Apr 03 2012

A new report released by ALLIES highlights new ways to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to hire skilled immigrants.

Among others, the report recommends:

  • New ways of communicating to SMEs – for example, to deliver or market programs through individuals and organizations that SMEs trust, such as accountants, industry and professional associations, and peers;
  • That government and others provide more services to SMEs that facilitate workplace integration – all while making sure that their interactions with small business are simple, straightforward and fast; and
  • A public awareness and media campaign with national and local mainstream media to promote the benefits of hiring skilled immigrants in Canada.

The Business Case

SMEs face shortage, competition for talent

Across Canada, SMEs are reporting that the shortage of qualified labour is one of their fastest growing concerns. In fact, more than half of members of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business report they cannot find the people they need to put their products and services to market. And in a 2010 survey, 41% of CFIB members said this shortage of qualified workers was the most important issue facing their business. Many SMEs face competition from their larger counterparts, who might be able to offer higher salaries or benefits.

Skilled immigrants: An under-tapped talent pool

Immigration plays a critical role in the growth of Canada’s labour market. Statistics Canada projects that by 2031, 80% of Canada’s population growth will come from immigration.

Each year, Canada welcomes 250,000 new immigrants. Of these, about 60% are economic immigrants and their families. These immigrants have been selected by Canada to meet the needs of our economy. In Calgary, almost one in ten people of working age is a recent immigrant. In Toronto, that number rises to 1 in 5. Yet, only 40% of skilled immigrants are working in the occupation or profession for which they were trained, effectively making 60% downwardly mobile.

Matching SMEs with skilled immigrants will enhance our economy

The Conference Board of Canada estimates that our country’s failure to employ immigrants at their full potential costs the economy $3.4-5 billion in lost earnings every year.

Why hiring immigrants is good for your business

Skilled immigrants boost innovation by bringing new perspectives to your business.  Diverse experiences and approaches improve problem-solving and can bring fresh new ideas to your team.

Skilled immigrants can help you access global markets. Many immigrants speak other languages, and have lived and worked outside of North America. Their knowledge of international business practices can help you do business and build relationships around the world.

Skilled immigrants give you insight into local ethnic markets. Nearly 1 in 5 Canadians are immigrants – in Calgary it’s almost 1 in 4, and nearly half of all Toronto residents were born outside of Canada. Skilled immigrant employees can help you serve these large – and growing – markets.

Skilled immigrants speak English or French and can communicate with your team and your clients. More than 90% of recent, working age immigrants speak English, French, or both.

Skilled immigrants are well-educated. More than 35% of recent immigrants have a Bachelor’s or higher degree.

Skilled immigrants can fill difficult-to-fill positions. They arrive in Canada with high levels of education and work experience. Recent immigrants make up 7% of our national workforce. In Calgary, nearly 10%, and in Toronto, almost 20% of the workforce are recent immigrants.

Skilled immigrants are flexible and adaptable. They have recognized an opportunity for a new life in Canada, and seized it. They can do the same for your business.

Skilled immigrants are loyal employees. Keeping good employees is a challenge for many small businesses.  Employers report that when employed at the right level for their education and experience, skilled immigrant employees are very loyal.

Skilled immigrants are all around you, and they’re easy to hire. Contact your local immigrant employment council to find local skilled immigrants who want to work for you. Visit hireimmigrants.ca for tips and tools on hiring, integrating, and retaining top immigrant talent.

Having a diverse workforce enhances your business and makes you an employer of choice. Annual awards such as the national Top Employers for New Canadians, and many local awards recognize the good work that employers like you do to capitalize on skilled immigrant talent.

How to connect with skilled immigrant talent

Immigrant Employment Councils (IECs) throughout Canada connect local employers with skilled immigrants, with the support of community, educational and government organizations.

In areas that do not yet have an immigrant employment council, immigrant-serving agencies are a useful resource.

Professional immigrant networks can also be a good source of talent. These immigrant-led, volunteer-run, membership associations bring together professionals based on ethnicity, occupation or both.  Tapping into these local or national networks can give SMEs access to a wealth of talent.

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Marco Campana is a communications expert living in Toronto and Maytree's former content manager.