Moving beyond Canadian experience:
Tory says it’s time to bring Canada’s diverse talent into the workplace
TORONTO On Friday a broad group of business, corporate, and community leaders met with academics to ensure that diverse talents from immigrant communities are contributing to corporate success, and according to former Ontario PC leader John Tory, the meeting couldn’t come at a better time.
“We need immigrants,” says Tory. ”We need them in our workforce, we need them to sustain and expand not only the labour market, but our consumer market as well. And they want to be here. But there are still significant hurdles to overcome, and we need to come together to find a solution quickly.”
Those solutions are precisely what are being sought by the Beyond “Canadian Experience” forum, at which Tory will present the keynote address. Academics from the University of Toronto will join community and corporate leaders, to share knowledge not only about the barriers facing immigrants as they attempt to enter the Canadian workforce, but also effective strategies used by major Canadian companies like CIBC to take advantage of the untapped and increasingly necessary labour resource offered by highly skilled immigrants.
“The more we can do to help newcomers get into roles that match their abilities and income potential be it through credential recognition, language training, facilitating jobs and self-employment, or other means the better the results will be for our economy,” says Tory.
Tory cites compelling statistics: by 2015, a full 100% of Canada’s labour growth will come from new immigrants. But as of March of this year, GTA unemployment rates, at 5.4 per cent for Canadian-born workers, stood at 9.6 per cent for immigrants, and at 14.2 per cent for immigrants who arrived in the past five years. Immigrants also earn less. From 2001 to 2006, the average university-educated Canadian-born worker earned $61,904, more than three times as much as their newcomer peers ($20,143).
The panel discussion is the brainchild of the Beyond “Canadian Experience” Project, which combines the expertise of four leading organizations on this subject, the Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto, the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), and the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. This project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), brings together findings from two research projects that have just been completed, focusing on the hidden barriers keeping immigrants from full participation in the Canadian labour market.
After bringing their findings together, researchers from the project agree that employers’ request for “Canadian experience” is one of the most significant barriers preventing immigrants from contributing their talents to corporate success. The combination of results, which include data from interviews and focus groups with immigrants, service providers, and employers, present some compelling answers to these questions:
* The meaning of “Canadian experience” is not well understood by both immigrants and employers. Employers admit that many immigrants have the hard skills (experience and expertise) required for the job. What they also need is the soft skills that will help them figure out who to know and how to be successful in the workplace more broadly.
* Many immigrants find it difficult to understand employers’ expectations during the hiring process, particularly the criteria from which they base their decision. At the same time, employers struggle to pin point exactly why or why not immigrants might not be suitable for the job.
* Employers require a better understanding of how internationally diverse skills and experience in the workplace will contribute to corporate success. Employers need clear incentives to facilitate the diversification of their work force and successful integration of international talents into their organizations.
* Employers can use a variety of workplace learning approaches, including internships, mentoring, and buddy system, to create the trusting environment needed for immigrant professionals to develop soft skills specific to Canadian workplace culture. These approaches have proven beneficial for both the recently hired skilled immigrant and the employer, as immigrants use the opportunity to contribute innovative ideas and practices to corporate success.
To complement the group’s findings, two business leaders and advocates of integrating international talents for corporate success will be speaking. Anne Lamont, President and CEO of Career Edge Organization and CIBC’s Director of Diversity Strategies, Matt Petersen, will share their strategies for not only recruiting, but retaining diverse talent.
The event, which is open to the public, will also incorporate theatre and video presentations based on research results, in an attempt to make their findings accessible and meaningful in more personal ways, opening the discussion up to as broad an audience as possible.
Although a recent study found Canada to be the second most sought after destination for global immigration (after the US), Tory warns that the competition is heating up for educated, qualified workers, making forums like this one, and the results it hopes to yield, increasingly important. “Make no mistake, the global and national war for top talent is heating up,” he says, “and we ignore it at our peril.”