Foundation researchers are tasked with conducting an eight-month study to propose targeted pilot projects

June 16, 2010
Globe and Mail

Rachel Pulfer

Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation, says a lot can be done do to help get immigrants hired by small businesses while simultaneously helping those companies ease their labour crunch.

Along with the McConnell Foundation, she has tasked Maytree researchers with an eight-month-long study to research why there is a hiring gap, what the job markets in selected city centres actually need in terms of skilled labour, and what kinds of skilled immigrants are available to fit the bills. The goal is to propose targeted pilot projects to a variety of small businesses designed to begin solving the problem in sector-specific ways.

It’s a hot issue, and one on which millions of public funds has already been spent – with little to show for it. That’s why Ms. Omidvar puts more faith in private initiatives, targeted schemes that are flexible enough for businesses and immigrants to solve the problem together. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is giving out $5-million in grants to member agencies to develop solutions, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce is also working on strategies, and in late May the Vancouver Board of Trade announced it will be putting resources toward tackling the beast.

One idea that Ms. Omidvar finds interesting is Quebec’s skills passport system, known as PREEM (in English, it’s known as the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program). The provincial government now provides skilled immigrants with a letter describing their skill levels to prospective employers, and it also indicates where they still require training. The point is to create a credible scale by which an employer can judge what an immigrant’s credentials mean, and where the gaps might be.

Other possible solutions include lobbying governments for tax credits for those who hire skilled interns, or a system of short-term contracts or internships that allow small businesses and immigrants to try one another out. However, both result in a lot of paperwork and overhead costs. That’s why Ms. Omidvar suggests an externally financed internship program, similar to the federal government’s International Youth Internship Program, but possibly financed by private means. The goal would be help skilled immigrants land those contracts and build much-needed Canadian experience, getting their foot in the door at minimal cost to their employers.


Reference: Globe and Mail