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A speed mentoring event where senior bank officials from CIBC met with foreign-born professionals seeking employment and advice. (Ashley Hutcheson)
A speed mentoring event where senior bank officials from CIBC met with foreign-born professionals seeking employment and advice. (Ashley Hutcheson)

Small Business Briefing

An eight-point plan to get jobs for immigrants Add to ...

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Eight proposals to help immigrants find work

In July, we wrote about a new project spearheaded by the Maytree Foundation under its Assisting Local Leaders with Immigrant Employment Strategies (ALLIES), which was working to come up with strategies to connect small businesses with immigrant talent.

ALLIES, a partnership of Maytree and The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, began the new initiative last October, conducting consultations with small businesses and planning to use the findings to help formulate pilot projects.

A report released Tuesday is the result of the first stages of the research project "exploring existing policies, programs and initiatives that engage or otherwise influence the human resource practices of SMEs," the executive summary reads. "The overall goal is to develop new, innovative ideas, and to promote promising programs that encourage SMEs to hire skilled immigrants."

Maytree studied efforts in 10 provinces and 20 cities across Canada, setting up about 50 interviews, and the foundation came up with eight practical ideas to help immigrants find jobs commensurate with their experience and to provide small and medium-sized businesses with the opportunity to dip into a broader talent pool. SMBs, the summary adds, "may be unfamiliar with the business case for immigration, and may not be engaged in long-term human resource planning. In addition, tools and human resources workshops aimed at employers are disproportionately used by large organizations."

Here's a look at the eight proposals:

Activity-focused internships

Modelled on a national program that matches SMBs with post-secondary school interns who work to develop e-commerce capacities. Internships for mid-level professional skilled immigrants can similarly be structured to clearly demonstrate the value added by the skilled immigrant intern.

One-stop shop for recruiting and hiring support services

Designed to meet the needs of SMBs that are ready to hire. A company that has a job opening contacts the service and it is assigned an account manager who will handle the employer’s request until filled.

Online database of screened candidates

Modelled on the SkillsInternational.ca website in Ontario and other similar industry-specific initiatives, this program would provide SMBs with on-demand access, at any time and from any location, to qualified candidates. An employer can use the database to search for pre-screened candidates.

Wage and orientation subsidy

Modelled on the immigrant-specific wage subsidy programs in Quebec, a national or provincial wage subsidy for skilled immigrants could encourage SMBs that are reluctant to hire outside of their personal networks - and that lack the capacity to provide orientation and training - to take a risk on a new hire.

HR resources online

Modelled on a website managed by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, this program would provide customizable HR information for SMBs, on-demand and from any location.

Financial institutions provide information and education

This program would aim to use the relationships that financial institutions have with their small-business clients, and to provide hiring information to SMBs at a time when they are most likely to be growing their business, including advice on hiring, integrating and retaining skilled immigrants.

Communications and marketing programs

To be successful, each of the above programs must be supported with strong communications and marketing.

Corporate calls (one-on-one)

This strategy is based on a practice identified by many organizations working with SMBs. An “employer consultant” visits a business to explain the rationale for why it should look to underemployed groups, assess the employer’s needs and recommend programs and services when appropriate.

Business and industry associations

These associations have established relationships and communications channels with their SMB members, and they may be considered credible sources. Organizations could work with business and industry associations, for example, to present at or partner on events.

"These proposed ideas will form the basis of consultations with SMEs in five Canadian cities," the report reads. "Through these consultations, ALLIES, in partnership with local immigrant employment councils, will further refine the ideas, explore how they can be adapted to local contexts and identify the most promising for implementation in 2012."

The approximately 250,000 immigrants who arrive in Canada every year are more likely than their Canadian-born counterparts to be unemployed or underemployed, and they were hit hard by the economic downturn in 2009.According to Industry Canada, 98 per cent of businesses in Canada have fewer than 100 employees, and small businesses employ 64 per cent of private-sector workers.

But a study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in 2006 found that despite the need for workers, 78 per cent of owners polled said they had not hired any immigrants in the previous four years.

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