Language Learning
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Immigration and Settlement
Spotlight on Employers
Cultural Diversity
Gandy Associates
 
 
Financial Post | 2009-02-25
Newcomers set to play critical role - expand / condense article

Workplace Reality
by Mary Teresa Bitti

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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.

  BACK TO TOP

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

Workplace Reality
by Mary Teresa Bitti

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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.

  BACK TO TOP

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

Workplace Reality
by Mary Teresa Bitti

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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.

  BACK TO TOP

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

Workplace Reality
by Mary Teresa Bitti

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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.

  BACK TO TOP

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

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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.\"

  BACK TO TOP

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

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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.\"

  BACK TO TOP

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

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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.\"

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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

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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 (ciip.accc.ca), 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.

BY THE NUMBERS

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.

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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 www.bramptonbot.com.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

IMMEDIATE ACTION

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.

NOW EMPLOYED

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.

HELP FOR IMMIGRANTS

- The Alliance of Credential Evaluation Services of Canada 416-962-9725 (www.canalliance.org)

- The Association of International Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (www.aipso.ca)

- World Education Services 212-966-6311. (www.wes.org)

- CARE, Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses 416-226-2800 (www.care4nurses.org)

- Career Edge 416-977-3343 (overview.careeredge.ca)

- The Cross Cultural Learning Centre in London 519-432-1133 (www.lcclc.org)

- Internationally Trained Pharmacists 416-962-4861 (www.newontariopharmacist.com)

- Maytree Foundation 416-944-2627 (www.maytree.com)

- Ontario Councils of Agencies Serving Immigrants416-322-4950 (www.ocasi.org)

- Skills for Change 416-658-3101 (www.skillsforchange.org)

- Skills International 519-663-0774 (www.skillsinternational.ca)

- TRIEC, the Toronto Regional Immigrant Employment Council 416-944-2627 (www.triec.ca)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 - http://www.catalyst.org/, 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.

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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.

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