Skilled Immigrants Bring Innovative and International Expertise

The Canadian economy is facing a shrinking workforce and employers with an increased demand for productivity and labour need to understand how skilled immigrants can meet their workforce needs.

Having employees with different backgrounds and experiences can lead to better problem solving because there’s more diversity of thought.

In fact, 96 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they seek the advice of those with a different background when solving business problems and 83 per cent agreed with the statement that “interacting with others from different ethnic backgrounds is enriching,” found a 2007 Xerox Research Centre of Canada study.

And yet, 53 per cent of those polled said their company’s workforce has not become more diverse over the past five years. And the increases in diversity tended to be in larger companies. That means small and medium sized companies, especially, are missing out on this opportunity for increased innovation.

By 2015, more than two thirds of the 1.7 million new non-student jobs created (69.2 per cent) will require postsecondary education (university or college) or be at a management level. This is up from 60 per cent in 2005. (See table below.)

Immigrants are more likely to have the required education than their Canadian-born counterparts, according to Statistics Canada.

In 2006, 36 per cent of all immigrants aged 25 to 54 had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to just 22 per cent of those born in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

But if employers don’t recognize their value and employ these talented immigrants at the appropriate level in the field in which they were trained, they will leave Canada for opportunities elsewhere.

In fact, one in six young male immigrants to Canada leaves the country within the first year of his arrival, according to a Statistics Canada report. For those entering Canada in the crucial skilled-worker and business class, 40 per cent moved on within the first 10 years.

Employers who get the business case for hiring skilled immigrants and get started early will be in a better position than those who wait too long and then will have to compete with other employers for a smaller pool of talent.

Employment Growth by Occupation and Education, 2006-2015

National Occupational Category Non-student employment (000s) Growth (AAGR1) Change (000s) Share of change
2005 2015 2006-2015
Total 14,566.8 16,263.8 1.1% 1,697.0 100.0%
Skill level2
Management 1,376.7 1,547.0 1.2% 170.3 10.0%
Occupations usually requiring:
University education 2,525.8 2,971.2 1.6% 445.4 26.2%
College education or apprenticeship training 4,843.2 5,402.6 1.1% 559.4 33.0%
High school diploma 4,353.3 4,778.2 0.9% 424.9 25.0%
On-the-job training 1,467.5 1,564.8 0.6% 97.3 5.7%
Source: HRSDC – SPRD, Labour Market and Skills Forecasting and Analysis, 2006 Reference Scenario ()
1AAGR: average annual growth rate.
2Skill levels are based on the 2001 NOC Matrix, in which occupations are grouped according to the education level and training normally required.

[UPDATE] Is your business ‘finding a good fit’ or ‘adding to the mix’?

Recent research demonstrates that despite the understanding that diverse perspectives lead to innovative problem solving, businesses are still struggling to diversify their workforce. A recent research report, ‘Do Large Employers Treat Racial Minorities More Fairly’, found that small and medium size employers are disadvantaging foreign-named applicants at very high rate, while large employers do so to a lesser extent. Nevertheless, even large employers are discriminating against foreign-named applicants, despite more formalized Human Resource processes and procedures.

Following the research release, Hire Immigrants hosted a webinar to hear from industry experts on addressing this pervasive bias. One of the presenters, Freda Stolz, Vice President of Human Resources at HGS Canada Inc., asked recruiters to consider: Are you still seeking a candidate that will be a “good fit”? Or are you seeking a candidate that will “add to the mix”? For the full webinar recording, click here.

Importantly, employers need to confront their own biases and preferences for employees that may appear to be a good fit as a result of similar culture, and instead recognize that diverse teams actually perform better and produce better results (click here to read more). Employers, especially of small and medium businesses, need to review their recruitment processes, and ensure a movement away from ‘finding a good fit’, and instead, looking for candidates that will ‘add to the mix’.

Here are a few considerations and resources to help:

(1) Once you have determined that you have a need to hire an external candidate, consider your hiring opportunity against your organizational objectives. Consider whether your existing employee base reflects the diversity of your local or international markets. Your next hire may give your organization a unique opportunity to gain a resource that helps meet one or more business objectives.

(2) Create a recruitment strategy with diverse candidates in mind. From defining the role, designing the job advertisement and marketing the position, the Hire Immigrants Employer Roadmap provides a step-by-step guide to ensuring your next job posting will reach highly-skilled immigrant talent. Click here for more information.

Magnet, Ryerson University in partnership with Hire Immigrants produced this article. The article is made possible with the funding from the Government of Ontario.