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When Ashira Gobrin was recruiting a chief technology officer at Toronto-based fintech firm Wave Financial Inc., she knew it would be tricky to find a candidate with the specialized skills and experience the global financial services platform required.

Then she remembered Ideshini Naidoo, a woman from Johannesburg, South Africa, she had met at a business leadership and development conference in Los Angeles a few years prior, who ran corporate e-banking across Africa for Barclays and was the former chief information officer at Rand Merchant Bank. When Gobrin got in touch the stars were aligned — Naidoo was at a point in her career where she was interested in making a change and she found what Wave was doing very compelling. But wooing Naidoo to the company was only half the battle.

“We previously brought in two people who required visas, and the approval process took a year for one and nine months for the other,” says Gobrin, Wave’s senior vice-president of people and culture. That meant she wasn’t sure how quickly her coveted hire could start working — or, more importantly, whether she would wait that long.

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Innovative Canadian companies of all sizes are looking internationally to build their teams, as demand for highly skilled workers in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — outpaces the domestic talent supply. Nearly 179,000 tech jobs were created between 2012 and 2017, with more than 57,000 added in 2017 alone, according to the 2018 Scoring Canadian Tech Talent Report developed by global real estate and investment firm CBRE. And demand is sharply rising: a labour market outlook report by the Information and Communications Technology Council predicts Canada will struggle to fill approximately 216,000 technology-related positions by 2021.

Navigating the system

Hiring someone from another country is more complicated than hiring locally, but thankfully there are government programs that can facilitate the immigration process and help fill the talent gaps that exist, says Julie Lessard, partner and immigration and global mobility expert at BCF Business Law.

The Global Talent Stream, for example, is a pilot within the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that can help employers hire specific highly skilled professionals, including engineers, data analysts, video game developers, digital media designers and computer programmers.

The program reduces the amount of paperwork companies must submit and processes work permits within two weeks – a huge improvement over the pre-existing program that required companies must first post the job for at least four weeks and prove that no Canadians are willing and able to take the job, says Lessard.

Gobrin used this program to hire Naidoo, who was up and running in the Toronto offices within six weeks of a job offer.

Beyond the Global Talent Stream program, free trade agreements, including NAFTA and the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, can be used to hire either in specific professional baccalaureate positions, or in managerial roles or trade and service jobs, depending on the agreement and country of origin, says Lessard.

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Her advice: find a lawyer who can help you navigate these programs and the system. “We can use our immigration system to be competitive,” says Lessard. “With U.S. rules now being more restrictive, Canada is becoming a very attractive country for talent, entrepreneurs and investment. We need to take advantage of that.”

Attracting the best

Canada is a desirable destination, and companies here often have the advantage of potential job candidates finding them. “Wave is a software company with global customers, so we get applications from all over,” says Gobrin.

For employers that aren’t so lucky, recruiting through digital tools such as LinkedIn can be a good way to locate talent. But Gobrin advises being proactive by continually developing global networks, not just posting jobs when they become available.

After she met Naidoo, for example, she kept in touch with periodic emails and seasonal greetings. “We built a relationship,” she says. “But you can do the same thing by reaching out to people through LinkedIn. Location should not be a limiting factor.”

Holding on to your hire

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Successfully hiring foreign workers requires more than permits and paperwork. It’s critical to prepare newcomers for what their new life will be like in Canada and help them adapt. “What neighbourhood should they live in? Where will the kids go to school? You need to find out their needs and expectations,” says Lessard.

Rouel Hidalgo, talent acquisition specialist at video game maker Ubisoft Montreal, believes in being as open as possible with their foreign recruits, which include programmers, designers and animators. “Be transparent about the entire process, what life is like at the company and, just as importantly, the city and culture,” he says. “The last thing we want is for candidates to be shocked about something that could have been explained in the initial conversations.”

Finally, be sure to provide learning and career growth opportunities, as you would with any staff. If you help employees integrate fully and give them work they want to do, they’re more likely to stay, says Gobrin.

As for Naidoo, who was greeted in Toronto in Nov. 2017 with a winter coat courtesy of her new employer, she is successfully meeting her goals at Wave and recently applied for permanent residency in Canada. It’s proof that with the right supports, newcomers can become quickly acclimated not only to Canadian winters, but also the work that awaits them.

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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