Toronto Star
January 15, 2009

Terrence Belford
Special to the Star

More than two dozen senior managers at American Express Canada in Markham have taken new Canadians under their wing to help them establish satisfying careers in their new homeland.

Down the road at CGI Group, a team is drafting programs to help employers assess immigrant skills in information technology, improve English language capability, speed recruitment and improve retention. Nearby, Motorola Canada Ltd. is in the process of creating its own new Canadian mentoring program, the latest initiative in its mission to embrace diversity by ensuring the company’s staffing reflects the increasingly diverse markets it serves.

Indeed, if the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council has its way, York Region will become a shining global example of employment diversity. The not-for-profit organization, sponsored by the private Maytree Foundation, has extended its reach beyond the City of Toronto. The goal, says TRIEC executive director Elizabeth McIsaac, is to work with employers to make the best use of the 100,000 new immigrants that flock to the Greater Toronto Area each year.

While the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says attracting and retaining skilled staff is business’s biggest challenge, the TRIEC initiative targets two of the most persistent problems: a shortage of skilled workers and the obstacles immigrants face in getting Canadian work experience.

In November, TRIEC began to extend its reach beyond the City of Toronto and Mississauga into York Region, and shifted its focus from large employers to small- and medium-sized businesses, many of them in the technology sector.

Already, 19 employers have signed on to TRIEC’s mentoring program. Another 10 are participating in human resources workshops to improve skills in screening, interviewing and recruiting immigrants.

A fourth program called BUILD York focuses on establishing standardized, easy-to-apply qualifications for would-be IT staff drawn from the immigration population. “We are a big user of IT and it makes sound business sense for us to work with TRIEC and other employers to tap into the pool of resources represented by recent immigrants,” says American Express Canada’s vice-president, Karen Rubin.

Rubin’s personal favourite is the mentorship program. She has already worked with a trio of new Canadian women – one from Nigeria, one from Romania and one from India – helping them understand Canadian business culture and providing guidance in areas such as resumés, interviews and business support networks.

At CGI, a global company involved in IT outsourcing, the BUILD program is on the front burner. Young Park, sector vice-president for consulting services, oversees a staff of 650 IT specialists across Canada and sees BUILD as an effective staffing solution. A TRIEC workshop she led in November has yielded a new hire: Indian-trained Jatin Danghavi, whose experience as a project manager impressed Park.

At Motorola, the partnership with TRIEC is a work in progress, says company president Michael Hortie. Motorola Canada has long embraced employment diversity as a corporate philosophy, and sponsors Career Edge, Career Bridge and Ability Edge programs, among others. The company is starting up a mentoring program.

“There’s a lot of excitement about it,” Hortie says. “Embracing diversity in all its forms is one of those wonderful things where you can do a great deal of good and feel great about doing it.”

Reference: Toronto Star