SMEs underutilizing skills, talents of immigrants: Report

Government should offer more workplace integration services
||Last Updated: 04/05/2012

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) need to be more involved in the immigration conversation, according to a report by ALLIES (Assisting Local Leaders with Immigrant Employment Strategies), a project jointly funded by Maytree and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.

SMEs face skills and labour shortages, and compete with larger businesses for skilled talent, however, due to a lack of HR personnel and resources, SMEs are underutilizing the skills and talents of immigrants in the workforce, found the report.

The report's recommendations include:

•Programs and services to SMEs should be marketed and delivered through individuals and organizations that SMEs trust, such as accountants, industry and professional associations, and peers.

•Government and others provide more services to SMEs that facilitate workplace integration — all while making sure that their interactions with small business are simple, straightforward and fast.

•A public awareness and media campaign with national and local mainstream media to promote the benefits of hiring skilled immigrants in Canada.

"The potential impact of engaging SMEs in immigrant employment strategies can have significant positive outcomes for local labour markets across different sectors and regions," said Ratna Omidvar, president of Maytree. "In the private sector alone, SMEs employ 6.7 million Canadians. Effectively engaging SMEs will an enormous effect on SMEs, skilled immigrants, and on the Canadian economy."

The report draws on the input of nearly 300 SMEs from five Canadian cities, individual interviews, and an online survey conducted by the Conference Board of Canada.

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