Language Learning
Internationally Educated Professionals
Immigration and Settlement
Spotlight on Employers
Cultural Diversity
Gandy Associates
National Post | 2012-05-02
Fostering a culture of inclusion - expand / condense article
Gandy Associates is a proud partner of ACCES Employment, delivering their Workplace Communication Advantage and Talk English Cafe programs at TD and other ACCES client sites.
by Manjit Singh

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People from around the world come to Canada in search of a better life. That is the case for my family, which emigrated from India when I was five. I know first hand the feelings of fear, uncertainty and hope people have when they arrive.

Helping immigrants adapt to their new country and find work is increasingly becoming important with immigrants now accounting for one in five Canadians, a recent TD Economics report shows. And by 2055, Statistics Canada projects immigration will account for 90% of the country's population growth.

For businesses, these numbers mean an evolving customer base, which may require new ways of thinking about services, products and marketing. It also means the workforce will largely consist of people who were educated elsewhere and bring different reference points and new ideas to the table. The potential for innovation by leveraging this diversity of thought and experience is enormous. However, there are also significant cultural and language barriers for new immigrants to overcome.

So what do companies do to prepare for, and benefit from, this shift in the labour market?

The first step in reaching the broadest and most diverse talent pool when recruiting is to ask yourself the right questions. Is the company's recruiting information available in multiple languages? Does it have established partnerships with diverse recruiting organizations and immigrant resource groups? Is it open to recognizing foreign experience and accreditations? Does it have executives leading the way, through participation in networks and support programs?

Outreach through mentoring is a good starting point. TD, for example, is actively involved with several men-toring organizations, including Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council's (TRIEC) Mentoring Partnership program and ACCES Speed Mentoring program. These initiatives provide recent immigrants with tools and resources to help break down barriers, build skills and meet prospective employers. The bank has facilitated hundreds of mentoring relationships and hired many immigrants as a result of its involvement in such programs.

Emiro Rotundo, operations and technology project manager at TD, credits the ACCES program with helping him land his first job in Canada when he arrived from Venezuela.

Participating in the IT Connections mentoring program, he met with 10 executives and learned about TD's culture as well as job opportunities available.

The knowledge Rotundo gained helped him effectively present the skills he could bring to the bank.

"This job has given me the opportunity to demonstrate my strengths and knowledge and to develop in my role as a project manager," he says.

While it's important to attract high-quality talent, it's even more important to retain and develop that talent. That means providing those employees with a work environment that is welcoming, motivating, and supports their continued development.

At TD, Rotundo participated in several support programs including a group mentoring program for new immigrants, a workplace communication program and language skills training called the Talk English Café.

"This support has made it easier for me to become successful by helping me to overcome the challenges during this difficult journey," Rotundo says.

There is no magic formula for creating an inclusive workplace. A culture of acceptance and inclusion is created one person at a time, one interaction at a time. But the influx of immigrants to the workforce is no longer an abstract concept discussed around boardroom tables. Those hiring at TD see it in the resumés they receive, on college campuses and from employee referrals.

Finding ways to engage with and attract top talent from this growing sector of the Canadian workforce is an exciting opportunity that can help drive business results.

Manjit Singh, is senior vicepresident and chief financial officer, TD Canada Trust, and chair of visible minorities leadership committee.


Financial Post | 2009-02-25
Newcomers set to play critical role - expand / condense article

Workplace Reality
by Mary Teresa Bitti

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Diversity is about numbers. One in five Canadians is born on foreign soil. According to the 2006 Census, the level of immigration in recent years has been unprecedented. A walk through the streets of Toronto or Vancouver puts a face to those numbers. According to Statistics Canada, six in 10 visible minorities live in those two cities. That\'s 40% of their populations. In Montreal, one in six people is a visible minority (defined by the census-takers as persons other than Aboriginals who are non-Caucasian), representing 16.5% of the population.

Between 2001 and 2006, Canada\'s foreign-born population growth rate was four times higher than that of the Canadian-born population during the same period. The numbers continue to trend upward.

What does that mean for the workforce? A lot.

StatsCan reports that immigrants who arrived in the 1990s accounted for 70% of the net labour force growth between 1991 and 2001. By 2011 -- thanks to a shrinking population-- Canada will rely 100% on immigration for net labour market growth. By 2031, we will rely on immigration 100% for population growth. But that\'s another story.

Canadian businesses are not as good at tapping into this diverse labour pool as they should be and it\'s costing them, says Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation, a private non-profit in Toronto dedicated to fighting poverty and working with business to help immigrant workers put their education and experience to work. A Conference Board of Canada study quantifies the cost to the Canadian economy of not using the skills of immigrants at anywhere between $2.4-billion and $3.4-billion a year. \"Only four of 10 skilled immigrants are attaching themselves to the workforce at a requisite level that speaks to their past work experience,\" Ms. Omidvar says.

With the economy slowing and labour markets loosening up, people may argue, why should we care? \"The point is there are short-term priorities and there are long-term priorities and we have to meet them both,\" Ms. Omidvar says. \"Immigration is not the only solution to many of our national labour force issues, but it is one solution and we ignore it at our peril.\"

And let\'s not forget the looming workforce shift precipitated by the all-powerful Baby Boomers -- nine-million-plus strong in Canada -- who are preparing to retire. \"Yes, the economy is soft, but there are demographic factors that are real,\" says Anne Sado, president of George Brown College in Toronto.

\"For example, the average age of a nurse in Ontario is 47. If you don\'t start recognizing the capabilities and credentials of new immigrants coming to Canada, we are going to be hard-pressed to have the right people in place when we need them.\"

It may fall to the business leaders in our hyper-diverse cities -- Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal -- to leverage the under-utilized immigrant workforce.

Canada\'s most ethnically and racially diverse city is stepping up. DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project launched eight initiatives to help diversify leadership in business, the non-profit sector and on the civic stage across the greater Toronto area. The idea for DiverseCity was born during the 2007 Toronto City Summit when more than 600 Toronto leaders came together and called for a holistic effort to diversify leadership to create a more prosperous GTA.

DiverseCity is sponsored by the Maytree Foundation and the Toronto City Summit Alliance, the two co-founders of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), which included employers in the design, delivery and implementation of initiatives to bring the skilled immigrant closer to the labour market.

Employers in the program provide internships as key partners in a mentoring initiative that has provided more than 3,000 matches in the city. They also are working with TRIEC to document their best practices in a way that is easily consumable across the GTA, creating a march of ideas. For example, Royal Bank no longer asks for place of education on its applications. What does that mean? An MBA is an MBA is an MBA. And that, says Ms. Omidvar, is huge. \"That means more of the internationally educated hiring pool gets a chance to make their case. Once they get that interview, it\'s rarely held against them. It\'s getting in the door.

\"But we are not satisfied with doing better in Toronto,\" Ms. Omidvar says. \"Together with the McConnell Family Foundation, we are taking the TRIEC initiative to other urban centres. Vancouver is starting its own response led by employers, as is Montreal.\"

There is a strong business case for diversity and performance, particularly when it comes to senior management and the director level. International studies show diversity leads to innovative thinking, which leads to improved financial performance. Without diverse leadership, companies risk group-think.


Vancouver Province | 2009-02-22
New face of the workplace - expand / condense article

Companies focus on global talent and connections
by Derek Sankey

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Financial institutions are responding to the changing face of Canada\'s population by modernizing their recruitment practices.

Ruth Todd, for one, sees evidence of the country\'s increasing diversity everyday in her role as an associate partner with accounting and professional services firm KPMG Enterprise in Hamilton. Part of her job is to motivate the next generation of business professionals to join the accounting profession.

\"The recruits we\'re seeing now, compared to 20 years ago, include lots of diverse cultures coming off the campuses,\" says Todd. \"Even our cities . . . weren\'t as diverse as they are today. Our offices are starting to look more like the communities they represent.\"

Todd understands there are bottom-line benefits to fostering a diverse workplace, but feels there are many other important reasons for pursuing diversity strategies in recruiting and retention programs.

Todd is taking part in a mentoring program set up through the Paul Martin Aboriginal Initiative where she mentors aboriginal high-school students from the nearby Six Nations reserve in the merits of pursuing higher education related to financial services.

\"It\'s time well spent,\" she says. \"This is the fun stuff.\"

KPMG was selected as one of Canada\'s Best Diversity Employers in 2009 as ranked by Mediacorp. It joins a growing list of financial services firms working hard to ensure their workforce mirrors the communities they serve.

Working with young students from many backgrounds is just one way KPMG strives to be a top diversity employer.

The company has several diversity networks.

There is a network for parents with special needs children, among several others, as well as emergency backup child care for employees.

The organization also partners with local community agencies and encourages its employees to volunteer and make those connections.

These connections help KPMG reach out to community groups to attract and retain the best and brightest in the field.

\"In an economic downturn, we need our people engaged -- not just 100-per-cent engaged, but 150 per cent engaged -- in order for us to continue to maintain our work as a successful professional services firm,\" says Michael Bach, director of diversity, equity and inclusion for KPMG.

\"We don\'t sell a product . . . we just have thought leadership, so our people are our priority,\" he says. That means people need to feel comfortable and safe celebrating their diversity at work, which enhances employee engagement.\"

When you bring people from different backgrounds together, the result is greater creativity and innovation, he says.

\"It\'s really about opening up doors and looking for other opportunities to get new business,\" says Bach. He cites one example where the company\'s U.K. office had an Islamic society network that led to a significant new contract.

More than anything, he says, it\'s about the company\'s ability to attract and retain top talent as a competitive advantage -- and because it\'s just the \"right thing to do.\"

Norma Tombari, director of global diversity for the Royal Bank of Canada, says diversity is just part of the new global reality.

\"Now everyone has access to global talent,\" she says.

\"You have people coming from various parts of the world. We like to say global is local.\"

If a company wants to grow and prosper in this environment, integrating diversity becomes especially important. \"It\'s also the way to build stronger communities, to build social cohesion and just to make vibrant communities,\" says Tombari. RBC\'s diversity leadership council helps ensure the company regularly meets its goals. The company\'s initiatives have earned it a place on the Best Diversity Employers list.

The progress has been tangible. In 1987, just one per cent of the company\'s executives were women, Today, that number has grown to 39 per cent, she says.

It\'s part of a long-term, ongoing effort to make sure diversity becomes ingrained into the culture of the organization, which includes pursuing partnerships with community agencies like the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council as well as internship programs for new immigrants and aboriginals.


Toronto Sun | 2009-02-21
Immigration tidal wave - expand / condense article

But newcomers face barriers to employment: Minister
by Brett Clarkson

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A record level of newcomers were admitted to Canada in 2008, citizenship and imimigration minister Jason Kenney announced yesterday to a conference geared toward helping more immigrants land jobs in their professions.

\"We welcomed an unprecedented 519,722 newcomers to Canada in 2008, the largest number in Canada\'s history,\" Kenney said. \"This number includes over 247,000 permanent residents, 143,000 temporary foreign workers, and over 79,000 foreign students.\"

Kenney was speaking at the Progress Career Planning Institute\'s Internationally Educated Professionals (IEP) conference yesterday, an event that drew about 1,100 immigrants and new Canadians to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to network and strategize about how to overcome barriers to employment in their fields.

Many of the participants, including trained engineers, doctors, accountants and other professionals trained in their native countries, spoke about the hardships they face in trying to resume their careers in Canada.

Kenney said the federal government is working to ease the transition process for skilled immigrant workers. He referenced the prime minister\'s recently announced plan to build a national framework for foreign credential recognition -- which Kenney said will hopefully ease the red tape and provide more clarity for skilled immigrants.

\"We all know the tragedy of so many people, perhaps some of you, who have arrived in the country with the hope and promise of working in your chosen profession, who have ended up in survival jobs or being underemployed as it relates to your skill level,\" Kenney said. \"That is intolerable. Those days must end.\"

Conference chair Jane Enright said the event, which also brought out policy-makers and employers, cited numbers that allude to a disparity between foreign-educated immigrants and their Canadian-educated counterparts.

According to Statistics Canada, more than 50% of recent immigrants to this country hold university degrees, more than twice the proportion of university graduates born in Canadian.

However, unemployment among immigrants is 6.6%, compared to the 4.6% for Canadian-born workers. That unemployment rate jumps to 11.8% for immigrants living in Toronto.

\"One of the issues we have in Canada is that Canada is host to between 100,000 and 150,000 university-educated professionals each year, however the reality is they\'re not all getting jobs in their field,\" Enright said.

Kenney said the government will also \"substantially increase\" the number of foreign students allowed into this country, but didn\'t give a figure about how many would be permitted entry to study.

Secret Seven

At yesterday\'s IEP 2009 Conference, Canadian Immigrant magazine publisher Naeem \"Nick\" Noorani spoke of his Seven Success Secrets for Canadian Immigrants:

1) Learn English. \"The most important thing is the language,\" Noorani said. \"I don\'t care how well-qualified you are. You need to know the language.\"

2) Stay Positive. \"It\'s so easy to become negative. Canada doesn\'t choose immigrants, we choose our future citizens.\"

3) Embrace Canada. \"This is your country for the rest of your life. You need to fall in love with your country.\"

4) Have a Plan B. In other words, don\'t put all your career options in one basket, Noorani said.

5) Move out of ethnic silos. \"Embrace all communities. The more people you have as friends who are outside of your ethnic circle, the more success you will have.\"

6) Take risks. \"We\'re natural risk-takers. We\'ve left everything behind. We\'ve left our families and our friends behind, but not just because we are risk-takers, but because we are visionaries.\"

7) Volunteer, Mentorship, Networking. Get to know as many people as possible while gaining as much Canadian employment experience as possible, Noorani said.

By the Numbers

519,722: number of newcomers admitted to Canada in 2008

247,202: number of permanent residents welcomed to Canada in 2008

193,061: number of temporary foreign workers admitted to Canada in 2008

79,459: number of foreign students welcomed to Canada in 2008

6.6%: rate of unemployment among immigrants across Canada

4.6%: rate of unemployment among Canadian-born workers in Canada

11.8%: rate of unemployment among immigrants in Toronto

$26,636: median income of average recent educated immigrant in Canada

$57,6565: median income of average Canadian-born person


Mississauga News | 2009-02-19
Program \'huge boost\' to immigrants - expand / condense article
by John Bkila

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Paul Liu reads his story, which is on display with the stories of 19 other immigrants in the Great Hall at the Mississauga Civic Centre.

The display, a visual essay of the immigrant experience, showcases the success stories of people like Liu.

Photo by Steven Der-Garabedian

Paul Liu, 37, came to Canada with six boxes and a three-year plan. If he failed to land a job that could support his family, he would go back home to China.

Fortunately for the Mississauga father of one, after participating in an internship program that led to a full-time information technology job working for the City of Mississauga, he can now unpack his boxes for good.

\"Not only did it give my confidence a huge boost, but it let me apply myself,\" said Liu, referring to Career Bridge, a not-for-profit internship program that helps immigrants find gainful employment. Liu\'s story is part of a traveling exhibit hosted by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).

On display at the Civic Centre, 20 Journeys: A Visual Essay of the Immigrant Experience tells the stories of skilled immigrants who have successfully entered the local workforce, through photography and short narratives.

\"It\'s part of our awareness building work,\" said Rodel Imbarlina-Ramos, TRIEC manager. \"It\'s intended to raise the profiles of the immigrant experience ... to put a human face to the stories told.\"

Since June 2006, the exhibit has made a dozen stops around the Greater Toronto Area. This is the second time it has come to Peel and the first time a Mississauga resident has been featured.

\"The point of this exhibit is two-fold,\" said Imbarlina-Ramos. \"To let the employer community get to know the immigrant talent and to give hope to other skilled immigrants.\"

Career Bridge helps immigrants like Liu land full-time jobs in their fields of expertise.

Lie left China in 2004. He brought his family to Canada because he had heard it was a land of opportunity - but all he found here were challenges.

\"I didn\'t get hired because of the language barrier and because I had no Canadian working experience,\" he said. \"I couldn\'t even get hired at a coffee shop.\"

Liu ended up working at a fast food restaurant for $6 an hour, a job he found by hiring an agent for $100.

Friends then told him about Career Bridge.

Through the organization, Liu landed a four-month internship as a technical writer with Mississauga\'s Materiel Management department that buys and sells goods and services for the City.

His internship was extended twice and after a year, Liu was hired on as an intermediate buyer, purchasing IT products for Mississauga.

\"It\'s such a great program,\" said Liu. \"It bridges the gap between employer and employee and gives you a chance to prove yourself.\"

Liu, who officially became a Canadian citizen last month, offers this advice for other skilled immigrants coming to the country.

\"Stay positive and never give up. It\'s such an amazing country, but you need to show employers your talent and potential.\"

The traveling exhibit, which is free to the public, will be on display at the Great Hall until Monday, Feb. 23.


Toronto Sun | 2009-02-16
Immigrant journeys - expand / condense article
by Tom Godfrey

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Paul Liu credits an immigrant training program for taking him from a fast-food restaurant to a dream job almost five years after arriving here from China.

Liu, 37, a married father of one, obtained a government Career Bridge internship that helped land him a job as an IT buyer for the City of Mississauga.

\"The program helped me make contacts with people in the business,\" Liu said yesterday. \"It was good for helping me improve my English and dealing with people.\"

He now purchases software, hardware and maintenance support for the city.

\"This is a good program for immigrants,\" Liu said. \"I couldn\'t get an internship without the program.\"

Liu is among a score of successful immigrants featured Feb. 17 to 23 in a travelling photo exhibit called 20 Journeys: A visual essay of the immigrant experience being staged at Mississauga City Hall.

Newcomers\' Talent

Elizabeth McIsaac, of Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, said the exhibit showcases the talents that newcomers bring to employers in the GTA.

\"Immigrants have a hard time finding employment in the labour market,\" McIsaac said yesterday. \"We are putting a face and story behind the numbers.\"

She said newcomers can face problems getting started in the workforce due to language or cultural differences.

\"We are helping them make the connection with employers,\" McIsaac said. \"They bring experience and skills that are required by employers in the region.\"

City of Mississauga spokesman Martin Powell said the exhibit and programs like TRIEC help integrate immigrants into the community.

\"A lot of immigrants have skills but may not understand how things work,\" Powell said. \"Immigrants make good employees and it is a win-win situation.\"

He said the city hired a number of immigrants, like Liu, who\'ve graduated from job-training programs.

City officials said half of Mississauga\'s 700,000 residents were born outside Canada.

Sheldon Leiba, of Mississauga Board of Trade, said there\'s a large pool of talented immigrants for employers to choose from.


\"There was a large shortage of skilled workers until the recent economic downturn,\" Leiba said. \"We are fortunate the community has attracted a large pool of skilled immigrants -- some with academic backgrounds.\"

The powerful exhibit features stories of immigrants who\'ve gotten jobs here after arriving from China, India, the Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria, Dominica, Lebanon and six other countries.

--- - Philippines-born Aileen Raquel was living below the poverty line during her first three years in Canada. She took a bridging program at Ryerson University that prepared her for a job at the Catholic Children\'s Aid Society of Toronto, where she\'s worked for a year.

- Math teacher Babatunde Adebajo toiled as a dishwasher after arriving here from Nigeria in 2006. After pleading with a doughnut shop for work, he found out about a teacher training program at George Brown College, that led to him landing a teaching job.

- Hadi El Rayess was an electronics engineer in Lebanon but wanted to live in a stable country. On arrival, he joined the Canadian Professional Sales Association and is now a director of international sales for i3DVR, a digital video technology company.

- Jean Kin was referred to the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council\'s (TRIEC) mentoring program after arriving here from Singapore. A TD bank mentor became her guide as she applied for jobs. After a rejection, Kin was able to land a job at TD.

- Moving to Canada from China opened Yijun Wang\'s eyes to the world. His priorities were to improve his English and find an ideal job. An internship at Procter & Gamble with Career Bridge led him to Mars Canada, where he works as a pet product scientist.

- Javier Santos left his native Mexico to escape pollution and crime. With a university degree under his belt, Santos saw a posting for an LCBO job that led to him climbing to the director of the wine business unit. Sadly, he was laid off last November.

- Jyoti Shukla has helped more than 900 immigrants become more employable since arriving here from India. A TRIEC mentoring program led to her volunteering at Dixie Bloor Neighbourhood Centre, where she was hired as an employment counsellor.

- York University graduate Caryl Registe came here from Dominica to better herself. After searching for months and not finding a job, she checked out TRIEC\'s mentoring partnership program that got her an interview and job with Legal Aid Ontario.

- Haya Zilberboim and her family left Israel four years ago for Canada\'s stable political climate. She returned to school to upgrade her English and certify as a chartered accountant. She\'s now the COO at Fishman Holdings North America Inc.

- IT specialist Kevin Chen posted his resume on the Web and found a job three weeks after arriving here from China in 2005. He started at BAU Solutions Canada and when they were acquired by Deloitte, Chen stayed on as a senior specialist.

- Kamal Joshi joined an Ontario human resources group long before he arrived here from India. While with a Career Bridge program he saw a posting for a large firm that snapped him up. He\'s now a compensation consultant at Rogers Communications.

- Jie Lu began her professional life in Canada working in a restaurant after moving from China. She took English classes and applied for a York University program that qualified her as a registered nurse. She\'s now a member of a family health team.

- Pilot Marcelo Sagel and his wife left Argentina for the U.S. and then Canada after an economic meltdown. He lived in California while flying an ambulance in Elliot Lake. Those days he commuted 14 hours each way to work. He now flies for Porter Airlines.

- Indian-born Renu Mehta had a lot of gigs before ending up as editor of the Indian Express and Divya Bhaskar, two weekly South Asian newspapers. She\'s volunteered at Rogers Cable, interned at CHUM, OMNI and even did Live Traffic for CP24.

- Sibaway Issah arrived here from Ghana via Denmark to obtain a second master\'s degree. Unable to find work, a job fair led him to Career Bridge and an internship at St. Michael\'s Hospital, where he was offered a position in the purchasing department.

- Richard Goyder hit Bay St. after his arrival from the U.K. He began networking before coming here and made relationships with headhunters, consultants and banking firms. It paid off. He\'s now vice-president for portfolio management for the Royal Bank.

- Micheline Jeanfrancois found Mexico City overcrowded and lacked the cultural diversity of Canada. At a bilingual job fair, she was hired by Procter & Gamble and has since been promoted three times. Her language skills are in demand for work in Brazil and Argentina.

- Maryna Bakuntseva moved here in 2003 for a healthy future for her daughter and to get away from the after-effects of Chernobyl. With a master\'s degree in electronics engineering and a PhD in physics, she obtained work as a researcher at Seneca College.

- Indian-born Vikram Ahluwalia snagged two job offers in two weeks after shaving his Sikh beard and removing his turban while job-hunting in Canada. A Career Bridge internship led to a senior position with GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Canada.


Canadian HR Reporter | 2009-02-09
Strategic efforts to integrate immigrants - expand / condense article

TRIEC awards highlight competitive advantage for employers that hire skilled immigrants
by Shannon Klie

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Fiona Macfarlane immigrated to Canada from South Africa in 1987 armed with four degrees, including a law degree from England\'s Cambridge University. But, like so many other skilled immigrants, she struggled to find work.

After months of sending out resumés and garnering only a few interviews, she accepted her first and only job offer - as a senior staff accountant at Ernst & Young.

\"My story is not that different from the story that many immigrants face. I was given a chance by Ernst & Young and I was able to translate my foreign experience into Canadian experience,\" said Macfarlane.

She has used that experience to climb the ranks at the accounting and tax firm, moving from Calgary to Vancouver to Toronto, and eventually becoming the chief operating officer of the Americas tax practice.

Throughout her career she has created and supported many programs to promote the development of immigrants within the firm\'s tax practice. These include EYU, a development program that ensures all employees have access to the experiences and training they need to grow their careers, and an accelerated leadership development program, which pairs visible minorities with a champion and focuses on improving the opportunity for minorities to be promoted to the senior ranks.

\"We really focus on building their enterprise knowledge of the organization, helping them build networks,\" she said. \"Some of the things that might happen informally, we make sure that it\'s very deliberate.\"

Because of these efforts, the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), a non-profit organization that supports skilled immigrants, granted Macfarlane the CBC Toronto Business Leadership award, one of five awards handed out as part of the third annual Immigrant Success Awards.

Macfarlane\'s purposeful approach to helping skilled immigrants succeed and advance in the organization is something Elizabeth McIsaac, executive director of TRIEC, has seen more of since the awards were launched three years ago.

\"We\'re seeing an emergence of some very strong leadership among individuals who are in very senior positions who are really demonstrating an understanding of some of the internal and systemic issues that immigrants might face when they come into a workplace,\" she said.

At Ernst & Young, 1,026 of the firm\'s 4,099 employees are skilled immigrants and most of them are in client-serving positions at the supervisory level. Having a diverse workforce is a definite bonus, said Macfarlane.

\"Most of our clients are global, so having people who have that natural connection to other countries is an advantage,\" she said.

Engineering consulting firm CH2M Hill, one of two winners of the RBC Best Immigrant Employer Award, also recognizes the business advantage of having a diverse workforce. The firm employs more than 1,400 staff nationally and about 60 per cent are skilled immigrants.

\"It\'s a long-term goal of ours to be a leader in our industry and that demands an international flavour to our workforce,\" said Bruce Tucker, the firm\'s president.

With many multinational clients and employees working on projects all around the world, the firm\'s multicultural workforce gives it an advantage in the market, said Tucker.

One way the firm has accessed diverse talent is through a 10-year partnership with the Community MicroSkills Development Centre, which provides settlement, employment and self-employment services to immigrants, youth, visible minorities and low-income women in Toronto.

Every year, CH2M Hill takes on about five to 10 MicroSkills students on eight-week, paid work placements, hiring many of them after their placements are complete. The firm also sponsors the CH2M Hill MicroSkills resource centre and many staff volunteer their time to teach classes, including English as a second language and workshops on the Canadian workplace and HR trends.

To ensure new immigrant hires integrate into the workplace, CH2M Hill connects newcomers with an established employee who speaks the same language. The firm also has several employee networks where employees from the same culture can come together to share information and experiences.

And the winners are... Canadian HR Reporter Individual Achievement Award: Jane Lewis, country human resources manager at Procter & Gamble.

RBC Best Immigrant Employer Awards: Nytric and CH2M Hill Canada.

CBC Toronto Business Leadership Award: Fiona Macfarlane, Americas chief operating officer of the tax group at Ernst & Young.

Toronto Star Immigrant Champion Award: Patricia O\'Connor, co-ordinator of field programming for the internationally educated social work professionals program at Ryerson University\'s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.

Canadian HR Reporter Individual Achievement Award

‘A diverse company will outperform a homogenous company\': Jane Lewis

Several years ago when Jane Lewis heard Career Edge, an organization that arranges internships for recent graduates, was starting Career Bridge, a similar program for foreign-trained professionals, she knew the program would fit perfectly with her organization\'s commitment to tap into Canada\'s diversity.

Lewis, the country human resources manager at Procter & Gamble (P&G) in Toronto, couldn\'t pass up the opportunity to be involved in such an organization and volunteered to be a member of Career Bridge\'s advisory board at its inception. She then enlisted P&G as a host organization for Career Bridge interns, who have worked in various functions including marketing, customer service and external relations.

\"We see diversity as a competitive advantage. We have a fundamental belief that a diverse company will outperform a homogenous company,\" said Lewis. \"Career Bridge is such an excellent concept, providing the opportunity for skilled immigrants to find work in their chosen field.\"

For her involvement with Career Bridge, as well as many other initiatives to help skilled immigrants succeed at P&G, Lewis won the Canadian HR Reporter Individual Achievement Award at this year\'s Toronto Region Immigrant Council Immigrant Success Awards.

\"Jane\'s leadership, personal passion and strategic HR Initiatives directed towards diverse individuals and skilled immigrants alike indeed make her an ideal candidate for this award,\" said Natasha Kargov, associate HR manager at P&G.

When Kargov approached her HR colleagues about whom to nominate for the award, she received unanimous support for Lewis.

Encouraging a supportive workplace is an important component of how Lewis helps skilled immigrants integrate into the P&G workplace. This includes distributing a diversity calendar to senior leaders to ensure important dates are respected and cultural faux pas, such as lunch meetings during Ramadan, are avoided.

At P&G, all employees have to take diversity training to increase awareness of different work styles and cultures, said Lewis. But perhaps most importantly, managers need to have the skills to lead a diverse workforce, which is why Lewis developed a diversity leadership assessment tool and brought in an external trainer to provide inclusion training for managers.

The assessment tool allows managers\' direct reports to provide regular feedback on how managers are performing on various diversity leadership behaviours. Managers are given the chance to grow and be assessed again to measure their development, said Lewis.

Lewis is also responsible for a quiet room at P&G\'s head office in Toronto, which is most often used by employees for prayers, and she is leader of the company\'s diversity strategy team, which encompasses all the members of the company\'s diversity networks. In this capacity, Lewis mentored an employee to establish and grow a Latin network.

\"My role was as a mentor and a coach. As an HR professional I can help define objectives, strategy, action plans, help be an advocate and a mentor,\" she said.

Her mentee learned well and under Lewis\' mentorship, the network grew from eight members to 48.

The work that Lewis has done over the years to welcome skilled immigrants and help them succeed hasn\'t been out of a sense of altruism, despite the fact diversity is one of her personal values.

\"As an HR business partner, diversity is a strategic way to broaden the talent base, build capability and achieve business results,\" she said.


Winnipeg Sun | 2009-02-03
Budget delivers for pizza guy - expand / condense article
by Mindelle Jacobs

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It was an easily overlooked line in last week\'s federal budget -- an extra $50 million to boost Canada\'s foreign credential recognition program.

But it could eventually mean the difference between a skilled immigrant staying in Canada or leaving for better opportunities elsewhere.

\"Everybody knows a cab driver who has a PhD in something and can\'t find employment in their field,\" says Paul Swinwood, president of the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC).

If Canada doesn\'t do a better job of integrating newcomers, they\'ll just pack up and leave, he warns.

\"What a tremendous waste. Somebody comes here and spends five or six years trying to get into their field, doesn\'t get into it, and says, \'My God, I can go back home and be a senior engineer again.\' \"

While it\'s true that we\'re in a terrible economic downturn and people are losing their jobs, especially in the battered manufacturing sector, we have to look to the future. And immigrants are going to save our butts.

There wasn\'t much thought about actually integrating immigrants into the workforce in the past. We just brought them in and more or less left them to their own devices.

But word got out that life for skilled immigrants in Canada wasn\'t exactly as advertised -- as any foreign-educated professional delivering pizza will tell you. We have been doing a dismal job of helping newcomers get their education and skills recognized.

But there are signs Ottawa is serious about using the skills of immigrants -- not wasting them. The $50 million announced last week is a top-up to the $73 million allocated in 2003-04 for Ottawa\'s foreign credential recognition program.

And, little by little, it will help more immigrants get jobs in their fields. In Vancouver, for instance, the ICTC has set up a mentoring program to provide new immigrants with IT backgrounds with the business and cultural language skills necessary to get a job.

Most newcomers know enough English or French to survive but don\'t necessarily have job-specific communications skills, says Swinwood.

The goal is to help foreign-trained IT professionals out of the pizza-delivery business and into satisfying jobs as, say, software designers or programmers.

Expand the project

The ICTC wants to expand the pilot project across the country.

\"We\'re hoping there will be more opportunities for this sort of thing -- and not only for our sector,\" says Swinwood. \"Most of the knowledge sectors need to do this sort of thing.\"

The council has also developed online self-assessment tools to help prospective immigrants understand what kind of skills Canadian employers are looking for.

\"Once they get through the immigration process, they get here with a set of expectations that is not always accurate,\" says Swinwood.

The Canadian ICT sector needs to recruit up to 180,000 workers by 2015, according to the council.

There are also shortages of engineers in parts of the country, especially in the West, says Deborah Wolfe, of Engineers Canada.

Her organization just got federal funding to review its licensing process to see if there\'s a more efficient way of licensing engineers without lowering standards.

In Ontario, Wolfe notes, there are now more foreign-trained than Canadian-trained engineers applying for licensure. Engineers Canada has also asked for funding to develop a language assessment tool specific to engineering technology.

\"An employer is not going to hire you unless you can communicate,\" she says. For immigrants, she adds, \"it\'s a tough situation.\"


HR Professional Magazine | 2009-02-03
HR 101: Diversity Plans - expand / condense article
by Duff McCutcheon

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Here are two good reasons for implementing a diversity plan in your organization: it\'s good for business and it\'s a tremendous boon to attracting and retaining talent. The fact is you can\'t afford not to have one. And if you don\'t, you can be assured your competitors do. HR Professional talks to LCBO\'s Janet Naidu and KPMG\'s Michael Bach on the whys and wherefores of strategic diversity plans.

Mirror your customers

The first question you must answer in selling the idea of a diversity plan to your senior management (and you\'ll need their buy-in) is \"why?\" Fortunately, it\'s easy to answer.

From a business perspective, it makes sense to leverage diversity - new Canadians, gays and lesbians, aboriginals, persons with disabilities - in your workplace. These people mirror your customers. If you\'re selling consumer good and services, these groups make up huge markets that your diverse employees can help you reach.

\"Here\'s a great example I always trot out when I\'m making the business case for diversity,\" says KPMG Canada\'s director of diversity, Michael Bach. \"A few years ago, Frito-Lay was struggling with the launch of a new product - a guacamole-flavoured tortilla chip. It consulted with its Hispanic employees, reformulated the product, tinkered with the branding and boom - it resulted in the company\'s most successful product launch ever. They sold $5-million worth of guacamole tortilla chips in the first year.\"

Building your brand

Then there\'s the HR rationale. If you want to attract the best and brightest - from around the world - you need to show that you\'re an employer that embraces everyone. Leveraging diversity into your employer brand shows new Canadians that your company is a good place to work.

And once you\'ve got them, it helps to keep people happy and engaged. \"An inclusive workplace means people from all walks of life can bring their whole selves to work and not leave anything at the door,\" says Bach. They\'re more engaged, and therefore more productive and ultimately the company becomes more profitable.

Your diversity business case should address how diversity fits the needs of the organization (recruiting and retention, new markets) and what shape it will take. \"Getting buy-in is critical. It means the difference between having a plan with teeth, and being seen as a soft, ‘nice to have\' initiative,\" says Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) diversity manager, Janet Naidu.

First steps

Once you\'ve got senior leadership buy-in, Naidu suggest testing the workplace waters with an employee survey on diversity, gauging interest, general knowledge and thoughts on hiring and accessibility. It provides an idea of where your employees\' heads are vis-à-vis diversity and can be done via employee focus groups or anonymous e-mail surveys.

Naidu also suggests undertaking an employment systems review to ensure existing policies and practices are barrier-free and equitable.

Getting ownership from staff is key to success and Bach says forming an employee diversity advisory board early on in the process is a good way to provide guidance on diversity strategy and take diversity ownership out into the business and become diversity champions in the office. \"They\'re the salesmen of diversity. They help ensure the naysayers are converted,\" says Bach. \"Plus, these people can advise as to what the need is in the business. They provide shape in what you\'re trying to pursue - what the diversity agenda looks like, programs, initiatives. This is especially true if you don\'t have full-time resources (e.g., a full-time diversity manager) for your diversity strategy - they do the work and drive it.\"

Education and communications Education should be a huge piece of your diversity initiative, especially in the first year or two.

This means hosting a company-wide introductory session on why you\'re rolling out a diversity program, the initiatives you\'re working on and what it means for your organization, says Naidu.

Education is also an opportunity for your organization\'s various diversity groups to showcase their culture and traditions.

\"We do Celebrate and Educate,\" says Bach. \"Four times a year we pick a celebration and do a two-hour presentation on it. We provide food specific to the culture and celebration, and bring in a speaker who answers the whys and whats. What is Ramadan? What is LBG Pride? What is Black History Month?\"

As a consequence of these events, KPMG has seen diversity networks sprout up: pride, international employees (those on secondments), parents of children with special needs, Muslim employees and East Asian employees. The networks are split into two groups: clubs, for social support (as in the case of the network for parents of special needs children) and groups, which must have a business development component (e.g., Chinese employees looking for ways to promote KPMG within that community).

Keeping momentum

So how do you embed diversity in your organization? Don\'t let up. \"You have to keep people focused o the different aspects of diversity. Keep doing events, try new things and listen to your people,\" says Naidu.

You\'ll know you\'ve achieved some success when people start accounting for diversity in their decision-making. KPMG\'s recruiters are now actively seeking out new candidates via non-traditional routes, such as the Canadian Immigrant magazine\'s Hire Board, the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) and the Job Opportunity Information Network (JOIN) - an Ontario job resource for persons with disabilities. \"Our recruiters started sourcing these communities independently,\" says Bach, \"and that\'s success, when you\'ve got your people thinking about incorporating diversity in what they do in the business.\"


Globe and Mail - Report on Business | 2009-02-02
Spirit of innovation starts from corner office - expand / condense article
by Jiri Maly and Carol Deacon

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Canadian companies were once among the most innovative in the world, but this leadership position has been fading for some time.

We\'ve been slipping on a variety of areas, including R&D spending as a share of earnings, the number of patents per capita, and revenue from new products. Even before the current recession took hold, Canada\'s rate of innovation had significantly eroded relative to other countries. Now, amid the global economic crisis, recapturing our innovative spirit seems to have further receded as a priority.

Nevertheless, spurring innovation - especially focused on developing high-value-added products that appeal to international markets - is the surest way for Canada to renew its global economic competitiveness, according to a recent report, \"Breaking away from the pack: Enhancing Canada\'s global competitiveness,\" by McKinsey & Co. Canada.

Although Canada has the building blocks for a competitive economy, including a talented work force and a wealth of natural resources, we have failed as a country to invest sufficiently in developing and commercializing innovative products. Public policy can provide the foundation for a competitive economy, but driving innovation will require leadership by Canadian executives themselves.

Three factors must be aligned if companies are to promote innovation effectively, according to research by our colleagues Joanna Barsh, Marla Capozzi, and Jonathan Davidson. Corporate leadership must make innovation a top priority, create a culture of entrepreneurialism, and foster an idea-driven workplace that encourages the generation and sharing of new ideas.

Leaders must show their commitment to innovation in their everyday mindsets and actions. They must actively encourage innovators through public recognition, by spending time with their companies\' creative thinkers and, to the extent possible, protect funding for high-potential R&D programs.

Leaders must also show support for those taking calculated, prudent risks, even if these risks ultimately don\'t pay off. As veteran Silicon Valley executive Bill Campbell, chairman of software maker Intuit Inc., recently said in an interview with the McKinsey Quarterly: \"What you have to do is really accept failure. If you\'re unwilling to say that out of five or six things you\'ll try, two or three are going to fail, then you had better not do it.\"

For the innovative spirit to fully take hold, companies also must have a culture of experimentation built into their institutional DNA, with a sense of pride and excitement about new ideas. Part of that challenge involves carefully deploying your talent - new ideas are most likely to emerge when a company brings together people with diverse backgrounds, points of view and experiences. There must also be an active culture of entrepreneurialism that is ready to quickly commercialize breakthrough ideas.

One example of ways to encourage the cross-fertilization of ideas across organizational lines and national boundaries is the use of collaboration and mobility initiatives. Canon Inc. drives product innovation through such programs as strategic training and job rotation programs, direct transfers of development teams from R&D to production, and extensive networking with key suppliers and external centres of excellence. High-potential executives are thus exposed to new markets and gain a new sense of the global competition, enriching the insights they bring back to their original business units.

Finally, the workplace environment should motivate talented thinkers and actively encourage them to share ideas, data and insights through internal and external networks. The innovative spirit must be guided by fact-based company research to give innovators a deeper understanding of what new products and services the marketplace demands. In particular, managers should encourage an \"innovation subculture\" in their teams that remains connected to the company\'s go-to-market processes.

One example of ways to enliven new thinking is the recently launched \"employee swap\" program between the consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co. and the search engine powerhouse Google Inc. Short-term exchanges help both organizations break out of their familiar habits and look at the market afresh: P&G\'s executives can get a glimpse of a less-structured style of R&D, while Google\'s innovators can look at the discipline that comes with a more methodical approach.

Innovation requires leadership from the top, inspiration throughout the organization and a corporate culture that welcomes the disruptions that new ideas can inflict on outdated mindsets. Keeping innovators inspired and agile, while still attuned to marketplace demands, is critical to a company\'s resilience in a downturn. For Canadian companies, however, that marketplace must extend beyond our borders to assure their competitiveness in today\'s global economy.

Government policies can encourage greater R&D spending, but it is up to Canada\'s corporate leaders to re-ignite the entrepreneurial spirit within their companies, and lead the country back into the world\'s top ranks of innovation, competitiveness and prosperity.


Mississauga Business Times | 2009-02-01
Nytric wins award as top workplace for immigrants - expand / condense article
by Sayward Spooner

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Av Utukuri, CTO of Nytric, shows off the TRIEC (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council) award he and his company won. It is given to GTA employers and individuals that are leaders in recruiting, retaining and promoting skilled immigrants in the workplace. Photo by Stephen Uhraney

What makes for a happy workplace? Good pay? Strong leadership? A cappuccino machine in the lunch room?

Well, it all depends on how you look at it. Ten-year old Mississauga-based Nytric Ltd., an innovation consulting company, won the RBC sponsored 2008 Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council award for Best Immigrant Employer. You don\'t win an award for \"hiring and inspiring\" immigrant workers unless you\'ve managed to create something special in your workplace.Something truly unique.

\"We\'re very proud of winning this,\" says Av Utukuri, president and CTO of Nytric Ltd. \"We\'ve been growing for the last eight to 10 years and we\'ve had some very different philosophies on how we run our business and what our employment strategies are.\" How did Nytric end up with one of the most ethnically diverse and talented workforces in the City? According to Utukuri who was raised and educated in Canada, it was a total accident. To understand their philosophies on hiring and how those philosophies have distinguished their workplace from others, it\'s necessary to understand Nytric\'s business model and how it came to be.

Back in 1994, Utukuri and a few friends who had all recently graduated from university decided to start their own technology company developing virtual reality simulation systems and arcade systems. \"We didn\'t have much Canadian experience. We didn\'t know what it meant for someone to say ‘yes\' or ‘no\' to us. We stubbornly said, this is what we\'re going to do,\" recalls Utukuri. He attributes his current success to that same drive and passion for innovative technologies with which he began his career. Things were going well for a while. They went public with Dynamic Visions Ltd. on NASDAQ:OTCBB in 1998. Unfortunately, that\'s about as far as it went. The company turned out to be one more doomed innovative vision swallowed up by Canada\'s existing procedures for start-up technology companies.

If you\'re a small to medium sized business or an entrepreneur with an idea for a new technology that you want to take to market, there are really only two ways of going about it, according to Utukuri. \"You can spend cash, raise your own money, you can hire your own team-product development specialists, engineers, hardware guys, software guys- whatever\'s required, or you hire a team of consultants that tries to figure out all the problems,\" says Utukuri. In both cases it\'s only a matter of time before you run into cash-flow troubles.

Hiring your own team seems like a smart move initially. Everything is contained, but therein lies the problem. \"A lot of times you can\'t see the forest through the trees,\" says Utukuri. You hire more people as you need them, but with a growing start-up company, the skill sets required can change all the time. \"Today you need an engineer with this type of talent [but] six months from now the project has shifted and you need a different type of talent,\" says Utukuri. \"What do you do with all of the old staff? You can\'t just let go of them because then you\'re losing all of your IT capability.\"

Hiring consultants won\'t fix the problem, unless you have a lot of money you\'re willing to throw at it, according to Utukuri. The problem with consultants, he explains, is that your success is not an \"incentive\" for them. If you go to a consultant with a problem and he or she knows that you have $50,000 to spend on that problem, \"well then it magically becomes a $50,000 problem,\" says Utukuri.

It became clear to Utukuri and his colleagues that there was a real need for a new type of company to fill that gap, to facilitate the process of getting a new idea to market. That\'s when Nytric Ltd. was born. Nytric is part venture-capitalist and part product developer. It\'s the best of both worlds. As partial investors in a new company, Nytric is automatically motivated by the success of that new venture. \"We only make money when you\'re successful, either with stock or royalty. So it becomes our incentive to try and get you to market as quickly as possible,\" explains Utukuri. For that you need the right people - special people.

\"The philosophy behind the company has been, hire the best individual for the job,\" says Utukuri. \"Because our business model is so unique-today we\'ll be in the medical industry, tomorrow we\'re going to be in the defense or aerospace industry-we never know where the next client or investor is coming from. For such a multi-faceted company, only a multi-talented and experienced workforce will do.

The best individual for the job is selfmotivated and passionate about what he or she does. \"When an engineer comes in, whether it be from India or the Ukraine and he has a huge passion for the job that he\'s doing, to me it doesn\'t matter what school he went to. I mean you could go to MIT and couldn\'t care less about the education, or you could\'ve gone to a no-name university in the Ukraine and you were taking cars apart from when you were six years old and you know mechanical engineering inside-out,\" says Utukuri.

Utukuri says they\'re always shocked at the incredibly gifted individuals who walk through their door who are only making minimum wage because of where they went to school. It\'s not that Nytric Ltd. doesn\'t care about an employee\'s education, but it\'s certainly not the first thing they look for in a potential employee.

Nytric\'s philosophy on employment strategy is as ground-breaking as their business model. Utukuri and his partners at Nytric are leaders, in their industry and in the way they view foreign-educated professionals. Nytric now launches five to six new companies every year and Nytric also sponsors the Great Canadian Invention Competition in partnership with Canadian Business Magazine.

All of that makes Nytric Ltd. an exciting place to work.


VIP: Xerox Research Centre of Canada | 2009-02-01
Diversity in the Workplace - expand / condense article

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In 2007 a survey of 1,000 members of the Canadian working population was undertaken. The results were nothing short of startling. Seventy-seven percent said they believed diversity led to innovation and a competitive advantage but less than 40% said that their companies were more diverse than they were 5 years ago. So why isn\'t Canadian business putting its money where its mouth is?

\"Not all Canadian companies understand the value of diversity and its competitive advantages,\" said Hadi Mahabadi, vice-president and manager of the Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC), the company that released the survey. \"In the global economy of the 21st century, innovation will only thrive with the shared ideas of individuals with different genders, generations, backgrounds, areas of expertise and life.\"

Mahabadi firmly believes that the link between diversity and innovation is what\'s made XRCC so successful. The centre\'s research team represents over 35 different countries of origin.

\"Having a more diverse group of researchers helps us to become innovative and more effective. Our experience indicated when you have diversity of thought, the solutions you come up with are much richer. You get better solutions.\" says Mahabadi. \"There\'s a saying: when all things are alike, then no one\'s thinking.\"

Since the centre began in 1979, it\'s racked up 1200 US patents and proudly boasts approximately 160 potentially commercial technology ideas every year and four novel scientific ideas per week. This has resulted in an impressive 40 to 60 patents annually. Five scientists alone have generated more than 100 patents each.

Mahabadi is quick to point out that if you look only at staff stats-how many, where they come from-there is a definite link between diversity and innovation. But that\'s not the whole the story.

\"Let\'s say we\'re trying to find a better toner for Xerox, it\'s not a question of who came up with this idea or whether this idea came from an Asian or African. The best idea of what we are looking for is the answer,\" Mahabadi explains. \"So the more diversity you have, the more out-of-box thinking will take place in the brainstorming sessions. So people recognize from the beginning that all ideas are important.\"

The Xerox Research Centre is proud of the fact that it\'s created an environment where people feel free to express their other ideas and where those ideas are respected, no matter where they came from.

\"This is why we are so successful,\" Mahabadi says. \"We, as a community here, think of our differences as a good thing. So we never consider differences, whether it\'s difference in culture or difference in a way of thinking, as a barrier.\"

Hiring, developing and promoting skilled international professionals in an integral part of the organization\'s strategy. Nearly half the PhD scientists working at the centre are from somewhere else. Mahabadi included. He was born and raised in Iran.

\"At the end of the day we have to hire the most qualified person. We never look to where this quality person is coming from,\" Mahabadi says. \"They have to be the best.\"

And the Diversity Fuels Innovation survey proves that\'s exactly what the Xerox Research Centre of Canada has: the best in the business. \"We are pleased to see that the survey\'s findings validate the approach that has acted as the lynchpin to our own innovation success,\" Mahabadi says. \"Communicating this important message to all companies in Canada and helping them take advantage of this important success factor is the remaining challenge. There is still room to do more.\"


Globe and Mail | 2009-01-26
Hire local, think global - expand / condense article

Assembling a work force that looks like the greater community has become a business imperative. Equally important is doing it the right way
by Terrence Belford

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Jason Colley explains it, in 2004 senior management at American Express Canada looked out the windows of the company\'s new headquarters in Markham and realized the world had changed. Geography helped sparked social change.

Markham, one of Toronto\'s northern suburbs, had become a city with an extraordinarily diverse population. No longer a farming town dominated by white Anglo Saxons, Markham was now home to expanding Chinese and South Asian communities. In most families, women worked as well as the men.

If the company was going to recruit staff locally, its hiring and retention policies would have to change. Diversity would have to become a fundamental pillar of corporate culture, says Mr. Colley, manager of talent acquisition, the man responsible since 2007 for finding ways to dip into existing pools of qualified women, ethnic minorities and those with physical disabilities.

\"At the same time, our customer base was changing,\" says Mr. Colley. \"There was a realization that there were sound business reasons to have our staff reflect the various communities we served.\"

American Express is just a case in point. Major corporations are fostering diversity in the workplace as good business sense, not only to reflect changing customer bases today, but as a strategy for the long term.

Organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business say that one of the greatest challenges for any enterprise - large or small - is recruiting and retaining workers. They predict that as baby boomers move into retirement, that challenge is certain to escalate.

At the University of Toronto\'s Rotman School of Management, associate dean Beatrix Dart says she can think of at least four sound business reasons for all enterprises to pursue diversity in the work force. Her first echoes those who point to the shrinking pool of available people following the boomer bulge.

She also says that business is increasingly international in nature and having people on staff fluent in foreign languages and cultural savvy can prove a tremendous asset. Then there is the need to have an organization reflect the communities it serves: That just makes sound branding sense, she says.

The fourth point reflects a change of perception as to who is the decision maker in households.

\"Surveys show that women have the greatest influence in 70 per cent of household purchases,\" she says. \"With new cars they are the primary influence in 60 per cent of buy decisions. It just makes sense to strengthen the female component and use their insights.\"

\"All organizations have to start looking for ways to reach deeper into the pools of available talent within their communities,\" says Jane Allen, chief diversity officer at Deloitte & Touche LLP, the international accounting and consulting company with 7,900 staff across Canada. \"It simply makes good business sense.\"

The challenge for many, however, is how to get started and then how to create internal systems and processes to ensure programs created to achieve diversity do not wither on the corporate vine.

At both Amex Canada and Deloitte, the process started with benchmarking, a complete demographic survey of just how diverse staff was, say both Mr. Colley and Ms. Allen. Deloitte even brought in an outside consultant to help structure change and advise on the process.

\"The idea is to create a baseline, which can be used to measure progress,\" says Ms. Allen.

The next step for both was creation of a company-wide diversity council. In Amex\'s case it has 12 members from across Canada. Deloitte has 18. The council acts as a central organizing group, monitoring change and reporting to both management and staff.

Step three was to create a series of task forces with each given responsibility to organize, launch and monitor specific diversity initiatives.

\"At Amex one of the top priorities was not just broadening recruitment but broadening retention programs as well,\" says Mr. Colley. \"Our goal was to have units such as our call centre and credit risk groups - those that deal directly with customers - more closely reflect our client base.

A top priority at Deloitte became increasing the number of women in management.

When Mr. Colley took over his new position in 2007 he began to reach out to non-traditional sources for recruiting, such as job sites directed toward aboriginals and specific ethnic communities.

\"We also started working with student groups, such as the aboriginal students\' organization at Ryerson University,\" he says. \"It is not so much an effort to hire X number from any group, but to ensure they are not overlooked in the process,\" he says.

Key to any diversity initiative is creating an internal structure that makes managers accountable for expanding diversity in their business unit and supporting their efforts, explains Ms. Allen.

\"That means identifying who makes the decisions or influences recruitment and retention, right from the board level down to everyday staff,\" she says. \"Then we created individual programs for each unit with set targets and a monitoring system to check on progress.\"

Those programs can indeed be broad ranging. Amex, for example, now has two dozen managers working as mentors to new Canadians trying to make the most of their training in the homeland in the Canadian workplace.

Deloitte will introduce its own mentoring program this year, but, unlike the one at Amex, it will be aimed at exposing existing staff to the challenges faced by their managers and bosses.

At Deloitte there are company-sponsored affinity groups among employees where gays, lesbians, the physically disabled, women and Canadians from a broad range of ethnic backgrounds can network, often becoming incubators for new programs and a continuing resource to tap into their own community for new corporate talent, says Ms. Allen.

At Amex, the company developed partnerships with groups such as the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council to participate in TRIEC programs designed to speed the entry of new Canadians into the work force.

At both companies diversity is still a work in progress. Evidence of its success is still chiefly anecdotal.

\"Measurement is probably still a year away,\" says Deloitte\'s Ms. Allen. \"But I can see we are seeing very encouraging results in things like performance reports and in internal discussions.\"


Globe and Mail | 2009-01-26
New faces, new customers - expand / condense article

Reaching out to immigrants and visible minorities brings companies new perspectives and access to more clients
by Deirdre Kelly

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It wasn\'t what you\'d expect a staff member to be doing at the corporate offices of Bayer Canada.

Wearing a traditional Chinese costume from her native Hong Kong, Suzanne Wan was performing a fan dance. The audience consisted of colleagues, mostly newcomers to Canada like herself, watching as Ms. Wan unfurled the brightly coloured fans, making them look like birds in flight.

This was more than a show.

As a participant in Diversity Day, a company initiative meant to showcase the various cultures at play within Bayer, Ms. Wan used the occasion to underscore her value as an employee within the global organization - her ethnicity.

\"Different cultures bring different perspectives,\" says Ms. Wan, who has worked at Bayer in Human Resources for the past 27 years, first in Hong Kong and, after immigrating in 1988, continuing at the company\'s HealthCare and MaterialSciences division in Mississauga, Ont.

\"In business today, there are no absolute right or wrong ways of doing things. It\'s about being open to different opinions and ideas that might come from different backgrounds and cultures, and celebrating them.\"

Having left the compliance gate long ago, Bayer has strategically positioned itself as an industry leader in actively creating an equal opportunity environment for all its staff.

To Helen Sraka, Bayer\'s head of Talent Management, focusing on diversity just makes good business sense.

\"Canada has a lot of immigrants, and in that pool of newcomers is a lot of talent,\" says Ms. Sraka, a Croatian by heritage who joined Bayer in 1984.

\"You need to be able to look at that diversity across the board because a company is only as good as its strength in diversity. A diverse environment drives a business forward because there is naturally an abundance of different opinions and ideas that spark creativity and help set an organization apart from its competitors.\"

By diversity, Ms. Sraka goes beyond a narrow definition of racial and ethnic differences to embrace also gender and generational divisions in describing the full spectrum of Bayer\'s 900 employees. New mothers, for instance, are allowed flex time to accommodate the demands of their offspring, while new Canadians are given English-language training and mentoring with an already established member of staff.

New employees are hired largely from within Canadian universities and schools where students are representative of the diverse Canadian population.

So-called visible minorities often approach Bayer on their own, attracted by the company\'s growing reputation as an equal-opportunity employer. Bayer also seeks out new immigrants for its work force, in particular physicians and pharmacists from other countries unlicensed to practice in Canada.

\"We pro-actively reach out to that pool of candidates,\" says Ms. Wan. \"We go to local colleges to recruit them for our medical department.\"

Among these is Humber College, which offers programs to foreign medical personnel looking for careers in clinical operations and drug safety - fields of interest to Bayer.

At Sun Life Financial Inc., new Canadians are sometimes hired before stepping foot in the country.

Founded in Montreal in 1865 by Irish immigrant Matthew Hamilton Gault, the financial services company seeks new recruits through embassies in foreign countries where potential immigrants first apply to enter Canada. The company believes that hiring sales agents and advisers from within a particular ethnic community allows them to better communicate their products to people of similar backgrounds in Canada.

At least that is how Sonia Del Rosario got her start with the company 22 years ago.

\"I got recruited through the embassy in my native Philippines,\" says Ms. Del Rosario, Sun Life\'s financial adviser in Ottawa. \"They knew who was a good candidate for immigration from within the community, and my name was put forward.\"

Managing a pharmaceuticals company at the time, she was at first reluctant to move into financial services.

\"I am a nurse by profession and I hadn\'t worked in the field before,\" Ms. Del Rosario says.

But Sun Life offered on-the-job training, and the opportunity to work in her mother tongue offering services to people from her own culture.

\"I believe that working with my ethnic community has provided me with a natural niche. Not only can I serve them in their first language, but I also understand what keeps them awake at night and that understanding is key to success.\"

While Sun Life has long opened its doors to new Canadians, over the last two years hiring has focused on recruiting ethno-Canadians within the country, again through community referrals, says Jacqueline McMullen, assistant vice-president of Sun Life\'s Career Sales Force Growth division.

\"As Canada grows and becomes a more culturally diverse country we need to ensure that we have advisers who represent all our key markets across Canada,\" Ms. McMullen says.

Last year, of the 700 new advisers hired, 34 per cent were new or ethno-Canadians, while 12 per cent were new graduates and 38 per cent were women.

India native Vinod Karna is director of Diversity Recruitment at Sun Life\'s headquarters in Waterloo, Ont., says that there are emerging opportunities among ethnic groups in Alberta, Saskatchewan and in Halifax.

He says managers can go a long way toward understanding ethnic communities by looking at their publications, attending cultural events and making connections with community leaders.

Mr. Karna adds that newcomers make for excellent salespeople \"because we are driven to succeed in our new environment.\"

But, as Ms. Wan demonstrates at Bayer, immigrants bring to the workplace more than just a willingness to work hard.

\"We bring something fresh to the table,\" Ms. Wan says. \"We open people\'s eyes to an idea of diversity as a state of mind.\"


Globe and Mail | 2009-01-26
Wading into the talent pool - expand / condense article

Stories of skilled immigrants who can\'t find suitable work in Canada have been legion. But as awareness spreads of what employers have been missing, opportunities are growing
by Tavia Grant

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In 1906, a young man named Samuel Cohen arrived in Montreal with nothing more than a few dollars in his pocket and the name of a shop owner who happened to come from his village in the Ukraine. This newcomer spoke neither English nor French and knew not a soul.

He got lucky. The shop owner gave the man space in the corner of his store to start a shoe-repair service. Years of hard work, and the operation expanded into socks.

Eventually, it became a successful Montreal-based clothing store.

More than a century later, and Sam\'s grandson, David, is hoping to replicate his grandfather\'s success by establishing an online social network between immigrants in the process of coming to Canada, and established Canadians who can offer advice on how to find jobs and settle in the country.

\"Were it not for the generosity of that shop owner, who really wasn\'t a friend of his but who was willing to help out someone from the same hometown, it would have been much harder,\" says Mr. Cohen, an immigration lawyer for the past 25 years.

His grandfather\'s experience, and years of observation in his own work that immigrants who find meaningful work in Canada tend to have connections here, is the inspiration for a social networking website he launched this month. He calls it \"Facebook with a purpose,\" and the site, Loon Lounge, has already chalked up 15,000 members from 191 countries.

\"The idea is to find a way for people to connect even before they\'re here. And it\'s based on the premise that people, when they are here, are willing to help.\"

So now someone from, say Nigeria, can post a profile and find people in Canada from his hometown. A professional engineer from India could ask questions about job availability in different cities. Or a Canadian hospital recruiter can find and hire a nurse from the Philippines before she even arrives in the country.

It\'s one of several new ideas popping up across Canada to better integrate immigrants into the work force. And as employers realize that hiring newcomers is good for business - boosting trade ties, generating new ideas and helping serve ethnic communities more effectively - they too, are rethinking old practices.

\"We\'ve adapted our interviewing techniques for newcomers,\" says Daniela Perciasepe, director of human resources at Enbridge Gas Distribution Inc. in Toronto.

That\'s after noticing many new Canadians, nervous about a job interview and anxious about their English, sometimes had trouble understanding or answering questions. It\'s not that they weren\'t qualified. It was that the formal interview environment was clouding their responses.

So, when interviewing newcomers for Enbridge\'s internship program, the company now lets them arrive an hour early.

It distributes the questions in advance and gives people a chance to clarify wording and think over their answers.

\"We recognized we would get a better sense of their strengths if we reduced their anxiety levels,\" Ms. Perciasepe says.

Enbridge\'s motivation to try and attract more immigrants is twofold: It wants to ensure its workers reflect the local community, and it recognizes that new Canadians will soon become the main source of growth in the country\'s labour force. \"We just wanted to be ahead of that curve,\" she says. \"We know there\'s lots that bring experience and education and we wanted to be sure we tapped into it.\"

Employers\' attitudes toward hiring immigrants have shifted dramatically in the past year or two, said Marva Wisdom, a Guelph, Ont.-based consultant on diversity (who prefers the term \"inclusivity.\") \"It will ramp up quickly within the next couple of years,\" she said. \"So much research now shows that we are no longer isolated - that the global village is a much closer place than we think.\"

That said, \"in terms of organizations that specifically go out and seek new immigrants, it\'s still not where it should be.\"

Canada brings in about 250,000 immigrants a year and now has the second-highest proportion of immigrants among Western nations.

Many newcomers, however, struggle to become integrated into the work force. Scores of highly trained immigrants wind up working at jobs far below their capabilities. Canada\'s last census showed the earnings gap between immigrants and Canadian-born residents has widened in the past few decades.

Nadeem Anwar bucked that trend. The 42-year-old from Karachi, Pakistan, arrived in Toronto last March with his wife and three children.

For months, he searched for jobs that would match his decade-long experience in financial services. No nibbles.

Instead of settling for more casual work, he spent time volunteering and seeking out other professionals.

Last fall, he enrolled in a financial services connection program that helped him prepare for the Canadian Securities Course, revamp his résumé and do mock job interviews (\"I learned that in interviews here, you must stay focused and not stray from the core thing.\").

His revised résumé - and bolstered confidence - helped land him a full-time, permanent job in December at the Bank of Nova Scotia, where he\'s currently in training to become an account manager for small businesses.

\"I wanted to be somewhere where there\'s a long-term opportunity to grow,\" he says. \"I feel lucky to be here.\"

For Scotiabank, which operates in more than 50 countries, hiring people like Mr. Anwar remains a top priority - even as the economy slows.

Involvement in programs that support hiring immigrants \"is the one place where we\'re really not looking at cuts,\" said Deanna Matzanke, director of global employment strategies. \"It\'s a great investment and we don\'t want to abandon it.\"

What\'s spurring Scotia? The wish to reflect growing immigrant populations among its staff and a constant need for more multilingual workers. As well, that global experience can help smooth transitions when the bank makes a merger or acquisition, Ms. Matzanke says.

Many cities across Canada are now offering newcomers programs that promote mentoring, internships, or a chance to network. In Halifax, for example, next month the city will launch a new approach to helping immigrants get connected. It has signed up 40 employers and professionals, who will have coffee with a newcomer to offer advice and answer questions. Each expert will then give the person three names they can call for further guidance.

\"It\'s a pay-it-forward idea,\" said Fred Morley, executive vice-president and chief economist of the Greater Halifax Partnership economic development organization. \"It gives people a one-on-one, personal experience and provides an opportunity to find a connection.\"

Back in Montreal, Mr. Cohen hopes his free-of-charge (and ad-free) website is another way to make those connections. \"I just hope this will facilitate the path for new Canadians,\" he says.


Toronto Star | 2009-01-22
A ray of hope for new immigrants - expand / condense article
by Bob Hepburn

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Patricia O\'Connor is a petite, quiet-spoken woman who has made a big difference in the lives of hundreds of Canadian immigrants.

When I first met her earlier this week, O\'Connor was surrounded by friends thanking and praising her for the work she is doing to give skilled newcomers a helping hand in finding jobs in Canada.

We were at an awards ceremony where O\'Connor was one of five individuals and companies being honoured for their leadership in recruiting, retaining and promoting skilled immigrants in the Greater Toronto Area.

Several hundred people attended the event, presented by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), to give support to the winners.

O\'Connor, who is the coordinator of field programming for the Internationally Educated Social Work Professionals Bridging Program at the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University, told the crowd that skilled immigrants must not give up hope and that employers should realize what a pool of talent foreign-trained workers form.

For years, Canadians have been reading sad tales about how highly skilled immigrants, many with advanced degrees or certificates, can\'t find jobs in their professions and are forced to drive taxis or clean hotel rooms to earn a living.

Unfortunately, those stories all too often are true.

Studies have found that 70 per cent of immigrants start their first job within six months of arriving here, but of those, only 42 per cent get a job in their intended occupation. Each year, Canada attracts about 250,000 immigrants, more than half of whom have a post-secondary degree or certificate.

Even Canadians born in this country and who later studied or worked abroad have trouble getting their foreign credentials accepted in Canada. This runs from speech language pathologists to teachers and others.

So bad is the problem in the Greater Toronto Area that in 2002 a conference of civic leaders identified employment barriers for immigrants as one of the region\'s biggest challenges.

Out of that conference emerged TRIEC, which works to find ways to better integrate skilled immigrants into the labour force and to encourage employers to take advantage of the talents newcomers bring to this country.

Admittedly, it\'s a slow process.

Ratna Omidvar, chair of TRIEC\'s board of directors, says employers are only hurting themselves when they don\'t hire internationally educated and trained immigrants who speak languages other than English, know how to get things done in other cultures and can target our own ethnic markets.

TRIEC created the Immigrant Success Awards three years ago in the hope that the winners might inspire and provide insight for companies and groups wanting to know how to better recruit and train such workers.

For her efforts, O\'Connor received the Toronto Star Immigrant Champion Award.

(Full disclosure: I was one of the nine members on the award selection committee and the Star is a media partner for the awards.)

In the past four years, the program O\'Connor oversees has helped more than 100 internationally trained social workers move into jobs. More than a dozen past graduates of the program nominated her for the award.

Christine Okech is one of those graduates. She is originally from Kenya and now works with the Children\'s Aid Society of Hamilton. She said that while she was in the program she \"felt for the first time nobody was judging or doubting me, and I met social workers from other countries and realized I was not alone.\"

In addition, O\'Connor coordinates a network of more than 550 internationally trained social work professionals and organizes educational workshops for employers to raise awareness about the ways in which immigrant professionals can make valuable contributions to their organizations.

Clearly, O\'Connor\'s program affects only a tiny fraction of the immigrants who face obstacles in having credentials recognized or finding suitable jobs.

But her example, and those of the other award winners, provides an inspiring model for employers who want to better their own companies - while offering a ray of hope for those highly skilled taxi drivers and hotel cleaners who still dream of a better life in Canada.


Toronto Star | 2009-01-17
New website like Facebook for prospective immigrants - expand / condense article

Users can go to and sign up for free to get instant access to the immigration website\'s member-provided information. Site uses social networking platform to give advice and create friendships for those moving to Canada
by Lesley Ciarula Taylor

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Jenn Samu, who lives in the U.K., calls the new website Loon Lounge \"the Facebook of Canadian immigration applicants ... very cool.\"

Nick_au is the online name of a Web writer from Ukraine, who uses Loon Lounge ( as \"a job search tool, which lets me stay tuned with the job opportunities in Canada. And one more important thing - I got new friends here.\"

Loon Lounge, which launched officially this week, is the brainchild of immigration lawyer David Cohen, who saw a need for a social networking site that uses common applications to create a worldwide chat room for people thinking of moving to Canada, people in the process of moving and people already here.

That last category, says Cohen, is the most difficult and important one. Getting Canadians, from native-born to new citizens, to give a helping hand is crucial.

Elham Doust Mohammadi, a 42-year-old who works in Toronto\'s accounting and finance industry, is a landed immigrant and signed up on Loon Lounge at the insistence of her sister, who\'s still in Iran, for the benefit of \"my friends in Iran, if they need any help or information.\"

\"To succeed, we need to get Canadians involved, people who arrived yesterday and people who were born here,\" Cohen says. \"The Canadian population is a lot different than it was 20 years ago. And I find, generally, people will help out other people.\"

Though a recent analysis of what works for immigrants by the think-tank Public Policy Forum didn\'t study Loon Lounge in particular, author Winnie Wong points out that the few websites that are effective tools for newcomers involve Canadians rather than just immigrants, and are community-based rather than top-down.

Many of the 15,000 people on the nascent site, from 191 countries, have some connection to Cohen, who spent two years working on Loon Lounge. Others found it through clicking for information about Canada and recognized the site\'s social aspect, which was the appeal for Samu.

The site lets users join communities based on common ties such as home country or occupation, and can host subgroups for, say, cricket.

Samu and Mykola Stepanyuk, or Nick as he calls himself now, are settling in Toronto, as is Marianne Salari, a 30-year-old dentist from Serbia who says: \"I hope that this page is going to bring positive energy specially for many who have been so disappointed by these changes in immigration policy.\"

The new Citizenship and Immigration Canada list of 38 priority jobs and language testing are the two hottest topics on Loon Lounge.

Dentistry isn\'t on the priority list, but Salari, who has three years\' work experience, speaks fluent English and has 18 years of education, uses the site to connect with organizations in Canada. \"I will never give up my dream to become a Canadian citizen. I think that I deserve a chance.\"

Online information about Canada isn\'t scarce, from CIC\'s own website to settlement agencies, professional organizations and new citizens passing on their experiences, but Loon Lounge stands out as a slick, interactive and well designed venue to draw in Canadians and those hoping to become Canadian.

Cohen keeps a low profile on the site, which is run by six people in his Montreal office and doesn\'t charge any fees or accept advertising. His own experience told him immigrants needed something more personal.

\"I know our government means well, but their efforts are, well, oafish. The government can\'t afford to answer one-on-one questions, they can\'t help an engineer in Norway find someone in Toronto who can answer his questions or tell someone in Greece where to find Toronto\'s Greek neighbourhood.\"

Salari\'s interest is simple: \"I will try to meet people with the same interest as mine but mostly I hope to find friends among people who are already in Canada.\"

\"This is a very rich site for immigrants, to be networking with people of diverse culture background and professionals,\" says Matthew Adeyemi, a 36-year-old Nigerian IT worker who also wants to come to Toronto. He says one of the site\'s many benefits is \"learning from mistakes of some immigrants.\"


Toronto Star | 2009-01-15
Diversity gives LEA Group a business advantage - expand / condense article
by Terrence Belford

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Every year on Christmas Eve, the 100 staff members at LEA Holdings Group\'s head office in Markham have a potluck lunch. For many Toronto employers, that might mean a spread of tuna casseroles, pasta salads and fried chicken. Not at LEA Group. Company chair John Farrow notes with great pride that his head office staff speak more than 40 languages and regional dialects between them.

Their contributions to the feast reflect this vast cultural diversity. There might be muamba from Angola, biltong from South Africa, curries from the Indian sub-continent, stir-fries from China, crispy-skinned roast suckling pig from the Philippines, fermented fish sauce from Vietnam, delicately spiced lamb dishes from Ethiopia - in a profusion of sweet, sour, spicy and hot main courses and sides from countries around the world.

Farrow says there are tremendous business advantages to diversity in a workforce, not the least of which is a competitive edge when it comes to finding, signing and conducting business around the world. LEA Group, an international consulting engineering and urban planning venture, ranks second to the giant SNC Lavalin group in size, Farrow says. About half its annual revenues come from foreign projects and 90 per cent of its 1,000-member staff is based outside Canada. The company employs 850 people in 14 offices in India alone.

\"Clients in countries like India, Pakistan, Uganda and Ethiopia hire us because they want the best of North American engineering skills for their projects,\" Farrow says. \"But at the same time, they want staff that recognize their own cultural, social and political realities.\" LEA Group\'s diversity enables it to satisfy on both fronts, he says.

The company is not alone among Canadian employers who have realized the powerful networks immigrants bring to Canada , says Ratna Omidvar, chair of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, a not-for-profit group founded in 2003 by the Maytree Foundation to improve integration of skilled immigrants into the Canadian workforce.

These networks can smooth the way and provide key advantages when conducting work in foreign countries, she says.

\"I look at corporations like the Bank of Nova Scotia and its rapid and profitable expansion through places like Latin America,\" she says. \"Scotiabank has done that by leveraging on a highly diverse staff here in Canada.\"

LEA Group\'s Farrow recalls a project in Hanoi his company wants to bid on. The first step was to contact a former staffer originally from Viet Nam.

\"We asked if he would like to go back for six months to head up the project, get it organized, recruit local staff and spend time essentially back home on a North American salary,\" he says. \"He jumped at the chance and we got that terrific mix of Canadian experience and a mastery of local customs.\"

Farrow points to the example of a recent contract in Uganda, privatizing state vehicle registration.

\"We approached a South African fellow who had worked for us,\" Farrow says. \"He had worked in Uganda and was able to identify a local Ugandan partner and then, working as a trio, we were able to...assemble a local team, all experienced in the African way of doing things, supervised by professionals with North American experience.\"

The benefits of diversity can also be simple and everyday, he notes.

\"We had this fax arrive in Chinese characters,\" he recalls. \"One of our people recognized it as being in a Shanghai dialect. We just passed it on to one of our people originally from Shanghai, who translated it within minutes,\" he says.

\"Ask yourself where we would have been if we did not have that kind of talent pool to draw on?\"


Toronto Star | 2009-01-15
Resources for skilled immigrants and employers - expand / condense article

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The Mentoring Partnership (

An award-winning initiative of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) that matches skilled immigrants with established professionals in occupation-specific mentoring relationships.

Immigrants get matched with someone in the same field who can give hands-on professional guidance. Of the more than 2,700 matches made, 85 per cent of those mentored have found employment in their field.

Employers who participate gain cross-cultural and leadership skills, and develop their awareness of the opportunities skilled immigrants offer to the Canadian marketplace.

TRIEC also manages, a program that provides employers with interactive tools, information and resources to help them find, interview, hire, promote and retain skilled immigrants. Employers can access a cross-cultural interviewing guide, sign up for free \"webinars\" and read about how other companies have already leveraged the talents of skilled immigrants.

Career Bridge (

A program of Career Edge Organization that connects employers and skilled immigrants through paid internships ranging from four months to one year.

Immigrant internships are in mid-level positions and provide the \"first Canadian experience\" many new immigrants lack. Many internships end in full-time employment.

Employers get access to a highly skilled and educated talent pool with no commitment to hire at the end of the internship. Fifty per cent of candidates hold master\'s or PhD degrees and more than eight years\' work experience, and all are pre-screened for high-level language skills.

Consortium of Agencies Serving Internationally-trained Professionals (

This eight-member group of agencies works collaboratively to co-ordinate employment and training services for skilled immigrants within the GTA.

Members offer immigrants services such as job search workshops, resumé and interview preparation, and bridging programs for specific occupations.

All members have job developers who serve as no-cost recruiters, helping employers find appropriate candidates from their client pool.

World Education Services (

This not-for-profit group evaluates credentials and provides Canadian equivalency for international degrees.

Credential evaluation for immigrants is fast and easy and recognized by many employers.

Employers learn the Canadian equivalency of international degrees and better understand the educational backgrounds of skilled immigrants.

This is a web-enabled, searchable database of skilled immigrant job seekers in Ontario.

Immigrants can have their resumés seen by employers across Ontario who use the site as a recruiting tool.

Like Workopolis but with exclusively immigrant resumés, employers can access pre-screened, internationally-trained candidates, who have beenrecommended by experienced employment advisers at community agencies across the province.

Internationally Educated Professionals Conference (

Feb. 20 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Registration is free.

Immigrants can make face-to-face connections with other IEPs and potential employers, mentors, and opportunities to gain Canadian work experience and learn about Canadian business culture. Participate in personal and professional development sessions.

Employers have the opportunity to exhibit products and services in the marketplace and connect with hundreds of IEPs.

This agency provides information and resources for new immigrants to Ontario on job search employment assessment, business start-ups, and work language training. It also has a very busy discussion board with information on various topics related to settlement.

Ontario government immigration (

A provincial government site for new immigrants to Ontario provides links to professional licensing, how to qualify for professional practice and prepare for employment, as well as comprehensive guides on living, working, doing business and studying in Ontario.


Toronto Star | 2008-11-26
\'Diversity deficit\' lingers at top - expand / condense article
by Noor Javed

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Toronto may be the most diverse city in the world, but boardrooms across the city are not following suit. Instead, there is a \"striking\" lack of inclusiveness at the top of public, private and non-profit organizations across the city, according to a report to be released today.

\"The Value of Diverse Leadership\" was commissioned by the Toronto City Summit Alliance and the Maytree Foundation to make a business case for the importance of making diversity a priority at the board level.

The findings of the report, many of which have been known for years, serve as the impetus for the DiverseCity initiative, a plan for increasing diversity in leadership roles.

\"There is a diversity deficit in the leadership landscape of the GTA,\" said Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation. \"Whether you look at Bay St., or public service, who sits at board tables, or who is elected to run the city, there is a deficit in each one of these places.\"

One glaring example she cites is city council. In a city where almost 50 per cent of the population is a visible minority, only 4 of 44 city councillors are members of a visible minority.

\"That\'s unbelievable,\" she said. But it\'s not unchangeable. Over time, the demographics at the top will naturally change to reflect the community, says Omidvar. But the DiverseCity project is hoping to accelerate the change by creating networks, and offering mentoring and training opportunities.

\"We know that a lot of a lot of leadership opportunities come through networking and connections,\" said David Pecaut, chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance. \"When we have asked people why they don\'t have more diversity on their boards, they have said we are happy to and interested, but I don\'t know where to find qualified people.

\"We have the networks to bring these people together,\" he said.

One of the initiatives called DiverseCity OnBoard was launched by the Maytree Foundation four years ago, with the goal of matching highly qualified ethnic and minority candidates with boards of public and voluntary institutions.

Since 2005, the foundation has recruited 500 candidates, and 200 diverse members have been appointed to boards across the city. Their goal is to increase the number of appointments to 500 in the next three years.

Jehad Aliweiwi, the executive director of the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office - an agency for new immigrants and refugees - joined the board of the Ontario Science Centre through the project.

\\\"I never thought about joining on my own, or knew that I could,\\\" said Aliweiwi. \\\"I just had to volunteer, Maytree did the difficult job of making the connection for me.\\\"

In addition to launching a number of initiatives, the DiverseCity project will track its own success.

\\\"In the next three years, we want to significantly improve the diversity and leadership of this city, and region,\\\" said Pecaut, which will include monitoring the number of minority hires across institutions, companies, in government and media organizations.

The success of programs already in progress is proof enough that this project is about more than just filling certain \\\"quotas,\\\" Pecaut said.

\\\"There is a risk that people will say this is a token thing. We have to get past that,\\\" Pecaut said. \\\"This is a proven model ... and what we\\\'re trying to do is to open people\\\'s minds to the idea that this can be an incredible driver of economic growth.\\\"

Slow to get on board

16.2% - Visible minorities in Canada

5.2% - Visible minorities in senior management positions in large companies

1.6% - Visible minorities in executive management positions in public sector

8% - Visible minorities in House of Commons in 2006 (24 of 308)

46% - Visible minorities in Toronto

9% - Visible minorities on city council (4 of 44)


Canadian HR Reporter | 2008-11-17
Uncapping hidden talents of internationally trained professionals - expand / condense article

Communication training can remove numerous barriers
by Teresa McGill

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Employers hear the message repeatedly: The workplace is changing. Oft-quoted projections from Statistics Canada show, by 2011, immigration will account for virtually all net labour market growth.

But there’s a problem — and it’s not the stereotypical engineer driving a taxi, unable to find work in his field. It’s that many gifted, internationally trained professionals (ITPs), having secured employment in their field, eventually become frustrated with barriers to career success.

Despite their technical talents, they may find themselves assigned a narrow range of work duties, excluded from direct customer contact, leadership opportunities and normal career advancement. That’s because their language skills are often lacking and employers don’t know how to resolve this dilemma.

Not all training is suitable

While many employers have recognized both the barriers and the need for communication skills development for ITPs, not all training options fit the bill. Employers must assess which content is most crucial: Core language skills, strategic business communication skills or cultural awareness.

Core language skills: The basics — pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary — are an obvious starting place. But workplace communication performance improvements can be painfully incremental. Grammatical and linguistic skills can be measured with the 12-level Canadian Language Benchmark system, which suggests 200 hours of instruction are required to advance one single level. What workplace could afford this commitment to training, and how many professionals would tolerate the pace?

Strategic communication skills: These skills are a potential target for development, particularly in workplaces involving teamwork, customer interface or leadership roles. In navigating complex interpersonal interactions, strategic skills such as persuasion, problem solving, rapport building, concise-thought presentation and active listening are crucial. A modest amount of training in these areas can bring noticeable gains in on-the-job communication.

Unfortunately, the training often lacks the linguistic substance required by ITPs — along with ample opportunity to practise them in work-related scenarios. Training managers should assess whether the training offers an appropriate combination of linguistic training and pragmatic interpersonal depth.

Intercultural awareness: This is another essential area of development for ITPs. At play in the workplace are largely unconscious, cultural assumptions that go beyond issues of visible attributes and lifestyle such as dress, holidays and cuisine. When deeper issues — expectations about hierarchical work relationships, team roles, risk tolerance and directness of communication — are brought to the surface and demystified, the effect can be significant on career mobility, collegial rapport and customer service.

When a new employee is frustrated by her manager’s “weak leadership,” while her manager has labeled the worker as “high-need,” this is likely a culturally based role issue. When a project team meeting polarizes into two camps — blunt expressions of opinion on one side and eye-avoiding reticence on the other — cultural factors may be at play, with parties on both sides puzzling over why their leadership efforts have not been acknowledged. This interpersonal quagmire can undermine productivity and employee engagement, and increase the likelihood of driving away highly skilled and motivated employees.

So what works?

A new hybrid of training is emerging to meet the needs of a dynamic, culturally diverse work environment populated by highly educated ITPs.

Training programs should include strategic business skills such as persuasion and active listening, enriched with a context-relevant matrix of English language skills. They also offer the key to unlocking workplace interpersonal interactions by enhancing awareness of culturally based assumptions and behaviours.

For employers whose goal is to attract, develop, retain and promote top talent of international origin, hybrid communication training can be a godsend. It enables ITPs to engage as full contributors in the workplace and to progress through the expected stages of career development. Uncapping the talent of these high-level professionals pays handsome dividends in an organization’s success and growth.

Teresa McGill is president of Gandy Associates, a training company based in Mississauga, Ont., specializing in communications education. For more information, visit


Financial Post | 2008-11-17
How can diversity help business? - expand / condense article
by Alexandra Lopez-Pacheo

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Take a look around. According to Statistics Canada, there were more than six million people living in Canada in 2006 who were born in a foreign country. The number of new immigrants is growing and accounts for most of the country's population growth in 2008, with more than 69,200 immigrants entering between April and June alone.

What's more, cultural diversity does not end with first-generation immigrants, so the number of people in Canada who form part of the many communities we have is far greater than just the statistics on immigration reveal. These millions of people are consumers, workers, professionals and business owners. Put succinctly, having a culturally diverse workforce can help your business tap into the wealth of resources and opportunities that these communities have to offer.

"If you look at how the banks now staff their branches, they reflect the cultural diversity in the local community," says Kevin McLellan, manager for, a Web site of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) that provides employers with interactive tools and resources to help them though the process of finding right through to retaining immigrants. "So if businesses want to be successful in selling locally, they need to understand how to tailor their offerings to the culturally diverse communities they are selling to."

The best way to understand how to do this is through employees who are part of the local communities and understand the language and the nuances of the culture. They can connect with customers if they are frontline workers or help develop strategies and campaigns that will connect your company to multi-cultural communities if they are in the managerial team. Such employees can play a pivotal role in helping a business expand its market base locally or beyond.

"Buyers of goods and services are increasingly from a diverse background," says Jane Allen, chief diversity officer at Deloitte, a corporate partner in a new federal government initiative Assisting Local Leaders with Immigrant Employment Strategies (ALLIES), designed to help employers integrate skilled new Canadians into the workforce. [TRIEC edit - ALLIES is a program of the Maytree and McConnell Foundation, not a government initiative. Find out more here.]

The buying power of culturally diverse communities isn't restricted to major cities in the most populated provinces, which have typically attracted immigrants. These days, there are record numbers of immigrants moving to Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. "So there's a market out there, and by having diverse employees with a diverse approach to how you reach out to the marketplace, you're going to be more successful and capture more market share and maintain customer loyalty," Ms. Allen says.

"If they believe you understand their community, whatever that community might be, and that you have an appreciation for diversity because you have diverse employees, that's going to help you in the marketplace."

If you're trying to expand globally, having employees from your taraget markets can be a valuable asset. "We've seen examples where companies selling overseas benefitted from having employees from different countries and they've been able to successfully bring in contracts from those countries in part because they have people from them who know how to do business there," Mr. McLellan says.

Another way having a culturally diverse workforce can help your business: "By having employees with different and diverse perspectives, you're going to have better results in problem-solving than if you bring into a room a group of people who've all gone to the same schools, all had the same experiences growing up," Ms. Allen says. Most immigrants are highly skilled and educated -- far more so than the majority of the Canadian population. With the increasing difficulties businesses are facing in attracting top talent, companies that create a workplace that is welcoming to people from different cultures will have a competitive advantage today -- and tomorrow, when it is projected that new immigrants will be the largest source of workforce growth in the country. "If you have a culture that really embraces diversity, you can attract top talent from culturally diverse communities and keep them. All the efforts and time you spend on recruiting and promoting people will pay off," Ms. Allen says.

It's important to understand that Canada has many skilled and highly educated and talented immigrants who are currently unemployed or underemployed, Mr. McLellan says. "Employers might have to make some allowances within their company or bring in some new HR practices and policies, but in the long turn they're going to benefit."

An early step to diversify your workforce, Ms. Allen says, is to assess your working environment and identify where you may have issues or opportunities to bring in people from different backgrounds. "That starts with speaking with people in your workforce who are minorities or immigrants. Maybe form a little advisory group to recommend ways a business can be more inclusive."

Review your practices, how you manage people's performance as well as how you promote and hire. "It's very important to make sure your business does not have any built-in biases when you're looking at people's performance," Ms. Allen says. Understand that there are different ways to get a job done and done well, so be open-minded.

"People from different cultures, especially recent immigrants, aren't always attuned to the rules of getting ahead in Canada and these unwritten rules can be, for example, that you need to be outgoing, more aggressive whereas people from other cultures might believe that you should be more deferential."


Toronto Star | 2008-10-25
Economy will need more immigrants - expand / condense article

Report says newcomers help fuel Canada's growth, but policies should make it easier for them to stay
by Nicholas Keung, Immigration/Diversity Reporter

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Immigration levels in the country will have to go up significantly for future economic growth, the Conference Board of Canada reports.

To meet long-term domestic labour market needs and to remain competitive in the global search for talent Canada will have to increase its number of immigrants from the existing 250,000 to 360,000 annually by 2025.

The report highlights what should be done to meet the country's economic needs through immigration, including measures to allow the growing number of temporary foreign workers the option to become permanent residents. It also suggests increasing refugee intakes to maintain a well-balanced immigration system.

The study, released yesterday, came as Canada's immigration system rapidly expands the temporary foreign worker stream to fill short-term labour market needs. As the report points out, this does not meet long-term objectives. The current changes have also made the selection process more restrictive for applicants as the Immigration Minister can cherry-pick prospective temporary migrants.

Conference board associate director Douglas Watt, the report's author, said immigrant workers choose destinations best suited to their interests and should be given the option to remain in the country. This would help retain the best talent, while attracting other foreign candidates.

"Our policies are not just about what we want," Watt said in an interview. "Migrant workers and immigrants also have wants."

He did praise the government's new initiatives, including: the provincial nominee program that allows each province to independently attract immigrants; relaxation of work restrictions for foreign students; and the newly created Canadian Experience Class that allows migrants here temporarily to apply for permanent status without leaving the country.

But Watt said more has to be done for migrants with temporary status to become permanent residents.

"Transparency about how the temporary and permanent systems actually work is crucial," cautioned the report, titled Renewing Immigration: Towards a Convergence and Consolidation of Canada's Immigration Policies and Systems, which looks at the immigration system from the perspective of Canada's economic needs.

Officials have to be transparent to migrants about the selection criteria, wages and working conditions, and ensure they are aware of what social, health and community services they will have access to, the report noted. Ottawa must also help employers navigate the temporary and permanent systems to meet their labour market needs.

Last year, Canada admitted 475,965 migrants, but more than half of them were temporary workers and international students. In 2006, for the first time, Canada's temporary foreign workers outnumbered the permanent residents admitted through the "skilled immigrant" and "economic" classifications.

With the increasing numbers of skilled immigrants and temporary workers, the report states refugee admissions, which have flatlined, should also be raised to meet the country's economic needs.

Major Shifts in Immigration

• Nation-Building Immigration late 19th to early 20th century:

Countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States took in large numbers of immigrants. They were less concerned with specific skills and more oriented toward bringing in bodies to help build the new countries, though non-economic domestic considerations such as "country of origin preferences" played a role.

• Equal Opportunity and Humanitarian Immigration end of World War II:

Selection criteria based on country of origin were displaced by a new concern with "fairness" based on merit and humanitarian considerations. As the post-war skills and labour shortages gave way to labour surpluses in the 1960s and 1970s, the need for mass recruitment of immigrants waned. New immigration policies, such as Canada's, began to focus on standards of general merit and humanitarian considerations.

• Skills Immigration in the late 20th and early 21st centuries:

Fertility rates declined and populations aged in the West as countries shifted to knowledge-based economies, prompting the demand for highly skilled labour. Many countries started to restructure their immigration policies to target these workers. Australia is the leader in adopting the fine-tuned selection approach to adapt to rapid economic and labour market changes. Canada and the U.K. are heading in the same direction, while the U.S. maintains the general merit and humanitarian tradition.

Source: Conference Board of Canada study-Renewing Immigration


Globe and Mail | 2008-01-26
Hire local, think global - expand / condense article

Assembling a work force that looks like the greater community has become a business imperative. Equally important is doing it the right way
by Terrence Belford

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As Jason Colley explains it, in 2004 senior management at American Express Canada looked out the windows of the company\\\'s new headquarters in Markham and realized the world had changed. Geography helped sparked social change.

Markham, one of Toronto\\\'s northern suburbs, had become a city with an extraordinarily diverse population. No longer a farming town dominated by white Anglo Saxons, Markham was now home to expanding Chinese and South Asian communities. In most families, women worked as well as the men.

If the company was going to recruit staff locally, its hiring and retention policies would have to change. Diversity would have to become a fundamental pillar of corporate culture, says Mr. Colley, manager of talent acquisition, the man responsible since 2007 for finding ways to dip into existing pools of qualified women, ethnic minorities and those with physical disabilities.

\\\"At the same time, our customer base was changing,\\\" says Mr. Colley. \\\"There was a realization that there were sound business reasons to have our staff reflect the various communities we served.\\\"

American Express is just a case in point. Major corporations are fostering diversity in the workplace as good business sense, not only to reflect changing customer bases today, but as a strategy for the long term.

Organizations such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business say that one of the greatest challenges for any enterprise - large or small - is recruiting and retaining workers. They predict that as baby boomers move into retirement, that challenge is certain to escalate.

At the University of Toronto\\\'s Rotman School of Management, associate dean Beatrix Dart says she can think of at least four sound business reasons for all enterprises to pursue diversity in the work force. Her first echoes those who point to the shrinking pool of available people following the boomer bulge.

She also says that business is increasingly international in nature and having people on staff fluent in foreign languages and cultural savvy can prove a tremendous asset. Then there is the need to have an organization reflect the communities it serves: That just makes sound branding sense, she says.

The fourth point reflects a change of perception as to who is the decision maker in households.

\\\"Surveys show that women have the greatest influence in 70 per cent of household purchases,\\\" she says. \\\"With new cars they are the primary influence in 60 per cent of buy decisions. It just makes sense to strengthen the female component and use their insights.\\\"

\\\"All organizations have to start looking for ways to reach deeper into the pools of available talent within their communities,\\\" says Jane Allen, chief diversity officer at Deloitte & Touche LLP, the international accounting and consulting company with 7,900 staff across Canada. \\\"It simply makes good business sense.\\\"

The challenge for many, however, is how to get started and then how to create internal systems and processes to ensure programs created to achieve diversity do not wither on the corporate vine.

At both Amex Canada and Deloitte, the process started with benchmarking, a complete demographic survey of just how diverse staff was, say both Mr. Colley and Ms. Allen. Deloitte even brought in an outside consultant to help structure change and advise on the process.

\\\"The idea is to create a baseline, which can be used to measure progress,\\\" says Ms. Allen.

The next step for both was creation of a company-wide diversity council. In Amex\\\'s case it has 12 members from across Canada. Deloitte has 18. The council acts as a central organizing group, monitoring change and reporting to both management and staff.

Step three was to create a series of task forces with each given responsibility to organize, launch and monitor specific diversity initiatives.

\\\"At Amex one of the top priorities was not just broadening recruitment but broadening retention programs as well,\\\" says Mr. Colley. \\\"Our goal was to have units such as our call centre and credit risk groups - those that deal directly with customers - more closely reflect our client base.

A top priority at Deloitte became increasing the number of women in management.

When Mr. Colley took over his new position in 2007 he began to reach out to non-traditional sources for recruiting, such as job sites directed toward aboriginals and specific ethnic communities.

\\\"We also started working with student groups, such as the aboriginal students\\\' organization at Ryerson University,\\\" he says. \\\"It is not so much an effort to hire X number from any group, but to ensure they are not overlooked in the process,\\\" he says.

Key to any diversity initiative is creating an internal structure that makes managers accountable for expanding diversity in their business unit and supporting their efforts, explains Ms. Allen.

\\\"That means identifying who makes the decisions or influences recruitment and retention, right from the board level down to everyday staff,\\\" she says. \\\"Then we created individual programs for each unit with set targets and a monitoring system to check on progress.\\\"

Those programs can indeed be broad ranging. Amex, for example, now has two dozen managers working as mentors to new Canadians trying to make the most of their training in the homeland in the Canadian workplace.

Deloitte will introduce its own mentoring program this year, but, unlike the one at Amex, it will be aimed at exposing existing staff to the challenges faced by their managers and bosses.

At Deloitte there are company-sponsored affinity groups among employees where gays, lesbians, the physically disabled, women and Canadians from a broad range of ethnic backgrounds can network, often becoming incubators for new programs and a continuing resource to tap into their own community for new corporate talent, says Ms. Allen.

At Amex, the company developed partnerships with groups such as the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council to participate in TRIEC programs designed to speed the entry of new Canadians into the work force.

At both companies diversity is still a work in progress. Evidence of its success is still chiefly anecdotal.

\\\"Measurement is probably still a year away,\\\" says Deloitte\\\'s Ms. Allen. \\\"But I can see we are seeing very encouraging results in things like performance reports and in internal discussions.\\\"


Globe and Mail | 2007-09-28
Diversity on teams powers innovation, creativity, poll finds - expand / condense article

Canadian mosaic stimulates out-of-box thinking
by Wallace Immen

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It sounds like the set-up line to an old joke: What do you get when you put a European, an Asian and a Canadian on the same team?

But the answer is no laughing matter. According to a survey, 77 per cent of Canadians believe more diversity in work teams leads to more innovation, and 79 per cent of those surveyed say that Canada's cultural diversity will give companies a competitive advantage in a global economy in the future.

The poll of 1,000 employees and managers conducted by Leger Marketing for the Xerox Research Centre of Canada found that there is great consistency of opinion across the country on the value of diversity.

Ninety-six per cent of Canadians said they seek the advice of those with a different background when solving business problems and 83 per cent agreed with the statement that "interacting with others from different ethnic backgrounds is enriching." And 76 per cent agreed that tolerance of cultural differences contributes to creativity.

But 53 per cent of those polled said their company's work force has not become more diverse over the past five years, while 36 per cent said the work force is more diverse. The remainder said they didn't have enough information to answer.

The increases in diversity tended to be in larger companies. Just 27 per cent those who work in companies of fewer than 100 employees said they have seen have seen any change, while 56 per cent of those in companies with more than 500 employees said they've seen growth in diversity.

"The results show that people recognized that diversity brings together viewpoints and ideas that stimulate new ways of thinking about problems," says Scott Cho, associate vice-president of Leger in Toronto.

"And this is not just in terms of research and development but also in terms of new ideas and new ways of doing daily tasks."

And what contributes to the creativity?

Hadi Mahabadi has seen the effect clearly in project teams at the Xerox Research Centre in Mississauga, where he is the director.

"This innovation is the result of brainstorming among a group that has a wide range of different experiences. You will get a richer selection of options to choose from to come up with a solution," says Mr. Mahabadi, who was born and raised in Iran.

The centre's 90 scientists come from 35 different countries and include men and women of ranging ages.

The centre averages 220 patentable ideas per year.

"If people are all from the same background, you will get less out-of-the-box thinking," Mr. Mahabadi says.

And the diversity does not have to be just in ethnic and cultural backgrounds, he says. Diversity in gender, age and experience on working teams can also help to spur creativity.

"You have to be aware of what is going on worldwide if you want to compete in a global economy," he says.

For Mr. Cho, "overall, this is a very positive picture. It demonstrates there is broad acceptance of diversity across the country.

"There are regional differences, but they are commonsense. Workers in Ontario are most likely to say their work force is more diverse than in previous years and those in Atlantic Canada are least likely to see changes, but that is because the population in Ontario is more culturally diverse."

But it is also clear that employers could be taking more advantage of the diversity in their organizations, he adds.

Just 56 per cent of managers said they believe that Canada is making the most of its cultural diversity, which is destined to grow in the future.

According to Statistics Canada projections, with the country's fertility rate below replacement rate - at about 1.5 children per woman -immigration will represent the only source of growth in the work force within a decade.

"The survey confirms we are on the right track," Mr. Cho says. "Five years from now when we do this survey again, I'm hoping to see that the numbers are even higher."

The face of workplace diversity

A poll of 1,000 employees and managers across Canada found there is great consistency of opinion across the country on the value of diversity.

Canadians describe their workplace as more diverse.

Based on your experience, which best describes your workplace's diversity level in its employee base?

Working Canadians
Very diverse 29%
Somewhat diverse 47%
Not very diverse 19%
Not at all diverse 4%

Cultural diversity is important

How important is cultural diversity to Canada's success?

Working Canadians
Very important 38%
Somewhat important 42%
Not very important 13%
Not at all important 5%

People we work with

Does the team that you work with most of the time include..

Working Canadians
People with complementary skills 56%
People of various disciplinary backgrounds 55%
People of diverse ethnic backgrounds 44%
An even balance of men and women 32%
None of the above 10%


Toronto Star | 2007-08-06
Newcomers sidestep pitfalls - expand / condense article

New federal program helps would-be immigrant professionals navigate the Canadian job market even before they leave their home countries
by Nicholas Keung

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Months before landing in Toronto in April, Teresita Mariano already had a plan to prepare for Canada's labour market. By June, she had landed a job similar to one she'd had in the Philippines.

That was no fluke.

The 39-year-old engineer is among the first skilled immigrants to benefit from the Canadian Immigrant Integration Project in Asia, a $4.5 million, three-year pilot program that's Canada's response to all those surgeon-driving-a-taxi tales that have sullied this country's reputation as a good place to resettle.

Like couples taking prenatal classes before the baby arrives, would-be newcomers to Canada in the skilled-worker class can now take "pre-arrival orientation" in Manila, Delhi and Hong Kong – and, starting this month, in Beijing, Gujarat and Punjab.

"Our goal is to help (foreign-trained professionals) have a faster acquisition of appropriate employment by connecting with them and preparing them ahead of time, so they can hit the ground running once they arrive," explains project director Katrina Murray.

Immigrants meet with counsellors at the overseas offices to devise a settlement plan while they're still waiting for medical and security clearance to immigrate, instead of wasting time and money catching up after they get to Canada.

It seems to have worked for Mariano. By the time she moved to Canada, she had obtained her university transcripts, had her foreign credentials assessed, contacted settlement agencies online, researched prospective employers, posted her resumé on Workopolis and even checked out the TTC map. She won a job as a desktop publisher for a multinational consulting firm.

Silvano Tocchi, a director of the foreign credential recognition division at Human Resources and Social Development Canada, says with an evolving labour market it's in the country's best interests to give newcomers like Mariano a helping hand. "It's better for them to be forewarned and forearmed than come and be disappointed," he notes. "It's a mitigating strategy.".

Good preparation helps newcomers time their arrival so that they can immediately begin language training, or identify shortcomings in their qualifications and take correspondence courses before they leave, says Tom Owen of Toronto's World Education Services.

Many newcomers face big delays when they get here, notes Owen, who points out that only 10 per cent of immigrants who ask his agency for a credential assessment do so while they're still overseas.

"You can save anywhere between three weeks and two months on that if you actually have it done ahead of time," he says.

The program, dubbed CIIP (, is funded by Ottawa and delivered by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges. It includes a day-long group workshop in the home country, divided by profession or province of destination, followed by 90 minutes of one-on-one counselling.

Since its January inception, 1,000 skilled immigrants have voluntarily participated to learn about Canadian labour market trends, skills in demand in various regions, licensing procedures, and how to hook up with career bridging programs.

Mariano's husband, Nathaniel, 40, says the couple was initially overwhelmed by all the information on the Internet. "People can give you an encyclopedia but you won't know what to do with it. You don't know what you don't know," says Nathaniel, an engineer who also attended the Manila workshop.

"The people at the office explained to us the reality in Canada. It might make you think twice before coming, but they helped us come up with a plan," adds the father of two, whose immigration took five years to process. "Before that, we had not had a plan."

Although an evaluation downgraded his degree from the Technological Institute of the Philippines to the level of a college diploma, Nathaniel, who is still job-hunting, says the workshop has opened up new options and given him hope.

Josie Di Zio of COSTI, the lead Ontario settlement agency involved in the project, says the workshops may be brief but they're a good start.

"We can now do the referrals as early as possible, so people can have a good, realistic understanding of their decision, and there won't be any surprises when they get here," explains Di Zio, whose organization has received 150 inquiries to date.

When Wu Shao-bing, a teacher, and her husband, Jiang Zhao-hui, an IT specialist, took a trip from Shenzhen to the program's Hong Kong office in January, the quality of their spoken English was raised. That brought a referral to a Mississauga settlement agency for an English course, which they began soon after they arrived in May.

"There is so much information out there and you don't know what is legitimate, what's not," the 30-year-old woman said in Cantonese. "But these people represent Canada. The counselling is free and you don't have to worry about being misinformed or scammed."

CIIP is also trying to bring national employers on board to connect newcomers with fellow professionals, do online mentoring and, ideally, hook them up with job opportunities.

"This fits well with our corporate values: diversity for growth and innovation," says Jenny Poulos, recruitment director at the Royal Bank of Canada, one of a handful of employers participating. "Through the project, we can help newcomers build their awareness of job opportunities, as well as the banking services and products out there, prior to their landing."

Last month, Poulos boasts, one of the bank's Vancouver branches hired a newcomer from China, thanks to the CIIP network.


251,649: Immigrants in Canada last year

105,949: Those selected based on their professional skills and education or 42 per cent (44,163 principals + 61,786 spouses and dependants)

1 to 2: Ratio between those in regulated and unregulated professions

33,080; 67 months: Immigrants from China and processing time

30,753; 70 months: Immigrants from India and processing time (via New Delhi)

17,717; 63 months: Immigrants from Philippines and processing time

400: Professional regulatory bodies

80: Percentage of newcomers who find a job in two years

42: Percentage of those newcomer jobs that are in their chosen profession

Source: Association of Canadian Community Colleges, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Human Resources and Social Development Canada.


The Globe and Mail | 2007-05-02
Language, experience hamper career climb - expand / condense article
by Wallace Immen

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Accountant Vince Dong says he sees all too many immigrants in his profession hit a "concrete ceiling" that traps them at entry levels because their English skills limit their ability to deal with clients and get assignments that could win promotions.

So he's launching a program that will teach immigrant accountants the language skills needed for their profession.

"I see a lot of immigrants in accounting who have passed English-language proficiency tests but are still unable to speak confidently with clients about technical issues. This relegates them to being background people," says Mr. Dong, owner of tax consulting service Ad-Vice Inc. in Toronto.

"There are professional concepts, terms, slang and idioms that people need to be able to understand and be comfortable in conversing with clients, and these are not taught in English as a second language programs," Mr. Dong says.

Mr. Dong is on the right track, according to a major study from Statistics Canada released this week which found that, even when immigrants land jobs, a lack of language skills and working experience in Canada prevents them from reaching their full potential.

But too many employers are not taking the initiative to help them get what they need to make it in their professions, experts say.

The StatsCan study found that a solid speaking knowledge of one of Canada's two official languages is vital to immigrants who want to adequately use their professional skills. It concludes that, the higher immigrants' abilities in spoken English (or French in Quebec), the more likely they are to land a high-skill job in the profession they trained for, says Owen Phillips, Ottawa-based senior methodologist for Statistics Canada who crunched the numbers.

The survey tracked 12,000 immigrants who arrived in Canada in 200l and 2002, interviewing them six months, two years and four years after their arrival, Mr. Phillips said.

Within six months, 58 per cent reported they were able to speak English "well" or "very well." Another 35 per cent said their speaking ability was only fair or poor. And 7 per cent were not able to speak either English or French at all.

But even after four years, 46 per cent said they considered themselves underemployed and were struggling to find a position more appropriate to their skills.

As well, 50 per cent said another barrier they faced was employer requirements that they have Canadian work experience before they could be hired. Their job experience in another country was ignored by employers.

The survey found just 51 per cent of immigrants aged 25 to 44 were employed six months after their arrival. The rate rose to 65 per cent for immigrants in Canada for two years and 75 per cent after four years. That compared with a national employment rate in that age group of 81.8 per cent over the four years.

Language training stands out as the major factor that increases immigrant employability, the study found. Forty-five per cent of immigrants surveyed said they had taken language training in English since coming to Canada.

This study is a message to employers that they should be much more concerned about recruiting skilled immigrants and giving them the opportunities and training they need, says Joerg Dietz, associate professor of organizational behaviour at the University of Western Ontario's Richard Ivey School of Business.

"I can only shake my head about the fact that half of these people said they were turned away by employers because they did not have Canadian experience," Prof. Dietz says.

That's "ridiculous" because, within five years, it is projected that immigrants will be the only source of growth in Canada's skilled labour force, he explains.

But employers are not taking the lead in advancing immigrant skills, particularly in language training specific to professions, says Mr. Dong, who is setting up the Language Education for Accounting Professionals program opening in Toronto this month to fill that gap, he says.

There's a waiting list for LEAP's six- and 12-week courses, which cost $400 to $735, and will be available in other cities across the country if the Toronto operation succeeds, Mr. Dong says.

He hopes employers will agree to pick up the tab.

But those in the program are willing to make the investment for their future in Canada, he says.

The StatsCan findings bear this out. Despite their difficulties, 84 per cent of the immigrants reported they are happy they decided to relocate to Canada, citing a better quality of life as the main reason.


Brampton Guardian | 2007-04-10
Immigrants make up large part of workforce - expand / condense article
by Roger Belgrave, Staff Writer

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Himal Abeykoon immigrated to Canada with his wife, an engineering degree, a computer science diploma and great expectations.

When the highly educated Sri Lankan native arrived four years ago, he sent out 100 resumes and received just one response. The 35-year-old spent 1 1/2 years trying to land a permanent job.

He is part of an immigrant wave dramatically transforming the Canadian workforce and the Brampton Board of Trade has developed a guide to help local businesses remain profitable throughout the transition.

The growth of Canada's current workforce is largely attributable to immigrants. With Canada's baby boomer generation headed for retirement and a low national birth rate, by 2011 immigrants will account for 100 per cent of the nation's labour force growth. Yet many of the most highly skilled immigrants find it difficult to find work in their chosen fields. There are companies that still remain reluctant to hire professionals from overseas.

Some employers are dissuaded by the onerous task of verifying credentials, others are put off by language barriers and the clash of cultures on personal and professional levels. However, to remain viable and competitive, employers will have to tap into this changing workforce.

The Board of Trade's Skills Without Borders is a program designed to raise awareness about labour needs in north Peel and the barriers skilled immigrants face in finding employment.

Employers surveyed

The federal government's Service Canada and the Region of Peel provided funding for the project. A 13-question survey was given to 500 employers in Brampton and Caledon. The response rate was 10 per cent, according to a report written based on survey results.

Employer focus groups were also conducted to help identify barriers to hiring skilled immigrant workers. A report, entitled Barriers to Hiring Skilled Immigrants in North Peel, was composed from two surveys and a series of three focus groups.

These initiatives have resulted in the creation of the Employers' Resource Guide to make employers aware of the skilled immigrant talent available and the resources that exist to help them access that talent pool.

"Businesses today have to adapt to these shifting demographics," said Kevin McLellan of Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).

McLellan was one of several speakers and member of a panel assembled for a recent board of trade breakfast meeting held to discuss the guide and barriers to hiring skilled immigrants.

The board publication is also designed to help immigrant job seekers successfully connect with employers. Guide information includes job placement services, language and accreditation programs, co-op and internship programs, wage subsidies and mentorship programs.

Reports, the guide and more information are available online at www.skillswithoutborders .com and the board Web site at

There is a strong business case to show that hiring a skilled immigrant positively impacts the bottom line, if not, offsets the cost any company might incur, McLellan said.

Steven Desrocher believes the lack of Canadian experience on Abeykoon's resume hurt his chances with potential employers. Desrocher, president of Brampton-based ASI Technologies Inc., eventually hired Abeykoon about two years ago.

Abeykoon is now one of the "go-to" team members, among ASI Technologies's 22 employees, when it comes to certain types of projects, according to Desrocher. "Employers have to get past the notion of just looking at the sheet of paper," he said.

Abeykoon came to ASI after the company stumbled upon an employment program linked to the Peel District School Board. Program coordinators were looking for employers willing to provide co-op work placements. The program paid for the worker's expenses and compensation for three to fours months.

ASI jumped at the opportunity. "We're on a continuous hiring program," Desrocher said. Within two months, the company hired Abeykoon.

"He just needed to have some integration into our workforce," said Desrocher.

Abeykoon has purchased a home in Brampton and his wife is expecting their third child.

Workforce is growing

About half of the growing staff at ASI Technologies is composed of new immigrants, Desrocher estimates.

By 2011, the number of people composing Brampton's workforce is forecast to reach 209,000. According to survey results, while employers expect their businesses to grow or stay the same over the next year, the majority are already experiencing difficulty filling positions. Skilled trades, engineering, sales and marketing, managers and administrations positions appear to be the most difficult jobs to fill.

About 76 per cent of the employers indicated a shortage of applicants with appropriate skills, qualifications, licenses or experience.

Employers participating in the discussion about barriers to hiring skilled immigrants said language skills, difficulty assessing foreign education and credentials, lack of Canadian experience and cultural integration presented significant obstacles in the hiring process.

The board of trade found some employers feel "there is a lack of understanding by many immigrants about expectations and business practices in the Canadian workplace." Those businesses believe there is a reverse onus on the immigrant population to better understand Canadian culture.

Some employers also expressed fear in hiring immigrants because of confusion around religious rights and cultural practices. Concern about how others in the workplace might react to someone perceived to be getting special treatment was also mentioned in discussions.

According to the board's report, one employer said, "we are losing our Canadian identity."

There seems to be a high expectation among employers that immigrants integrate professional as well as socially, revealed Board of Trade CEO Sheldon Leiba. "There is two sides to that equation," Leiba added.

Employers should make some effort to understand and accommodate the cultural and religious differences of new immigrants, he suggested.

In a few years, employers will not have a choice about hiring immigrant workers. Any effort involved will have to become a part of the normal cost of doing business.

But there is good business value in hiring skilled immigrants, McLellan emphasized. The challenge is getting employers to realize that, he said.


Toronto Star | 2007-03-29
Bay St. faces \'talent crisis\', study warns - expand / condense article

Crunch expected over next decade unless boomer exodus countered
by Sharda Prashad, Business Reporter

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Toronto\'s financial-services sector could face a skills shortage in the next decade, a study says. According to the study, Talent Matters, Toronto\'s financial services industry will create an additional 1,980 jobs annually, but this will be outpaced by the retirement of baby boomers, who are expected to exit the workplace at a rate of between 2,500 and 4,500 a year. The study was conducted by Deloitte & Touche LLP for Toronto Financial Services Alliance, a partnership between the public and private sectors. It included surveys, focus groups, interviews and a discussion forum. \"There is enough evidence to suggest that the future and competitiveness of Toronto\'s financial services industry will depend on its ability to address today\'s talent challenges – in order to avoid a talent crisis in the next five-to-10 years,\" said Margot Thom, a partner at Deloitte. Mayor David Miller, who was on hand for the study\'s release yesterday, called some the findings sobering and warned Toronto should not take its success in financial services for granted. The possible labour shortage is not unlike trends faced in other industries, such as energy, technology, media and telecom, Thom said. Between 1995 and 2005, the percentage of staff employed by the financial services industry aged between 55 and 64 years old soared 233 per cent, while those aged between 25 and 34 years old crept up 3 per cent. The industry, which employs more than 220,000 people directly, and 300,000 indirectly, faces shortages of account managers, technology specialists, financial analysts, credit risk and compliance staff, and accountants and actuaries; jobs the study describe as requiring significant quantitative and sales capabilities. Shortages of these workers affect customer-service response, revenue, productivity and efficiency. \"Some might be surprised at the shortages that exist today and the impact that companies believe (the shortages) have on potential revenue growth opportunities and potential productivity,\" Thom said. \"The industry is doing extremely well at the moment, but most of our respondents indicated these shortages are limiting them somewhat.\" To offset the exodus of baby boomers, the report recommends, among other strategies, the industry target younger workers, new immigrants and retired and soon-to-be retired financial services workers.


National Post | 2007-02-28
Government invests $2M in immigrant workplace integration - expand / condense article
by Meagan Fitzpatrick, CanWest News Service

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OTTAWA — The federal government is hoping to boost the participation of immigrants in the workforce by investing more than $2-million in a new initiative.

The program, announced Wednesday, is called Bridging the Gap: Integration of Skilled Immigrants into the Canadian Workplace, and will be administered under the government's Workplace Skills Initiative.

The University of Ottawa is leading the project and will work with small and medium-sized workplaces, skilled immigrant employees and human resources professionals to understand better the barriers to integration in Canada's workplaces.

"Ultimately, the project will not only open doors for newcomers, it will also address our labour shortage," said Monte Solberg, minister of human resources and social development, in a news release.

Once the challenges are fully understood, the program will aim to develop and implement strategies to increase the opportunities for skilled immigrants.

"Opportunities for advancement for new Canadians are critical to future economic growth, as these are the people who will be filling the management and leadership gaps," said Linda Manning, a professor at the University of Ottawa who will be the project’s director.

Roughly 11,000 people are participating in the project.


Edmonton Sun | 2007-02-18
Barrier busters - expand / condense article

'We work long hours, but life is easier now'
by Linda Leatherdale

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Alireza and Homa Nikmanesh know the barriers to Canadian immigrants too well.

The immigrant couple struggled and worked hard to finally break through, but they still don't work in their chosen careers.

Here's their story:

Before immigrating to Canada in 1985, the Nikmanesh family lived in Iran. Ali is a mechanical engineer who graduated from Iran's prestigious Tehran University with a master's degree. His wife, a high school chemistry teacher, has a bachelor's degree in chemistry. With a dual-income, life was good for them and their two boys. .

But as their eldest approached the age of being enlisted in the army -- with the real prospect their son would never be allowed to leave Iran -- the family decided it was time to move.

"We heard Canada was a great country with lots of opportunity and a better future," recalls Ali. .

After spending a year in France, where through the Canadian Embassy they applied for a work visa, they immigrated to Canada with about $200,000 in their pockets.

They bought a condo and settled in, but the future didn't turn out as planned.

Without networking contacts and not knowing where to turn for help, a business plan never got off the ground and barriers blocked them from working in their trained professions.

So, to make ends meet, for years they worked in menial jobs.

Ali delivered bread and worked in a convenience store, while Homa worked in a bakery and cleaned offices.

Ali even spent $7,000 to take a computer course, but still couldn't find a job.

Eventually, Homa ended up with an administrative job at Hakim Optical, and that's when their luck started to change.

Ali got a job in Hakim's warehouse -- and after working hard and learning the ropes, they were encouraged to apply for the optician course at Seneca College.

But then, another roadblock. At first, Seneca would not recognize their educational degrees. But Homa was persistent and, eventually, both were enrolled.

Four years later, in 1995, they graduated with honours.

Later they resigned from Hakim and opened a small optical store. Now they own and operate three Civic Optical stores in Scarborough and Richmond Hill.

"We work long hours, but life is easier now," said Ali, who praised Seneca. "The point is, we did succeed through hard work, but the roadblocks were many."

Ontario Conservative leader John Tory says it's time to streamline a complicated immigration system that takes much too long to recognize foreign educational credentials and offer training.


That means a long wait before badly needed skilled workers are integrated into our workforce.

"The lack of a real strategy is a real problem requiring serious and immediate action," said Tory.

His report, A Time For Change, calls for a "cutting-edge" web portal that provides information on credentials before immigrants come to Canada.

He also suggests Canadian university and colleges offer training overseas to these skilled immigrants as they wait to immigrate.

Meanwhile, provinces are pushing their educational institutions to offer more courses to help new immigrants.

In Winnipeg, for example, the University of Manitoba now offers a one-year Internationally Educated Engineers' Qualification program, which has become a benchmark in Canada for expediting credentials of foreign-trained engineers.

This program rescued immigrant Daoud Nouri from a future of low-paying jobs.

Nouri, who graduated from the University of Civil Engineering in Baku in 1999, immigrated to Canada from Afghanistan in 2002.

He recalls the tough times in the first few years when he struggled with English and ended up working as a cashier in a Toronto convenience store.


Last October, Nouri graduated from the University of Manitoba's engineer's course, and now he's employed by a large structural engineering firm in Canada.

In Ontario, Dalton McGuinty's Liberals last fall gave colleges a $5 million boost for immigrant education.

Toronto's Centennial College launched a one-year certificate course which helps immigrants with undergraduate degrees get the Canadian credentials they need, plus workplace experience.

Since 2002, 11 of Ontario's 24 community colleges have piloted five programs to streamline and improve the admissions process, and standardize assessment of qualifications and language for immigrants.


- The Alliance of Credential Evaluation Services of Canada 416-962-9725 (

- The Association of International Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (

- World Education Services 212-966-6311. (

- CARE, Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses 416-226-2800 (

- Career Edge 416-977-3343 (

- The Cross Cultural Learning Centre in London 519-432-1133 (

- Internationally Trained Pharmacists 416-962-4861 (

- Maytree Foundation 416-944-2627 (

- Ontario Councils of Agencies Serving Immigrants416-322-4950 (

- Skills for Change 416-658-3101 (

- Skills International 519-663-0774 (

- TRIEC, the Toronto Regional Immigrant Employment Council 416-944-2627 (


Toronto Star | 2007-02-02
Skilled newcomers get help staying in careers - expand / condense article
by Robert Benzie, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

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Janet Omoro knows first-hand the benefit of investing money to help skilled immigrants work in their trained professions in Ontario.

Omoro, a Mississauga dietitian who arrived here four years ago from Kenya, is now doing her doctorate in nutrition at the University of Guelph and taking professional dietetic courses at Ryerson University. She said it would have been difficult to continue in her career without earlier aid programs from the government. That's why she took a break from her studies yesterday to laud the province for announcing $29.2million in new funding to help foreign-trained professionals work in their fields.

"An investment in immigrants is certainly an investment not only for the individual involved, but for the country as a whole," said Omoro.

Ontario Immigration Minister Mike Colle, who made the funding announcement at Ryerson, said the $29.2 million – $8.3 million of it from Ottawa – is being earmarked for a slew of programs to help skilled immigrants thrive in their chosen professions, including "occupation-specific" language training. Ryerson alone is getting $5 million for projects aimed at helping newcomers pursue their careers in dietetics, engineering and financial services.

"When you invest these dollars in these programs, two things happen. The applicants who are foreign-trained pass the test and get licensed. Secondly, they get a job," Colle said.

Of the 140,000 people arriving yearly in Ontario, 13,000 bring foreign work experience in a regulated trade or profession.


Financial Post | 2007-01-03
Why Can't Executives Write Good? - expand / condense article
Gandy's president, Teresa McGill, shares views on email writing issues.

Poor spelling, Bad Grammar can Harm Career
by Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco

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Topping the list of complaints executives have about prospective employees are poor writing skills, according to a number of surveys and polls in recent years. Thirty-three percent of advertising and marketing executives polled last month by staffing services specialist The Creative Group, for example, said typos and grammatical errors are the most common mistake creative professionals make on their resumes. And earlier this year, a survey by The Wall Street Journal and Harris Interactive cited poor written communication skills as the top complaint about MBA students.

But is it a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

"In my capacity as an executive recruiter and executive search consultant, most of what I see is resumes and cover notes," says Peter Grech of the Toronto based Grech Associates Executive Search Inc.

"There certainly have been times where I have been a little bit disappointed based on what I've seen, where I had the expectation that the quality of the written communication would be better, or found in some cases that the message was clear, but there was sloppiness and grammatical errors.

"From my perspective," he says, "there is definitely a trend out there in the marketplace where the quality of communication is declining, including more sloppiness in written communication that's coming from executives."

"The primary source of the problem," says Teresa McGill, president of the Mississauga, Ont.-based Gandy Associates, Inc., which provides English communication training for corporations, "is not a lack of skills.

"I think there's a culture of e-mail communication which doesn't necessarily match up with traditional business culture," she says. "People aren't taking the time to proofread or write a well-constructed e-mail because they don't ascribe the same status to an e-mail as they do to a formal letter or a memo that they dictate to their executive assistant. It's so fast, and it's so informal."

Both Mr. Grech and Patricia Davies -- who provides communication training and consulting for executives and senior managers in major corporations -- believe the Black Berry is surpassing e-mail as the culprit.

"Typically, the communication executives send me from their Black Berries is quite horrific," Mr. Grech says. "You see people who'll send an e-mail message from their Black Berries and they've dropped out verbs and so on, and you think, 'Wait a minute, you're a very senior leader and you don't know where to put a comma?' "

Most executives recognize that what they're sending is less than perfect, Mr. Grech says, "but they figure the whole idea behind the Black Berry is speed and convenience and that as long as they're getting their message across, that's just fine."

It's a compromise that comes with risks. Ms. Davies compares carelessly crafted e-mails with wearing jeans when making a presentation and typos to having red lipstick smeared on your face. "Is that the image you want to project?" she asks.

There's a whole line of linguistics that looks at language as a badge of identity, Ms. McGill says. Consider the infamous email scams claiming to be from major banks. Visually, they have it down pat -- from the logo to the graphics.

"But every time you read one of those emails, you'll find a grammar, spelling or word-usage error," she says. "And isn't that interesting -- how we use our language discernment in order to screen out people who aren't legitimate?

"In a gentler way, we do the same thing when we receive any kind of written communication," she says. "We are evaluating whether that person is professional, trustworthy, competent, knowledgeable and credible based on their written communication."

While first impressions are not always accurate, Mr. Grech, Ms. McGill and Ms. Davies all put forth the argument that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

"I formulate an opinion about someone very quickly based on how they communicate to me in the first instance," Mr. Grech says. "If they clearly haven't taken the time to spell-check something or to use proper syntax and grammar, then you can extrapolate that perhaps they're not the most organized, or perhaps they have difficulty prioritizing, and you start to question how effective they would be as a leader."

This is all much ado about nothing, some executives might think, since the fact is the majority are too busy leading their companies to do much of their own writing. They are leaders, thinkers and strategists, not wordsmiths. And the truth is writing is a responsibility that tends to fall on managers and other subordinates.

But therein lies another part of the problem, Mr. Grech says. "For the most part, they're not creating a lot of original communication. Typically, they're reviewing work put together by their managers and their subordinates, and there's a big difference between reviewing something and actually writing something from scratch.

"What happens is that you effectively become a bit rusty the more senior you get because you don't have the same opportunity to build that report or white paper from scratch.

"It's like anything," he says. "If you don't use it, you lose it."

© National Post 2007


Toronto Star | 2006-12-09
Fast-tracking program for workers to expand - expand / condense article
by Nicholas Keung, Immigration/Diversity Reporter

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Three weeks after Ottawa caught flak for announcing a plan to fast-track the import of temporary foreign workers to booming western Canada — leaving Ontario out in the cold — the program is being expanded here.

Diane Finley, federal minister of human resources and social development, announced a joint federal-provincial plan in Toronto yesterday, saying it will cut recruitment time for Ontario employers trying to fill high-demand positions for which no qualified Canadians are available.

"This is an attempt to improve the matching of newcomers and labour market needs. Anything that can be done to get rid of red tape and make (the process) more efficient and effective would be a great help to all the employers and people of Ontario," Ontario Immigration Minister Mike Colle said.But advocacy groups raised doubts over how effectively the plan will address Ontario's labour needs, given that most of the skills on the qualifying list are regulated professions — with little emphasis on such blue-collar jobs as construction trades. Some of these professions throw up other barriers that keep newcomers to Canada from re-entering their profession.

The ministry has developed regional lists of "occupations under pressure," highlighting specific skills in demand. Employers who qualify under the government list will get a break from the lengthy and costly advertising efforts required to prove the need for a foreign worker. The list will be reviewed yearly.

"The creation of a list for Ontario will make it easier, less costly and two to four weeks faster for employers to hire temporary foreign workers," Finley explained. "This measure will effectively help employers having difficulty finding Canadian workers to fill their human resources needs, while continuing to protect the access of Canadian workers to the labour market."

Last month, the Conservative government faced criticism in Ontario for ignoring the province's needs in creating a program for British Columbia and Alberta only. Ontario's occupation list recognizes labour shortages in:

1) Senior managers in financial, communications, other business services; 2) Financial and investment analysts, and human resources specialists; 3) Biologists, civil engineers, mechanical engineers and architects; 4) Family doctors, specialists, pharmacists, nurses, audiologists, physiotherapists, radiation technologists; 5) Heavy-duty equipment mechanics, refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics and automotive technicians, truck mechanics, mechanical repairers.

"A lot of these jobs are regulated professions. The workers still have to go through all the hoops in order to get the licences to work in the country," noted Carlos Sebastian, a spokesman for the Policy Roundtable Mobilizing Professions and Trades."We are not sure if it's just going to be a political move, like the government's promise to reopen the debate of same-sex marriages. You can have a program that doesn't work in reality."

Colle and Finley said the plan is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to matching the immigration system with economic needs. Ottawa is creating an agency to tackle the foreign-credentials issue, while Ontario's Bill 124 is meant to help open access to regulated professions for people trained abroad.


CanWest News Service | 2006-10-11
Experts tout immigration as key to Canada's talent search - expand / condense article
by Geoffry Scotton, CanWest News Service

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CALGARY - Alberta and the rest of Canada need to move quickly to boost immigration and take better advantage of skills so many new Canadians bring to their chosen home or risk being left behind in a global race for talent, says the head of Canada's largest bank.

"We must significantly increase these efforts and others if Canada is going to have the necessary human resources to compete in today's global economy," Royal Bank of Canada president/chief executive Gordon Nixon said to a dinner of the Immigrant Access Fund in Calgary Tuesday evening.

"Make no mistake, Canada is in a global war for talent. We must be a destination of choice for skilled immigrants and professionals or we will not succeed ... If we do, we will have a unrivaled advantage. If we don't, we will face an uphill battle just to maintain our quality of life."

David Baxter, a demographer and economist with the Vancouver-based Urban Futures Institute Society, agrees with Nixon's analysis, suggesting Canada faces a "perfect storm@quot; of demographic labour force pressures. Those factors include a declining birthrate, a massive number of Canadians approaching retirement and relatively fewer Canadians entering the workforce as they reach working age.

"You don't need a robust economy to be able to say there's going to be a problem here. We're probably now at the point now that without immigration our labour force stops growing," he said."This is a long-term issue, let's regularize it. We've got to move away from this talk of temporary (workers)."

"What I would look for is young, healthy, intelligent, honest energetic people, preferably with an entrepreneurial spirit - and more employee sponsorship."

Nixon argued that nowhere is the potential of immigrant expertise and contribution more evident than in Calgary, which is suffering labour shortages across the board, in all industries, from the unskilled worker to the skilled professional.

"Calgary is facing a shortfall of as many as 90,000 workers over the next five years ... by 2025 the shortage across the province will be well through 300,000," said Nixon. "Alberta is at the cusp of a trend we're seeing nationwide."

Nixon argued that immigration must be viewed by policymakers as a strategic economic development tool that will help to define 21st century Canada. He noted the country has in the past used immigration as a tool of industrial policy, particularly around the settlement and development of the West.

That kind of approach is needed again, Nixon asserted, as is better utilization of under-employed immigrants already in Canada, a phenomenon that RBC economists has estimated costs Canada $13 billion annually.

"We can no longer view immigration as a temporary employment agency," said Nixon. "We need to start looking at immigration as a blueprint for nation-building, and we must find the right balance between social justice and economic need."

Baxter believes that Alberta is making the strongest effort of any of the Canadian provinces to attract and efficaciously absorb new Canadians. However, he noted that while immigration policy remains largely the purview of the federal government, questions of professional accreditation and other determinants limiting immigrants' entry into the Canadian workforce rest in provincial hands.

"Alberta is at the forefront of this. The provincial government recognizes this (the need for more workers) and so does industry," said Baxter, referring to Alberta's Labour Force Strategy, released in July.


Toronto Star | 2006-10-06
Cracking The Visible Minority Ceiling - expand / condense article

Corporations face talent shortage Major study to target barriers
by Dana Flavelle, Business Reporter

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They helped women crack the glass ceiling in corporate Canada. Now, they want to do the same for visible minorities.

Catalyst Canada -, a group that exposed the barriers to advancement for women at the highest corporate levels, announced yesterday the launch of a groundbreaking study into the problems facing talented minority employees who want to get ahead.

While not the first organization to examine this problem, the non-profit research group said it would take a deeper, broader look at an issue of emerging significance to employers, executive director Deborah Gillis said yesterday.

"What we know is Canada is facing a significant talent shortage. Many of our best-educated employees are getting ready to retire. We also know the face of Canada is changing," said Gillis.

"If you combine the retirement of boomers with the fact that in less than 10 years visible minorities are going to represent one in five members of our workforce, we know this is a fundamental issue for Canadian business."

The challenge will be even more acute in cities such as Toronto where visible minorities will make up nearly half the future workforce within a decade, according to Statistics Canada.

The Catalyst survey has the support of some of the biggest names in corporate Canada, including RBC Financial Group, IBM Canada and Deloitte & Touche, both as financial sponsors and study participants.

"Businesses have been dropping the ball when it comes to tapping the potential of visible minorities in our workplace," said Gordon Nixon, president and chief executive of lead sponsor RBC Financial Group.

"Diversity can be Canada's competitive advantage. So the challenge for corporate Canada, for each of us, is finding out exactly what barriers are preventing visible minorities from advancing in their chosen careers and then addressing them," said Nixon.

So far, companies representing nearly half a million Canadians, including more than 20,000 professionals, managers and executives, have signed on to participate, Catalyst said, and more are welcome. Initial results are expected next year.

The study is a major departure for Catalyst, which has previously focused on barriers to women's advancement in the workplace. This is Catalyst's first look at both men and women, specifically in visible minority groups.

As in the past, Catalyst is focusing on people working at the highest echelons, not rank-and-file workers. " We're looking at how to move up the ladder. How to retain, develop and advance visible minorities," Gillis said.

Because minority groups are not homogeneous, the study will be divided into 10 subgroups based on Census Canada classifications. They are Chinese, South Asian, black, Arab/West Asian, Filipino, South East Asian, Latin America, Japanese, Korean and other.

The study will compare experiences of ethnic and non-ethnic Canadians in getting ahead. Employers and employees will be asked in confidential online surveys to identify such things as barriers to career development and policies that promote advancement, Catalyst said.

Because of the size and scope of the study, Catalyst is partnering with Ryerson University's Diversity Institute in Management and Technology in the research.

"Talent transcends ethnicity. As business leaders, our job is to ensure every talented person is able to succeed and reach their full potential," said Alan MacGibbon, chief executive of Deloitte & Touche.

"I was wondering what's wrong with my qualifications and resumé," recalled Pandya, who worked as an internal auditor for a South African firm.

Despite their rising numbers, visible minorities held just 3 per cent of executive jobs and 1.7 per cent of director seats in Canada, according to similar 2004 research by the Conference Board of Canada.

"This under-representation reduces Canada's overall economic potential and risks its social cohesion," the Conference Board said.


Globe and Mail | 2005-10-05
Canada will need to attract and retain - expand / condense article
by Sandra Lopes

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Prime Minister Paul Martin has announced that to meet labour market needs caused by an aging population and low birth rates, Canada will need to attract and retain more immigrants. This fall, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is expected to propose a plan to raise the number of immigrants to 1 per cent of Canada's total population, improve citizenship and immigration services, better match immigrants with jobs, encourage immigration outside of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and encourage temporary visitors such as students to become Canadian citizens On Sept. 27, The Globe and Mail responded to this plan with skepticism. It asked: How can even more immigrants succeed when those already here are having trouble finding work to match their skills and experience?

It is true that newcomers today don't seem to be doing as well as those who arrived only a few decades ago. Many are unemployed, underemployed or living in poverty. About half of all immigrants to Canada settle in Toronto and most of the rest end up in Montreal and Vancouver. Common sense can tell you that a system that results in more than 10,000 engineers immigrating to Toronto in one year is unlikely to lead to immediate gainful employment for immigrants. It also won't contribute, at least not immediately, to a healthy and diverse local economy.

Canada used to welcome more immigrants when the national unemployment rate was low, and fewer immigrants when the unemployment rate was high. In the recession of the early 1990s, immigration levels ceased to reflect the employment rate, with high numbers coming to Canada under tight labour-market conditions.

Today, about 60 per cent of all immigrants to Canada have foreign work experience that usually requires a university education. Many of these immigrants are chosen because of this experience. It isn't fair to bring these immigrants to Canada and have them struggle to find work.

But Canada must bring in more people. Maybe not this year, maybe not next, but if it is to face its looming demographic challenges, it must increase the number of immigrants it receives. Canadians are getting older and they aren't having as many babies. By 2010, labour-market growth will depend entirely on immigration. Even with immigration rates as they are today, many demographers are suggesting that retirement ages will have to be pushed ahead if we are to maintain the social services we want.

And Canada won't be alone in facing such conditions. We will be competing with the U.S., Europe and Japan, which will also be struggling with aging populations. We can't take for granted that we will always have highly qualified and talented people wanting to come to Canada. We have to recognize that we will eventually be competing with countries that haven't traditionally had an interest in immigration. We need to be the first to figure out how to do it right.

Vital to Canada's success will be to encourage immigration outside of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. We can't and shouldn't force people to move outside of these communities, but the federal government can work creatively with provincial and local governments as well as other stakeholders to design an immigration program that facilitates settlement to smaller cities or to areas where there are already labour-market needs.

In October, the Public Policy Forum will release a report called Building our Cities: The Importance of Immigration, which suggests that the government should involve municipalities and other local level stakeholders at the federal/provincial/territorial immigration policy planning table.

Municipalities can be involved in selecting immigrants in the same way that most provinces are involved though the Provincial Nominee Program. In this program, provinces can select immigrants to meet their regional needs and "fast-track" them through the system.

Smaller cities already have ideas for attracting and retaining immigrants, and their work needs to be supported. Settlement agencies across the country are asking for long-term, multiyear predictable funding to improve language training, fight racism and encourage employers to hire immigrants at the level of their training and experience.

So, there are some things we can do. But Canada must be careful. We can't blindly ignore the labour market conditions to which we welcome immigrants. Canada needs sophisticated indicators to know when we should temporarily reduce the number of immigrants, or make a big push for bringing in more immigrants.

These indicators might include a combination of the unemployment rate and the settlement choices of immigrants. If we know that all new immigrants are going to an area where finding work would be difficult, we might have to rethink our numbers, at least temporarily, while we develop new strategies to encourage settlement in other areas.

The Public Policy Forum is cautiously optimistic. We hope that by reaffirming its commitment to the 1-per-cent target, and by rethinking its selection and settlement efforts, the government is beginning to address an important challenge for Canada.

Sandra Lopes is a research associate at the Public Policy Forum, an Ottawa-based think-tank dedicated to improving policy-making in Canada.


Toronto Star | 2005-09-30
Population report urgent wake-up call. - expand / condense article


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Although this week's demographic report from Statistics Canada was designed primarily to provide Canadians with a detailed picture of past population trends, it also gave them a pretty good look into the future. Because past population trends tend to play such a large role in shaping the future, the StatsCan numbers contained a clear warning to Ottawa that it needs to make some dramatic policy changes — and soon.

Here is what those numbers tell us:
Canada's fertility rate of 1.5 children per woman means parents are not even "replacing" themselves. This, in turn, implies a continuing aging of the population to the point where deaths will outpace births within 20 years. As a result, the natural changes in the population will shift from increases to declines. That may happen even at current immigration levels.

So, in the coming years, immigration will become increasingly important to Canada's population growth. Indeed, by 2025 it could well be the only source of growth.

At the same time, the median age of Canadians is likely to rise from 38.7 years now to 42.5 years in 2020 and 43.6 in 2025, unless there is a dramatic increase in our immigration levels.

Prime Minister Paul Martin is well aware of the economic and social implications of this demographic arithmetic. It is a major factor in Ottawa's decision last week to boost immigration targets to 320,000 a year within five years. That's up nearly 100,000 a year from current levels. In a speech earlier this month, Martin made the case for raising Canada's immigration targets by spelling out the impacts our aging population will have on our workforce. "Within 10 short years," he said, "there will be only 3 1/2 working Canadians for every senior citizen, down from five today. By 2015, our domestic labour force will actually start to shrink, so all of the net growth will need to come from new Canadians."

While that demographic arithmetic is indisputable, Martin's recognition of the need to raise Canada's immigration targets is only one part, albeit an important one, in developing a new immigration policy. It is just as important for Ottawa to create the tools both to ensure we get the kind of immigrants we want and need, and to give them the support they require to fulfill their own aspirations and those the country has for them.

Simply put, Ottawa has failed far too many immigrants in the past — and Canada has lost out as well. Because of these failures, too many new immigrants who have brought skills and knowledge to this country have ended up driving taxis or wasting their talents in other low-paying jobs.

If this country doesn't offer all would-be immigrants the chance to realize their potential, we could well lose them in the emerging global competition that is sure to heat up. Canada is far from alone in its need to entice newcomers to the country. When the median age in Canada hits 42.5 in 2020, in Europe it will be 52, which will mean the competition for capable immigrants is going to be fierce.

To his credit, Martin has acknowledged the ways in which Ottawa has let many immigrants down. In his speech, he spoke of the imperative "to be more active in recruiting immigrants who meet Canada's evolving needs." He stressed the importance of improving the "social and economic integration of new Canadians, including language training, credentials upgrading and recognition." And he mentioned the need for providing additional federal funding, and directing it to where it is needed most.

But if there is one place where Martin must translate words into action, it is in Ontario. This province still takes in more than half of all new immigrants, and yet it cannot begin to meet their settlement and integration needs — for housing, training, upgrading, and career assistance — on the limited funding that Ottawa provides. Despite the strain the influx of newcomers put on Ontario, the province still receives roughly one-fourth as much money for immigrant settlement as Ottawa gives to Quebec.

No doubt the Statistics Canada report is a wake-up call to Ottawa. The message is that in updating its immigration quotas and policies, it must do much more than simply throw open Canada's doors.


Financial Post | 2005-07-13
44 reasons for diversity - expand / condense article

Hiring visible minorities will help the bottom line.
by Peter Evans

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In the 1990s, the Bank of Montreal was set to launch a marketing campaign to promote its new Chinese-language telephone banking service. But then Peggy Sum noticed something few at the bank would have picked up on.

As senior vice-president of Asian Banking with BMO, and originally from Hong Kong, she saw the last two digits for the proposed phone number were 44.

"No Chinese person will ever call this number," she said, explaining that in Chinese numerology, 44 represents death. On her advice, the number was hastily changed to end in 88, a number that signifies wealth.

Anecdotes such as this are what members of the Migration Dialogue, an international group of academics who study immigration patterns and their effect on the global economy, were eager to hear at a meeting in Toronto.

According to Statistics Canada, by the year 2017, visible minorities will become the majority in Canada. Dealing with the changing face of the country is increasingly important in a competitive marketplace. Canada's shifting demographics make Canadian companies of great interest to those who study the global economy. As a major Canadian financial institution, BMO proved an ideal case study of Canadian diversity for the Migration Dialogue to analyze.

Although their formal meetings were central, group members also tried to focus on grassroots work.

"We try to spend more time outside, meeting migrants," said Philip Martin, an economics professor from the University of California. "Most people who cross borders do so for economic opportunity," he added.

Ms. Sum is in a unique position to comment on diversity issues from both ends of the corporate ladder. Members of the Migration Dialogue were interested in her view of how BMO -- and Canada -- deal with diversity.

"The Chinese market is reaching critical mass in Canada," Ms. Sum said. Both she and Dr. Martin agree BMO can benefit from this change.

The challenges Ms. Sum faced in moving to Canada are similar to those of many immigrants. Although she had extensive high-level advertising experience before coming to Canada, she found it difficult to find even low-level jobs in this country. She eventually found a home at BMO, but her experiences getting there colours everything undertaken by her Asian banking division.

"We always strive to tap into the knowledge and experience of our frontline staff," she said. But the attempt must be genuine -- hollow gestures will accomplish nothing, she warned. "Promotions and opportunities have to be based on skills and talents, not just tokenism."

In addition to providing a constant supply of new talent from within, nurturing a diverse staff can open up opportunities for expansion into new markets. Something as simple as hiring people with diverse language skills can go a long way.

"In the Chinese community, many may understand English but prefer to do their banking in Chinese," Ms. Sum said. Opening new branches in Chinese neighbourhoods, for example, made perfect sense for BMO. "Diversity, cultural sensitivity -- those words did not exist in the business lexicon 30 years ago. But today it's different. Diversity makes good economic sense."


Toronto Star | 2005-06-21
Getting most out of our workforce - expand / condense article
Teranet partners with Gandy Associates to offer English communication training to employees.

Perceptions of immigrant workers must change: Council New website will post successful workplace strategies
by Nicholas Keung - Immigration / Diversity

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At Toronto's Teranet Inc., hiring managers are told to distinguish a skilled immigrant's formal language proficiency from softer communication skills such as accent, word usage and style - cultural differences that have no bearing on a candidate's qualifications for a job. At Etobicoke's Iris Power Engineering Inc., recruiters use technical skills-based interviews rather than conversation-based interviews to decide who get the vacant positions.

At Mississauga's NoAb BioDiscoveries, all job applicants need to have credentials verified by a government-recognized service provider before undergoing interviews by a team of managers to "eliminate unintentional biases."

These Greater Toronto companies' successful diversity workplace practices will no longer be a secret with today's launch of a new website ( by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, or TRIEC.

The website, which is free, provides an online self-assessment to recommend human resources professionals with specific strategies for organizations. Viewers can also learn from other employers' experiences through profiled strategies.

"It's just too expensive not to do something about (workplace diversity) because (otherwise) you lose the opportunity to take the best candidates and recruit the valuable workforce skills in the current Canadian business environment," said Marilyn Barber, human resources and development vice-president for Teranet, whose company profile is among 18 other employers showcased on the website.

TRIEC manager Elizabeth McIsaac said one of the not-for-profit organization's key objectives is to change employers' perceptions on hiring skilled immigrant workers "by doing the right thing."

Last year, TRIEC hired a consultant to survey employers to find the best practices to improve access to employment for immigrants in Greater Toronto. Of 130 companies initially examined, 40 had detailed follow-up surveys.

"I don't think we have the best practices in Canada yet, but we have some promising practices," McIssac said.

"Employers can be uncomfortable about it, but if you tell them you understand they're doing a good job and want them to share the practices with others, they are happy to do it as long as they don't feel they are being measured up to something.

"These strategies apply to big companies or small companies depending on different situations," noted McIsaac, adding that the initial survey was funded by Canada Heritage and the website Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Teranet's Barber said the e-service solutions company recognized that most skilled immigrants who have been hired have a good foundation in English, but lack the ability to communicate effectively in work-specific situations such as presentations or business writing.

Eight years ago, management offered a six-course communications program, focusing on pronunciation, conversation, idioms, presentations, business writing and leadership communication skills.

"In a country where we're trying very hard to be politically correct, some people are actually surprised that we'd bring attention to our employees who're having some difficulties in the language ... in getting understood. But they are grateful and appreciate the opportunities," explained Barber.

Teranet's 800 employees in Ontario come from 61 countries.

Because of its international clientele, Markham-based LEA Group, a consulting engineering firm, conducts businesses in different languages.

Employees familiar with a particular culture have written welcome notes in a prospective client's language and they also bring new knowledge to the workplace.

"It is great that Canada welcomes so many people from other parts of the world. Once they arrive, we have to make sure their life is productive," said LEA chair and chief executive officer John Farrow, adding that one-fifth of his 100 Canadian staff were educated and trained overseas. They speak 60 languages among them.

"We are in the business of selling expertise. Our expertise is in the head of the people we hired. We can't afford to just hire the talents in Canada. We are not doing it for charity by hiring immigrants. It just makes good business sense to hire the best talents out there."


The Globe and Mail | 2005-04-07
P&G leverages its cultural diversity - expand / condense article

Special day more than feel-good exercise
by Virginia Galt - Workplace Reporter

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TORONTO -- Procter & Gamble Co. employees in Toronto and elsewhere celebrated their diversity yesterday with jerk pork, samosas, Romanian meatballs -- and, playfully, Fruit To Go from the gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgendered employees booth.

But it was more than just a feel-good event for the 800 employees who work out of the Toronto headquarters of P & G Canada -- employees who represent more than 40 different countries and speak at least 30 different languages.

There was a bottom-line purpose as well for the world's largest consumer goods company. For one, employees are more productive in an environment that respects and accepts their differences. Also, by "leveraging that diversity," Procter & Gamble believes it can sell more soap and toothpaste.

The company today is a far cry from the staid, predominantly male, white organization that Tim Penner, president of P & G Canada, joined 27 years ago. "And we're richer for it," said Mr. Penner, adding that diversifying the work force is now a core strategic mission.

P & G's continued success in marketing its household name products -- Crest, Mr. Clean, Tide, Pampers -- to even more households rides on expanding its reach as the cultural makeup of Canada changes and new consumer markets open up around the world, employees were told.

"Have fun, learn a lot, enjoy your day and . . . increase your cultural competency," Mr. Penner told employees who were among more than 20,000 company P & G employees joining the "international celebration" in several countries around the world.

Ken Wong, a marketing professor with Queen's University, said yesterday "there's an old saying in marketing that the easiest customer to sell to is the one just like you."

Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world -- indeed, Statistics Canada recently projected that visible minorities will form more than half of the populations of Toronto and Vancouver by 2017. And as the demographics change, said Prof. Wong, it makes sound business sense to get a more diverse group of people involved in the marketing decisions.

Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University's Schulich School of Business, said yesterday that diversity is now "a hot topic" with Procter & Gamble and other major employers -- although the executive ranks are still typically white and male.

Procter & Gamble said yesterday that it has made progress in diversifying the make-up of its senior ranks, although did not provide statistics. "We're not there yet," said Mr. Penner.

Mr. Middleton said P & G is moving in the right direction and can only benefit from its efforts to recruit employees from varied backgrounds.

"I'd regard it as an essential way of surviving doing business in Canada today," said Mr. Middleton, who cautioned that P & G and other companies have to guard against stereotyping in their efforts to target ethnic or cultural groups.

At P & G, said Mr. Penner, "it's not as superficial as saying someone who is black can market better to black people, or that French people can market better to French people, that women can market better to women."

But it enriches everyone in the organization to have exposure to more cultures and, ultimately, gives all P & G employees a better understanding of their customers.

He said the best and most creative decisions are made by teams drawn from a diverse cross-section of employees.

There are other major benefits, as well, to working in an environment that is open and accepting of differences, said Jeff Straker, a member of the gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgendered employees group -- one of eight official "affinity groups" at P & G Canada. The others are the Asian Professional Network, the Black Professional Network, the Latino Network, the French Canadian Network, the Women's Leadership Council, the Christian Network, the Jewish Network.

These networks exist primarily to make the employees feel more comfortable about participating fully in corporate life, but they also exist as resource groups for colleagues who might want advice on targeting a specific market sector, Mr. Straker said.

Procter & Gamble, for instance, has found a growing market in the gay community for its Crest Whitestrips tooth-whitening product. Mr. Straker is a business manager in the company's Pampers division; he was not involved in the marketing of Crest Whitestrips.

But, he said in an interview yesterday, the fact that colleagues will actively seek out others from different backgrounds signals an acceptance that is not always found in other workplaces. It was in this atmosphere of acceptance, he said, that he made the decision to "come out" after joining the company eight years ago.

"After I came out, I became incredibly more productive," he said.

With the Asian Professional Network, there is now a marketing aspect, as well as a mutual-support focus, to the group's activities, said Kavita Thekkakara, an IT employee and a member of the company's dragon boat team, which draws a large contingent of participants from Toronto's Asian community.

Among the booths at P & G's festival in Toronto yesterday, were posters displaying the size of some of the ethnic groups in Canada. "The Chinese market --409,000 Chinese in Toronto. 342,000 Chinese in Vancouver," read one.

But quite apart from the marketing aspect, said Ms. Thekkakara, an engineer whose family comes from India, there is a real benefit to having more diverse employees involved in making decisions as the company moves forward.

"There is no point in having a team when everyone has the same ideas."


Toronto Star | 2004-02-18
Pathways can lead to engineering jobs - expand / condense article
Engineers benefit from Gandy Associates’ Language for Leadership training, offered as part of Pathways program.

Special day more than feel-good exercise

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It took Rakesh Shreewastav nearly three years after he immigrated to Canada from Nepal to land a job in engineering, but at least he found work in his profession.

Despite having the help of professional recruiters, only 16 of the 29 who graduated with him from an intensive program to prepare foreign-trained engineers to work in Ontario found employment.

Nevertheless, Paul Martin, a director of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, which ran the Pathways program, believes it was a success.
He points out that many recent Canadian engineering grads aren't able to find jobs either.

"There is a myth out there that immigrants come here and are stuck driving taxis because the bad old professional associations are preventing them from having their credentials recognized," Mr. Martin says.

But that isn't the case in engineering, he says.

"There are too many engineers out there and not enough jobs for them.

"The problem isn't with credential recognition, because 60 per cent of foreign-trained engineers can get licensed without having to write a single exam."

The statistics for just one year sum up the problem, he says. There were 8,700 engineering graduates from schools across Canada in 2001, while about 16,300 immigrants entered the country with the intention of working in engineering, according to data from the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

About 54 per cent, roughly 8,800, of those foreign-trained engineers settled in the Toronto area, which represents only 17 per cent of the Canadian engineering job market.

"That means there were more immigrant job seekers in Toronto than Canada's entire engineering graduating class," Mr. Martin says.

For Mr. Shreewastav, the road to employment was unexpectedly potholed.

When he arrived in Toronto in the winter of 2001, with advanced training and work experience in Russia, "I had only positive expectations," he says.

However, even though his qualifications were sufficient for him to work as an engineer, he needed the Ontario designation as a professional engineer, a P. Eng., to get the job he wanted in civil engineering. "It was," he says, "a very slow and lengthy process."

Ontario and most other jurisdictions in Canada require a full year of work experience in Canada to make sure applicants have a knowledge of the local codes and standards and business practices.

That's where the Pathways program came in.

It was "a really great step towards professional designation," says Mr. Shreewastav, who has found a job with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation.

The demand for the Pathways program was overwhelming and the participants were chosen from more than 2,500 applicants, Mr. Martin says. It included six weeks of intensive classroom training in Canadian workplace norms, work readiness and communication skills.
The society has stopped taking applications while the results of the first two pilots are re-evaluated by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, which financed the program.

Meanwhile, officials across the country are developing a national approach and Mr. Martin is a member of a federal task force on foreign engineering graduates that expects to report a national strategy for breaking down barriers to employment by May.

The task force, which includes representatives of government, professional associations and immigrant settlement agencies, is aiming for a co-ordinated "grassroots" approach by government and non-government groups on regulations, training, credential assessment and licensing, says Marie Lemay, CEO of the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers, whose members are the 12 provincial and territorial regulatory bodies.

The recommendations will not only be for professional associations, but also for governments, universities and colleges, Ms. Lemay says.

Mr. Shreewastav says he welcomes the advocacy and changes being made by governments and professional organizations for foreign-trained engineers. "But the result, I would say, is not significant yet."


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