2015 Employer Council of Champions Summit

Panel Presentation – Ottawa’s Human Capital Requirements: Challenges, Opportunities and Actions

Ian Faris, president and CEO of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce
Sandra Saric, vice-president, talent innovation, Information Communications Technology Council
Seema Aurora, president and CEO, TAG-HR

What will Ottawa’s labour market look like in the future, and what will that mean for immigrants? This panel sees the pace of change continuing, the challenges evolving. Ian Faris listed the risk of inaction on recruitment, including: skills shortages, outmigration, stagnation in the local economy, and erosion of what he called “the Ottawa advantage” – the quality of life and opportunities that attract top talent to the city. “We don’t want to return to the idea that Ottawa is the town that fun forgot,” said Faris, which is why the Chamber advocates for policies that support diverse workplaces and improved immigration processes.

Sandra Saric is herself the child of immigrants who sacrificed their careers in their home country to build new lives in Ontario’s automotive industry. Saric said her council sees the telecom sector slowly rebounding, but with changing skill requirements, including fewer roles in senior management and leadership, but an increase in entry-level opportunities and a convergence between previously separate skill sets. “A retail manager is now an e-commerce manager,” Saric said. “You need digital skills coupled with domain knowledge, so we encourage labour to digitally upskill.”

Saric said it’s important that the search for talent doesn’t unintentionally discourage applicants in the process, something that happens when companies set out job descriptions that are too ambitious, or feature a long list of overly detailed criteria. Saric said both practices often fail to attract the best candidates and screen out women and immigrants in particular.

“Recognize which criteria are the real dealbreakers for you,” said Saric. “Language matters, yes, but which one? Some employers don’t need a high level of language for writing, but listening and technical comprehension are critical.”

Looking ahead, early indications are that even the new Express Entry system for skilled immigrants isn’t fast enough for some employers. Seema Aurora of TAG-HR said she’s hearing from employers who aren’t willing to wait the six to 12 months it will take for candidates in the Express Entry pipeline to arrive, so they prefer to hire locally. As a supplier of skilled personnel for the federal public service, Aurora also highlighted the difficulty of getting security clearance for immigrants, many of whom have not been in Canada the required five years. “When immigrants arrive, they fill gaps in the labour force, pay taxes, and buy goods,” Aurora said, reminding the audience that immigrants aren’t just labour, they are citizens in the making.


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