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Immigrants looking for better welcome in Canadian workplaces

Nearly three-quarters of Toronto-area employers believe they have successful programs to integrate foreign-trained professionals into their workplaces, but only 49 per cent of immigrants say the places they have worked have policies that welcome new Canadians, a new study says.

"While employers recognize the value of hiring new Canadians in our global economy, we're finding workplace diversity and recruitment policies lack the bite needed to really make a difference," said Silma Roddau, president of Toronto-based Progress Career Planning Institute. The not-for-profit counselling service does an annual survey about diversity programs.

The survey questioned 560 professionals who earned their degrees in another country and have been in Canada for between six and 15 years. (Of the total, 238 were currently employed and 322 were unemployed.)

Thirty-four per cent of the respondents said their employers do not have the resources to adequately address the cultural differences workers encounter when entering the Canadian job market.

They said employer orientation should include more advice about Canadian workplace culture and orientation in the specific job that they are hired to do.

The counselling service also conducted a survey of 24 companies, which found that 71 per cent said they have diversity programs that they rate as successful or very successful.

Their programs include new-hire orientation, workplace diversity training, and language instruction for non-English speakers.

But only 45 per cent of the Toronto-area employers said they have a method of assessing whether foreign credentials are adequate.

The employers rated communications skills, listening, speaking and writing as the most important factors they assess, followed by technical skills and business etiquette.

More government guidelines may be needed to help immigrants adjust, the study suggested. It found that the more regulated an industry is, the more likely foreign-trained professionals are to readily find a job and receive orientation assistance.

For example, health-care workers with foreign credentials are twice as likely to find work in their fields than workers with business, finance and administration backgrounds.

"Internationally educated professionals recognize they are responsible for learning about the Canadian workplace, but employers still need to do more to welcome new Canadians and workers from different cultures," Mr. Roddau said.

The survey results were presented Friday at a conference in Toronto, financed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

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