perry has started teaching the group of Syrian tradesmen roofing skills.

The Syrian volunteers already have experience in a variety of trades and construction jobs in their native country, but since coming to the Maritimes, they've had to learn other techniques.

"The difference is that in Syria the work is mainly of concrete and cement, but here the buildings are made of wood, so that is a huge difference,” says Syrian carpenter Mohamed Amzohbi.

With a need for more affordable housing in Saint John, Habitat for Humanity plans to build housing units in the city with help from the volunteers.

"So we're actually getting free labour, so we're actually solving a problem for us at Habitat, and solving a challenge for them here to get better integrated in our community,” says Perry.

Civic leaders say they hope the building experience improves the chances of newcomers staying in Saint John.

"Recruiting immigrants, bringing refugees here is one thing, keeping them here, retaining them is critical for us to grow as a community,” says New Brunswick Liberal MP Wayne Long.

Samah El Maghlawy of the Saint John Newcomers Resource Centre says immigrants have jumped at the chance to return to the construction industry.

"It’s important to them because they feel involved in the community, they interact with people from different backgrounds, they feel that they're doing something meaningful and useful to the community,” says El Maghlawy.

Syrian volunteers are expected to start building next week.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron.