Helping SMEs hire immigrants

If employers want to succeed in the marketplace, they'll have to hire immigrants
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/07/2009

A television commercial starts with two businessmen talking about a job candidate who was educated in another country. The candidate only has international experience and his English is heavily accented. The two businessmen are unimpressed by the jobseeker and doubt his qualifications and ability to do the job.

This scenario has probably played out at countless Canadian organizations, but these two men are in India and the candidate is Canadian.

The commercial is part of a year-long campaign to raise awareness among small- and medium-sized employers (SMEs) about the advantages of hiring skilled immigrants. The campaign was launched last month by hireimmigrants.ca, a website that provides employers with interactive tools and resources to help them find, interview, hire, promote and retain skilled immigrants.

“As many as 60 per cent of skilled immigrants who come to Canada are either unemployed or underemployed. In a perfect world, we would like to see that reduced to zero,” said Kevin McLellan, manager of hireimmigrants.ca, a Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council program.

SMEs account for the majority of Canadian jobs but many don’t have the HR support or know-how to comfortably hire skilled immigrants, he said.

However, if they want to succeed in the marketplace, employers are going to have to hire immigrants, he said.

“All of our net growth in the labour force will soon come from immigration. It’s already at 70 per cent and in the next three years it’s going to reach 100 per cent,” said McLellan.

Hireimmigrants.ca has resources to help SMEs overcome real and perceived barriers to hiring skilled immigrants, including links to agencies that serve local immigrant communities and organizations that assess international credentials.

Toronto-based engineering and planning consulting firm Lea Group Holding has 90 employees and 21 per cent of them are skilled immigrants. The company focuses on finding people with the right skills, no matter where they come from, said the company’s chief executive officer John Farrow.

If someone has engineering and software expertise the company is looking for, it is willing to help them work toward Canadian credentialing and mentor them on the Canada-specific work culture, said Farrow.

“It’s a competitive world and you’ve got to hire the best. If you say ‘I’m just going to look at only half the potential candidates,’ you could be cutting yourself off from the people who are going to make the difference,” he said.

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