Why Hire Skilled Immigrants, the Small Business Perspective

In a small business, the main focus is how to drive revenue, increase productivity and contain costs. Human resources is often seen as a drain on resources and the responsibility for hiring and managing employees often falls to the business owner who is busy overseeing the organization’s day-to-day operations.

With so many responsibilities, hiring new employees is often pushed to the background until a new employee is absolutely necessary. And when it’s time to choose that employee, it’s imperative you have the right person, with the right skills and experiences to help the business drive results.

Immigrants a solution to talent shortage

Canada’s labour force is changing. Baby boomers are retiring and birth rates are falling. Organizations in all sectors, from construction to information technology to retail, are facing a looming talent shortage. And small businesses aren’t immune.

Across Canada, small- and medium-sized business owners are reporting that the shortage of qualified labour is one of their fastest growing concerns. In fact, more than one-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 of 24,663 CFIB members, 41.4 per cent said the “shortage of qualified workers” was the most important issue facing their business.

Today, immigration plays a critical role in the growth of Canada’s labour market and Statistics Canada projects nearly all of our net population growth will be derived from immigrants by 2031. Not only can skilled immigrants make up the labour shortfall, but their skills and experiences can improve how your organization does business.

Canada brings in about 250,000 immigrants per year. Of these, about 60 per cent are economic-class immigrants and their families. Economic-class immigrants are those who have been selected by Canada as best equipped to meet the needs of our economy.

Immigrants highly educated, skilled and loyal

As a small business, you don’t have the luxury of taking risks on candidates who might not have the right skills or who will leave shortly after being hired. Luckily skilled immigrants have proven themselves to be a safe bet for Canadian employers.

Immigrants are more likely to have a post-secondary education than Canadian-born workers. In 2006, 36 per cent of immigrants aged 25 to 54 had at least a bachelor’s degree compared to just 22 per cent of their Canadian-born counterparts.

They also bring new and different expertise to an organization, improving problem solving and boosting innovation. Their international skills, experience and languages can also help local companies meet global demands.

When they’re employed at the right level for their education and experience, skilled immigrants are very loyal. For example, Toronto-based Phoenix Geophysics Limited has 51 employees, 80 per cent of whom are immigrants. The majority of the manufacturing and contracting company’s sales are international and as such it recognizes the value of skilled immigrants, which has led to an employee retention rate of 98 per cent.

Local markets are changing

Even if your business is strictly local, the international experience skilled immigrants bring can be invaluable. Immigration to major Canadian cities has increased dramatically over the past few years, outpacing Canada’s overall population growth. This means local markets are becoming increasingly diverse.

Skilled immigrants can be a valuable resource for understanding product and service needs in ethno-specific markets. They may also provide a competitive advantage by improving networks and relationships, by speaking a variety of languages and by adding diverse perspectives, experiences and skill sets to your workforce.

To learn more about the business case for hiring skilled immigrants, visit the Business Case section of the website.

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