Labour market slow to integrate newcomers says winner of Star’s TRIEC award

Toronto Star
Sep 13, 2007

Paul Irish
Staff Reporter

Alan Rego, the recent winner of a prestigious immigrant success award, believes one of Canada’s best resources is its highly skilled newcomers.

The only problem, says the Procter & Gamble employee, is many employers suffer from what he calls “risk aversion,” so an army of qualified men and women from around the world are often overlooked. The native of India worked in marketing there and in Singapore before coming to Canada five years ago, says he speaks from experience.

“I was happy to be in this great country, but I just wasn’t working in my line of choice,” says the father of two, now a manager with P&G’s external relations team. “I was lucky. It didn’t take me long to get to a satisfying position, but I knew this wasn’t true of others and I wanted to help.”

With this in mind, he set up a support group for immigrant professionals in communications, advertising, sales and marketing.

The group has been so successful, Rego received this year’s Toronto Star People’s Choice Award for Outstanding Achievement in Immigrant Success.

Rego’s award – which recognizes people who have made a positive impact assisting skilled immigrants – is one of six the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) presents annually.

TRIEC was created in 2003 to address an urgent need for effective integration of immigrants into Toronto’s labour market.

The council comprises employers, occupational regulatory bodies, post-secondary institutions, assessment service providers, community organizations and all three level of governments.

It works to help break down barriers immigrants face as they look for jobs.

Rego, in his early 50s, says he has found recruiters often go for the safe hire, looking for familiar schools, credentials and former employers.

“Sometimes the best person for the job is overlooked,” he says. “Really, it happens a lot.”

He says part of the philosophy of his group – which works with TRIEC to find jobs – is to be proactive and not to wait for industry or the government to come to them.

Sischa Maharaj, 32, who won the award for individual achievement, says there’s a wealth of untapped talent in the form of newcomers.

She is credited with promoting the hiring of skilled immigrants to the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and says the education and skills of the new workers are equivalent or better than homegrown candidates.

She says a number of agencies in the GTA collect information about new workers and place it in a database.

The bank will invite candidates whose qualifications match requirements to apply, and possibly, to an interview.

“These people are all highly qualified, pre-screened and legally entitled to work in Canada,” she says. “There’s a huge number of skilled immigrants looking for work.”

Maharaj moved from her native Trinidad and Tobago when she was young, but still says she can identify with the immigrant experience.

“I can remember the uncertainty some of them had; it wasn’t easy.”

Steam Whistle Brewing won the Immigrant Success small employer award – six of their 44 full-time staff are skilled immigrants.

Winner in the mid-size employer category is Xerox Research Centre of Canada. The centre has 137 employees from more than 35 countries. Twenty-eight per cent of their employees are skilled immigrants – almost half have doctorate degrees from their home countries.

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority won in the large employer category.

George Brown College won the influencer award for creating a long-term immigrant strategy, including a program that provides training and four-month paid internships to internationally trained teachers.

Reference: Toronto Star