CH2MHill: 2008 IS Awards Winner: RBC Best Immigrant Employer Award

When tradition and history are coupled with innovation and vision, the results are often remarkable. That’s one way to describe what happened when engineering firm CH2M HILL Canada Limited formed a unique new partnership with a local non-profit organization that serves the unemployed, including newcomers.

CH2M HILL is an 85-year-old engineering and construction company with expertise in industries such as energy, water and wastewater, and transportation. Three hundred employees work at their Toronto headquarters – almost 70 per cent are immigrants.

In 1997, CH2M HILL partnered with Community MicroSkills Development Centre, which offers settlement, training, employment and self-employment services to women, youth and immigrants. CH2M HILL provides two-month work placements for MicroSkills graduates from across the globe in the company’s information technology, business administration and facilities departments.

Larisa Skorishchenko is one of many MicroSkills graduates. Born in the eastern European country of Moldova, Larisa moved to Toronto in 1998 with a masters degree, a background in science and hopes for a rewarding career in Canada. Through MicroSkills, she enrolled in English classes and an information technology program. Just two years later, she landed a placement with CH2M HILL and she is now employed as a PC Systems Specialist, responsible for the firm’s servers and back-up operations.

“The benefits of partnering with MicroSkills are abundant; paramount of these is the opportunity to work with highly skilled and dedicated people,” says Bruce Tucker, President and Regional Manager of CH2M HILL. “MicroSkills provides the opportunity for graduates to gain valuable work experience, and CH2M HILL is given the chance of introducing, developing and promoting talented individuals.”

The firm sponsors the CH2M HILL Resource Centre of Excellence for Women and Newcomers at a MicroSkills’ facility nearby. The centre, staffed by an employment consultant, is equipped with computers for use by jobseekers, and has information about the labour market and the Canadian workforce. Staff volunteer at the centre to conduct seminars, offer career advice and mentor clients from MicroSkills. For example, Peter Vale, IT manager at CH2M HILL, instructs an English Conversation Café every Thursday with several internationally-trained supply chain management professionals.

“CH2M HILL embraced MicroSkills in a way which is helping individuals to build brighter futures,” says Kay Blair, Executive Director of MicroSkills. “It makes a big difference when a corporation, through their leadership, is prepared to work with the community to create opportunities.”