Help Wanted: Recruiting Immigrant Talent in a Tightening Labour Market.

Long before the pandemic, several sectors were experiencing skills shortages. In fact, access to skilled talent was one of the top three challenges of doing business highlighted in the Ottawa Board of Trade’s Business Growth Survey in 2019. Today, as we emerge from the pandemic and businesses ramp up their operations, there are signals everywhere that the labour market is tightening.

At the Hire Immigrants Ottawa Employer Learning Forum on June 30, 2022, Ottawa-based employers and representatives from immigrant serving organizations discussed best practices and strategies for recruiting immigrants and creating welcoming and inclusive workplaces.

The following is highlight of the panel discussion and programs to support employers recruit immigrant talent in Canada.

Value international experience
When reviewing the resumes of immigrant job applicants, take an interest in learning about the candidate’s international experience. Focus on the skills and experiences they will bring to your organization and not where it was acquired. International experience can be an asset for your company, immigrant employees can provide insight and help your company entre new global markets or bring new perspectives on product lines.

Look beyond formal education
Do not overly rely on formal educational qualifications. Although education is important, recognize that some skills can be self-taught or learned through apprenticeships. Use competency-based interviews to evaluate candidates’ skill level and how their past experiences qualify them for the job. Where applicable, hands-on competency tests can help evaluate candidates – make the process flexible and informal, for example, take-home assessments. “Some of the best programmers I’ve met are self-taught,” says Steph Barlow, Director of People and Culture of Iversoft.

Provide language support to employees
Assess the candidate’s language proficiency solely based on the role and language requirement. For example, client facing roles like sales and marketing positions may require higher language proficiency than more technical positions. If a candidate meets most of the job requirements but lacking the required language proficiency, consider hiring them and providing language support on the job. This can be through conversational programs or paid time for language lessons. Some organizations provide programs such as Grammarly – a tool to support employees’ writing skills.

Foster employee engagement and inclusion
Provide opportunities for immigrant employees to engage and socialize with their peers. In virtual or hybrid work settings, use online tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams to promote interactions such as coffee chats with people across departments and different levels in the company. Set up a mentorship or buddy program as part of the onboarding process to match new hires with someone in the organization who can answer their questions and help them understand organizational culture. Regular check-ins and feedback give new hires a sense that their success is important to the organization.

Invest in staff development and wellbeing
Provide professional experience for staff by building their careers through formal and informal training such as lunch and learns. Provide boot camps where employees can learn about new products, including visions and sales strategies. Promote transparency in the company; employees need to know why they matter to the organization. Provide mental health training and check-ins for the staff’s wellbeing.

Support programs employers can use

Below are some programs available to assist employers in hiring and integrating immigrants into Canadian workplaces available through World Skills Employment Centre and the YMCA-YWCA of the National Capital Region.

  • The Canada-Ontario Job Grant (COJG) provides funding for short-term training to existing and new employees.
  • On-the-Job Language Training offers employers the opportunity to build newcomer integration into the workplace.
  • Settlement Online Pre-Arrival (SOPA) delivers free-of-cost pre-arrival services that prepares immigrants for job readiness and retention.
  • Recruitment services including job postings, pre-screening and job boards for employers to access immigrant talent.
This summary of event proceedings was written by Maia Smith, Communications Officer, HIO (Canada Summer Jobs placement -2022)
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