After spending 15 years working abroad, Susie Hendrie could finally return home to Toronto thanks to the help of a local business initiative that pairs employers with Canadians living abroad.
She found a job in her field within months – something she said would have taken years without the help of Toronto Homecoming. A former policy director of a telecommunications company in London, U.K., Ms. Hendrie met members of the city's telecom industry at Homecoming 2012. The annual three-day initiative is organized by major corporations and the Toronto Region Board of Trade.
Ms. Hendrie stayed in touch until a job in her field opened up two months later at Rogers, where she now works as a policy manager. (She also met representatives of Bell Canada while here.)
"It was not like I was just sending my résumé in from England and they had no idea who I was," said Ms. Hendrie, who planned to move back to be closer to her parents.
Now in its fifth year, Toronto Homecoming is looking for participants for this fall's events, which include seminars, city tours, and roundtable discussions with representatives from the finance, technology and retail sectors, with the goal to lure expatriate professionals from more than 25 countries back to the city. About half of the 300 participants to date have moved back.
Those hoping to attend must fill out an application and shell out $100 if they're selected, paying their own travel and hotel expenses. This year's event takes place over Thanksgiving weekend. The deadline to apply for a spot is June 15.
Andrew Graham, who founded the initiative with Eva Wong Scanlan in 2009 says he recognizes that the program benefits people who are already employed abroad rather than unemployed people here. The city's unemployment rate is at about 8 per cent, higher than the national rate of 6.9 per cent in April.
"What we've heard from employers is that they want to find the best people they can to fill the roles and I'm sure they're looking in the local market as well," Mr. Graham said. "We're actually finding them a new pool of applicants."
The companies pay the bulk of the costs to host the event, while part of the funding comes from participants' registration fees.
Homecoming isn't limited to corporate giants such as Royal Bank of Canada, KPMG and Manulife Financial, however; last year's event saw about half a dozen start-ups looking to recruit.
Homecoming tours of local attractions and neighbourhoods also helped reintroduce Ms. Hendrie to Toronto, she said. "It was interesting for me to realize that I wasn't coming back to the city that I left," she said. "It's a much more international city ... I think it's really dynamic and has a lot to offer."
Editor's note: A previous version of the caption for the photograph accompanying this article incorrectly said Susie Hendrie was a co-founder of Toronto Homecoming. In fact, she was a participant.