2015 Employer Council of Champions Summit

Panel Discussion – Activating the Immigrant Skills Supply

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Mark Chapeskie, director, project development, BioTalent Canada
Amber Neville, human resources consultant, Business Development Bank of Canada
Lisa Anna Palmer, owner, Cattelan Palmer Consulting

How do you make the most of the immigrant talent in your company, and in the city? Sometimes it requires taking a critical look at the old way of doing things, said Mark Chapeskie. Surveys have found that many bioscience companies are primarily recruiting through networking and referrals, without realizing that practice automatically screens out talented newcomers. Credential recognition is not a challenge in biosciences, but seeing where someone fits into the corporate culture sometimes is, Chapeskie said. That led his organization to create a program to help immigrants retool their resumes to express their skills in terms biosciences employers can understand. Chapeskie spoke of how immigrants can lead innovation, productivity, market access and access to investors in the biosciences sector. In short, he added, “it’s silly not to hire immigrants.”

When Business Development Bank of Canada wanted to boost their recruiting practices, they formed a partnership with Access Employment, an agency serving immigrants in the Greater Toronto Area. Amber Neville described the in-house program they created, which includes special recruiting nights for newcomers and bringing immigrants already on staff onto interview teams. “We saw it as a way to build our own cultural competencies,” said Neville. During slow hiring periods, BDC has kept up the relationship with Access Employment by holding speed mentoring events, bringing their own staff together with immigrants looking for career advice. When BDC wanted to extend their diversity outreach efforts to Ottawa, they reached out to HIO, who referred them to the Ottawa Job Match Network, and these relationships have already led to hires here.

Lisa Anna Palmer of Cattelan Palmer noted that activating immigrant skills means going beyond recruitment to look at workplace integration. “When you bring people in, how do you help them feel like they belong? It’s about activating employees’ potential,” Palmer said. She outlined conditions for success in integration, including a welcoming culture, support and training for managers to create an inclusive environment, and a workplace that helps employees to see they have a role to play in creating a welcoming corporate culture.

“We want people who help others shine,” said Palmer. “Help them learn your systems. Help them network and connect.”

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