A Migration Agenda for the Private Sector

By Khalid Koser

This article is reprinted with permission from Project Syndicate.

Khalid Koser speaking at the Cities of Migration Conference in Berlin

Khalid Koser speaking at the Cities of Migration Conference in Berlin

As Europe’s refugee crisis continues to evolve, offers of assistance have come from some unexpected places. Interventions by governments, civil-society groups, and aid organizations have been complemented by a broad-based response from the business community. This mobilization highlights not only the role that the private sector can play in managing migration, but also the importance of extending this engagement beyond the response to the immediate crisis.

Contributions have been made by companies large and small. Shop owners have provided refugees with free food and clothing, and local transport firms have helped people move across borders. On the corporate level, FedEx, JPMorgan Chase, and Google have all made direct contributions of more than $1 million to humanitarian organizations. American Express and Daimler are matching their employees’ donations, Western Union is offering ten cents per transaction made by consumers in the European Union, and Norwegian Air has raised money through inflight collections.

Meanwhile, the Bayern Munich Football Club has opened a training camp for refugees, and Siemens has launched a traineeship program in Germany for asylum-seekers.

On the web, Facebook is connecting asylum-seekers with members of their diaspora, as well as citizens who want to help, and a program called “Refugees Welcome” is helping refugees find vacant rooms in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Poland, Greece, Sweden, and the Netherlands. In France, an Amazon wish list has been established to allow people to purchase goods for refugees (portable fuel packs and warm boots are the items most in demand).

The private sector’s response to the refugee crisis has helped efforts to address it in three important ways. For starters, the business community has generally proved faster and more flexible than governments. On the whole, the private sector is not encumbered by political constraints or bureaucracy that can impede government action. And many companies are organized to move quickly in response to market opportunities – or in this case a humanitarian emergency.

Second, the business community has filled a gap in the response that the public sector risked overlooking. The international community has been focused on immediate humanitarian relief –rightly so. But the current crisis also has an economic component: in many cases, it represents a business opportunity, as new arrivals offer their talents and knowledge to forward-thinking firms. As a result, it is not just corporate social-responsibility departments that are driving companies’ response.

Finally, the business community’s reaction has underscored the long-term advantages of migration, something that politicians in fear of (or in thrall to) xenophobic currents have struggled to accomplish. The private sector’s enthusiastic involvement helps make the case for the bright side of the refugee influx: it can help close Europe’s demographic deficit, plug gaps in its labor market, and supply a cohort of young workers and taxpayers for the future.

But while the private sector’s involvement is to be applauded, its impact will be limited if it is not extended beyond the current emergency. Like governments, the business community rallied in a meaningful fashion only after large numbers of refugees began arriving on European shores. The private sector must not overlook the role it can play in helping to stabilize and support economic growth in the countries from which refugees flee.

Furthermore, there are far more Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey than in Europe, and many of the innovative responses now emerging in Europe would have a greater impact (and larger returns on investment) if they were concentrated where most refugees reside.

Above all, businesses must ensure that their current efforts are sustained into the future. The programs companies have put in place will bear long-term fruit only if they are seen through to the end. Firms must prepare for the decline in public goodwill that is likely to occur as efforts to integrate the newcomers hit inevitable obstacles. Local spikes in unemployment, temporary pressure on education and health services, incidents of criminality, and hints of radicalization could spark a backlash in the media and among shareholders. Business leaders must help keep a clear, public focus on the long-term benefits of immigration through statements, media engagement, and direct lobbying of government officials.

The lesson from Europe’s refugee crisis is clear: all aspects of migration are better managed when businesses, civil society, and governments work together. As the crisis continues to unfold, sustaining and deepening this cooperation – in Europe and elsewhere – will be both a challenge and an historic opportunity.

The World’s Most Talent Ready Countries, 2014

Talent is moving around the world faster than ever before. Countries that remain open to it are building a competitive edge.

By Paul Evans, Academic Director of the INSEAD Global Talent Competitiveness Index and Bruno Lanvin, INSEAD Executive Director for Global Indices

The pace of change in the knowledge economy is reaching unprecedented speed. Rapid technological change, coupled with a globally mobile workforce is bringing benefits to countries able to harness the energy of the young and ambitious, and raising challenges to those unable to attract and grow this precious resource.

The second edition of the Global Talent Competitiveness Index, created by INSEAD, in partnership with Singapore’s Human Capital Leadership Institute and Adecco confirms that talent competitiveness is closely linked to wealth: high income countries again lead the top-scoring countries in the GTCI 2014.  With world-class universities, rich countries also have a greater ability to attract foreign talents through better quality of life and higher remuneration – all of which drive up diversity.

In the ranking of 93 countries, which measures their ability to attract and incubate talent, European countries continue to dominate this year’s list with 16 of them in the top 25.  Switzerland maintains its number one spot, while four non-European countries are among the top ten: Singapore, the United States, Canada and Australia.

Read more

TRIEC Thanks RBC and Gordon Nixon


As chair of TRIEC, RBC’s CEO Gordon Nixon has been a champion of  immigrant inclusion in the workforce. This article was originally posted on the Maytree blog.

Ratna-with-Gord-Nixon

By Sandhya Ranjit, TRIEC

Ever since the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) was founded 10 years ago by Maytree and CivicAction, RBC has been a key partner, partnering in and funding many of our initiatives. RBC has also provided leadership through its CEO, Gordon Nixon, and Chief Human Resources Officer, Zabeen Hirji, who have demonstrated their commitment to immigrant integration as chair and co-chair of the TRIEC Council since 2009. Gordon has stated on many occasions that he sees diversity and immigration as important parts of Canada’s past, present and future.

Gordon Nixon is retiring from RBC in the fall of 2014 and will step down as Chair of TRIEC Council. As his last act as Council Chair, Gordon published an op-ed in The Globe and Mail on how a diverse workforce can help enhance our economy.

TRIEC would like to thank him for his partnership.

View this video on the impact of Gordon Nixon’s and RBC’s leadership in immigrant integration.

Diversity and Immigration – Important Parts of Canada’s Past, Present and Future

Gordon Nixon, President and CEO of RBC, was a featured speaker in the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21’s “Breakfast with a Fascinating Canadian” series on March 27, 2014. In his speech, Mr. Nixon talks about the importance of immigration to Canada’s identity and economy, and how we must move beyond diversity to inclusion to leverage our individual and collective strengths. He gives practical advice for business leaders, governments, agencies that support immigrants, and immigrants themselves.   “Those of us in leadership positions have an obligation and responsibility to get involved. The business case is clear – diversity and inclusion are both the smart thing, and the right thing, to do,” says Nixon, who chairs the diversity council at RBC.

By GordON Nixon, President and CEO, RBC Royal Bank

Gord Nixon, RBCThank you – I am delighted to be here to celebrate Pier 21 and talk about an issue that has been an important part of my activity at RBC over the past 13 years as CEO – Diversity and Immigration.  I have spoken often about this or these topics which are not the same but very much connected.

As Chairman of our Diversity Council for all of my 13 years and of The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council for 5 years, I have been very active on the diversity file. I suspect that given my retirement, this may be one of my last opportunities to publicly speak on this issue – or at least the last time people will be willing to listen.

Diversity and Immigration are such important parts of Canada’s past, present and future. Canada would be a very different place today had immigration not played such a large role in our make-up and our diversity creates a global strength like no other country.  And while diversity and immigration have been a large part of our history, they will play an equally important part of our future.

Pier 21, the Canadian Museum of Immigration, is now a national museum with a new mandate to engage with Canadians across the country.  This morning’s breakfast has traditionally been an event that only people in Halifax could enjoy.  But today, we are kicking off a series of events to help the Museum celebrate and share the diverse story of Canadian immigration to a much wider audience.  These events will raise awareness and explain what Pier 21 was, what it is and what it stands for.

The Diversity Legacy  

Canada is a great nation — a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family.  And we are not alone in recognizing this.  We hear often from quality of life rankings that Canadians have built a prosperous nation, a civil society, one rich in diversity and opportunity, that people of many different cultures call home.  There is no question that our strength and economic prosperity are derived from the combination of what we all have in common and what makes each of us different.

Diversity is not new to Canada.  In fact, it has always been a core aspect of the Canadian identity — consider our origins and the coming together of Aboriginal peoples, the French and the English those who have come from hundreds of other countries including those who passed through Pier 21.

The Canadian history of immigration is accompanied by a history of integration. Canada’s experience shows that integration need not come at the cost of diverse identities and those diverse identities create a vibrancy and mosaic that helps define Canada.

The Museum’s own literature has called Pier 21 “a humble-looking building on the waterfront of Halifax.”  Don’t judge this book by its cover because Pier 21 has played a monumental role in welcoming new immigrants to our shores.  From 1928 to 1971, more than one million people entered Canada via Pier 21 and it is estimated that today, one in five Canadians has a direct link to Pier 21.  These are simple facts that speak profoundly to how large a role immigration has played in building our country and how large a role Pier 21 played in immigration.

Coming to Canada through Pier 21, these brave men, women and children took their first steps in building new lives in a new country.  Pier 21 was a gateway to opportunity for new Canadians to reach for and achieve new heights.  And as they followed their pursuits, these people contributed to Canada’s economy, its prosperity and to the building of a great nation.

Today, Canada’s population growth rate is the highest among G8 nations — and that is thanks to immigration.  Canada welcomes almost a quarter of a million permanent immigrants each year — one of the highest rates of all developed countries. It is projected that 28 per cent of Canadians will be foreign-born by 2031 up from 20 per cent today.  And without immigration, our growth rate would be in decline, a disaster for any economy.

Immigration and diversity should not be feared but rather celebrated as it is a source of strength for our country and we do multiculturalism like no other.  We are far from perfect but we are the model for the world and we should find ways to build on our strength.

Today, immigrants to Canada are coming from different places than during earlier years.  Fewer are from European countries. More people come from Asia, South America, the Caribbean and Africa.  Today’s immigration patterns represent diversity in a different way and reflect changing global demographics.

This diverse population presents tremendous opportunities — I have said many times it is one of Canada’s great competitive advantages.  But it is only an advantage to the extent we are inclusive.  Full inclusion means everyone feels enabled to bring their perspectives, knowledge and experiences to the table. Inclusion goes beyond diversity.

RBC has a saying:  “Having diversity is interesting; doing something with it is powerful.”  What that means is that we work to create an environment with equitable access to opportunities, where we can leverage individual andcollective strengths. If you only have people who think and act in the same way, you will be very consistent, but not very innovative and flexible.

While immigration patterns have shifted, four fundamental pillars remain the same:

  •  First, what brings people to Canada- the opportunity to build a future and the desire to contribute.
  • Second, the commitment and motivation of immigrants to succeed — let us not forget being an immigrant is not easy in any country.
  • Third, Canada’s need for immigrants – to grow and to continue the work of building this country.
  • And lastly, the welcome immigrants receive as the newest contributors to our society, to a shared economic prosperity.

Looking Forward

Institutions like Pier 21 are important because they help us learn from our past to help shape our future.  Canada’s history is intertwined with immigration.  This is a past we celebrate — and it’s also something to learn from and build on.

Lester Pearson understood the connection of Canada’s history and future immigration when he said, “The destiny of Canada is to unite, not divide; sharing in cooperation, not in separation or in conflict; respecting our past and welcoming our future.”

I strongly believe diversity and inclusion has a central role in driving productivity, innovation and growth in economic prosperity.  Canada’s future prosperity will increasingly depend on innovative, highly productive businesses with the flexibility to capitalize on opportunities wherever and whenever they emerge.

But we must remain a destination of choice for skilled immigrants — for entrepreneurs, professionals, scientists.  Talent is more mobile than ever, and skills shortages are predicted for many economies. Potential immigrants have more choices than ever before and simply having our doors open will not be enough.

Everyone knows Canada’s large companies like RBC, but we are a nation of entrepreneurs and small businesses.  The financial towers may be the landmarks of our Toronto business centre but go north of the 401 and you will find an incredible number of thriving companies – growing and creating jobs and many of them were founded and are run by visible minorities who are first and second generation Canadians.

Canada needs to leverage the diversity of our workforce today, and the workforce of tomorrow and large companies like RBC need to step up to the plate.  As important as immigration has been to our economy in the past, it will be even more so as we face an aging population and global competition for talent intensifies.

Yet current newcomers to Canada have a harder time adjusting than previous generations.  A 2012 RBC Economics study found that if immigrants were earning equal pay to Canadian-born peers, personal income would be $31 billion higher.  That’s more than 2.1 per cent of Canada’s GDP.  That means we are failing to tap the full potential of these highly skilled people, and the full economic potential of our nation.

We have choices to make — choices which will determine if we become more inclusive, innovative and prosperous, or face an uncertain future.

The Call to Action

With Canada’s growth depending on immigration as much today as a hundred years ago, we must recognize that there are new challenges that require new solutions.

We are building the next phase in the growth of our great country and there are many partners and players in this important work. These include businesses and business leaders, government at all levels, the agencies that support newcomers and the newcomers themselves.

I’d like to offer some suggestions and ideas for each.

Businesses

For businesses, competition is global — whether directly or indirectly. The best way to compete is with a workforce with global experience. I’d like to provide you with an example of what that means to RBC.

We’re a Canadian company with operations in more than 40 countries. Our talent flows need to be two-way. We send Canadians to work internationally because we need an understanding of those markets coupled with an understanding of how to leverage what we have in our home market.

At the same time we’re hiring bankers with experience from many different countries. One might wonder how relevant banking experience in Brazil or China might be for Canada. But because of Canada’s immigration patterns, we have many clients — and potential clients — from those countries.

It’s a valuable asset for our business to have people who know the banking expectations and norms for these clients. Better yet, those employees will have gone through the immigration process to come to Canada. Who better to empathize with newcomers and help them build a new future?

A view that international experience is an asset is beneficial to business. Too often we hear an alternative view that is narrowly and negatively defined — it states that newcomers with no Canadian experience would be hard to fit into the Canadian workforce. This change in perspective recognizes that international experiences relate directly to the modern Canadian context. In fact, the Ontario Human Rights Commission has recognized this and recently declared the requirement for “Canadian experience” is a form of discrimination.

Overlooking new Canadians with both the skills and credentials, in terms of education or technical certifications, to do the job makes little sense. Many will speak multiple languages and understand different cultures. They will help you reflect the communities and clients your businesses serve, and can help you pursue new markets.

Giving newcomers a chance to apply the skills they have learned and to build Canadian experience also pays an employee engagement dividend. In RBC’s experience, employees who are newcomers are among the most engaged. And employee engagement is good for business. Being more open to immigrants is just one action employers can take.

At RBC we have diversity objectives built into our business plans including hard targets for both women and visible minorities in senior management. I am pleased to say we are at 37 per cent and 15 per cent respectively in Canada, but we are looking for new ways to maintain our momentum.

Business Leaders

Those of us in leadership positions have an obligation and responsibility to get involved.  The business case is clear – diversity and inclusion are both the smart thing, and the right thing to do.

Business leaders can and should play an active part.  A simple place to start is in guiding your company to encourage diversity and to be inclusive.  Leaders set the tone for their organizations.  Leaders who get involved see the benefits and opportunities and they encourage others to do so.

Business leaders should be visible in their efforts.  We are role models to many – in what we do — and in what we choose not to do. Leaders should be mentors and sponsors.

We have learned through the RBC Diversity Dialogues program that mentoring is two-way.  Mentees also learn about Canadian workplace norms and leadership, while mentors gain insight into wider talent pools and cultural markets.  You will learn and you will help new Canadians feel — and be — truly included in our society.

As a tall, white, Anglo-Saxon, male, I am in many ways the anti-diversity stereotype and, frankly, for much of my working life never thought twice about whether my career was advantaged due to my background. But it is perhaps because of my background that I have come to realize the incredible richness and competitive advantage that we gain from diversity and it has made me more focused on ensuring fairness and equality across our workforce.

We all have and are impacted by systemic biases and rather than pretend they don’t exist, we must find ways to identify them and develop strategies to compensate for them.

Chairing our diversity council since I became CEO has helped set a tone and it is thanks to people like Zabeen Hirji, and others that I have learned from, that diversity is well entrenched in our values and culture. When people begin to understand the value of diversity it is wonderful to see behaviour change and good things happen.

Government

We often hear that government’s role is to create the right circumstances for the private sector to drive economic growth. Governments need to continue to work together to find ways to improve labour force participation for recent immigrants. They need to continue addressing interprovincial barriers to job movement and invest substantially in bridge training programs, which help immigrants settle and prepare to enter the labour market.

Governments of all levels can create opportunities to bring people together. Coordination of efforts makes the transition into Canadian life for newcomers easier and enables faster contribution to economic growth.

Immigration policies can encourage integration and still actively promote awareness and retention of diversity in a variety of ways, including education, support for community centers and funding for cultural activities.

Cities are a particularly important level of government. Cities deliver social programs that help immigrants the most directly. Cities can develop strategies and even brands that attract skilled newcomers — strategies that help immigrants find employment equal to their education.

And cities are much more than purely economic arrangements. They bring people together and create new possibilities. Immigrants often come in pursuit of a better life so their new chosen city embodies the hope of positive change. This change is much more possible in cities that are diverse, stimulating and provide a wide range of amenities.

Cities that offer this kind of rich, vibrant environment will attract skilled newcomers, enhancing their likelihood of becoming centres of economic growth. Cities have to be livable, walkable and have good transit systems, services and parks. Livable cities are inclusive cities that build a sense of community, a sense of belonging and a desire to contribute to the greater good.

Because more than 80 per cent of the Canadian population lives in urban areas, a large number of us benefit from integrated strategies in these areas — from newcomers to aging populations.

Cities like Toronto, Vancouver and provinces like Alberta naturally benefit from immigration but it is the future of cities like Halifax and Montreal that must find ways to attract and retain newcomers. You are either growing or declining and the ability to attract and retain people will be a large part of that equation.

Agencies

We also need to recognize the role support agencies, not-for-profits, and immigrants themselves play in a successful immigration system.

The private sector and governments need to work together to provide support to both small businesses and the broad range of agencies that exist to provide services to newly arrived Canadians.

These organizations include TRIEC, the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, the Immigrant ACCESS Fund and CareerBridge. The United Way also supports many agencies for new Canadians. These organizations often provide a vital networking path for immigrants, helping business better understand their skills and capabilities. This is the kind of action that is required to make it easier for small businesses to tap into pools of newcomers to bolster their participation in the labour force.

Immigrants

And finally, immigrants themselves must take ownership of their development. They must understand the limitations that their comfort zones place on them and push beyond. Immigrants must pursue and build professional relationships and networks in their field and participate in events and programs to help them become ready for their next new job.

New immigrants should seek advice and information on labour markets and not hesitate to get involved with volunteer services to gain valuable experience and to build connections.

We study history to learn from our past so we can help shape our future. The lesson of our history is clear and also points the way to future economic prosperity and success: Canada has relied on immigration to build a prosperous economy and will continue to do so in the years ahead.

Canada has benefited from its diversity and it remains one of our critical competitive advantages.

We are good at it but we need to get better to maintain that competitive edge.

The Pier 21 National Museum reminds us of the opening chapter to the stories of a million people, who literally stepped through its doors … to the opportunities offered by Canada.

The museum is also responsible for the many, many millions of descendants of those people.

Pier 21 played a major part in welcoming immigrants to Canada. Importantly, it also played a fundamental role in helping shape Canada, because of the critical place immigration holds in building Canada’s growth and prosperity.

The Pier 21 National Museum tells us the story of new Canadians. We need to tell this story and it needs to be heard. That’s why events like today’s are so important.

And that’s why, today, RBC is proud to announce a gift of $500,000 for the museum’s Canada: Day 1 Project. This national travelling exhibit will offer visitors a powerful living history experience, including displays of personal stories, original artworks and archive images.

We hope everyone will have a chance to see the exhibit, and truly appreciate what diversity, inclusion and immigration have contributed to Canada.

Thank you.

Ontario’s Clarion Call for Putting Diversity to Work

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration makes the case for why hiring skilled immigrants is essential to business.

By Ranjit Bhaskar, Maytree

When Steam Whistle set up business in downtown Toronto in 1998, the brewery wanted a brew master with a master’s degree in the field. As no such post-secondary education program existed in North America then, it was forced to look afar for talent. It found the right person in the Czech Republic.

“If you’re going to [produce] a pilsner that competes internationally, you need to have people capable of bringing that to the table,” Steam Whistle co-founder Greg Taylor told the Globe and Mail in an interview. “[Also, immigrants] take their jobs very seriously and are very passionate, and at the end of the day that helps your bottom line.”

The need for global talent to remain competitive has only intensified in the years since. And that’s the message Michael Coteau, Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, was driving home at the [email protected] conference held by Skills for Change in Toronto at the end of February 2014.

“We need to attract the best and brightest from around the world to Ontario and the situation is not like before. Apart from competing with other countries, we are now in competition with other provinces,” said Minister Coteau. “The mayor of Calgary [Naheed Nenshi] was in town the other day to attract talent to his city.”

The minister said Ontario wanted to implement a new immigration strategy and intended to fully maximize the advantages newcomers and diversity bring. He pointed out that globally, seven out of the top ten brands were founded by immigrants and together these companies now employed 10 million people world-wide. “Same is the case with Fortune 100 companies and nearer home. A Bank of Montreal study found that half of Ontario’s rich are immigrants.”

The good and the bad

With one-third of Ontario’s ruling Liberal caucus being born outside the country and a quarter of them being visible minorities, “the good news is that people in government share the same stories as the immigrant population of the province,” said the minister.

But he also mentioned some bad news, namely the province and Canada underutilizing the skills of internationally-trained immigrants. A 2004 Conference Board of Canada study estimated the cost to Canada as between $3.4 – 5 billion per year in lost productivity. According to Statistics Canada, among those employed in 2006 only 24% of foreign-educated immigrants were working in the regulated profession for which they trained compared to 62% among Canadian-born.

A 2012 TD Economics study says simply closing the gap in employment rates between newcomers and native-born Canadians would mean approximately 370,000 additional people working. It is estimated that the potential increased personal income if newcomers’ skills were rewarded on par with that of native-born Canadians would top $30 billion or 2% of GDP.

Most importantly, Minister Coteau said immigration is not a one-way ticket. Newcomers to Ontario arrive with vital ties and connections to their former homelands that can be leveraged to produce economic growth and prosperity for Ontario. “We want to tap into global trade as at present only 7% of our companies are looking out for opportunities outside of the U.S. One of the keys to realizing this two-way benefit is to quickly integrate immigrants into our economy. Another key is to get the internationally trained working in their fields as soon as possible.”

He pointed to the TD Economics study that said “Newcomers complement the skills of the domestic labour force, bring new investments and innovative practices, help to open trade routes with their countries of origin and enhance cultural diversity.” Indeed, building stronger and inclusive communities that promote and value diversity would help all Ontario businesses and municipalities grow and succeed.

You don’t have to convince Steam Whistle. Since its first hiring experience 16 years ago proved to be a good one, the brewery has been proactive in employing new immigrants without Canadian training and experience. Today, its staff reflect Toronto’s much acclaimed diversity. In 2007, Steam Whistle’s inclusive hiring was recognized when it won the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council’s Immigrant Success Award for leadership and innovation in recruiting and retaining skilled immigrants.

The business case for diversity couldn’t be clearer. Listed below are a few more Good Ideas from far and near:

Leveraging Immigrant Talent for Business Development

Clarence Lochead of Hire Immigrants Ottawa examines how immigration furthers economic development objectives in Ottawa.

By Clarence Lochhead, Senior Manager, Policy and Research, Hire Immigrants Ottawa, Ottawa Business Journal

So I recently purchased an environmentally friendly humidifier for my home – called the Rumidifier – you may have heard of it. It’s a great innovation, requires no energy to run, and it works really well. What’s that got to do with immigration and business development you say? Well, it turns out that the Rumidifier was developed by a local immigrant entrepreneur. It’s a terrific success story, and one that illustrates how the skills and talents of newcomers can lead to exciting new Ottawa based business ventures, creating jobs and growing the region’s economic base.

To be sure, business development objectives are at the forefront of local efforts to ensure continued prosperity in the Nation’s Capital. Invest Ottawa for example, is leading the way with innovative programs and resources that promote and support entrepreneurialism, investment and business growth in the capital region. With downsizing and adjustments in the federal public service, this focus is both timely and welcomed.

Along with this focus on growth and diversification, there is a widely held view in Ottawa that immigrants will play an important, perhaps even critical role in the future success of the city. The Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP) for instance, tells us that “successful attraction, settlement, and integration of immigrants is essential for Ottawa’s future prosperity and vitality.”

So is there a relationship between immigration and the broad objectives of economic growth and diversification? Can immigrant talent be leveraged to advance and optimize Ottawa’s business development objectives?

I’d like to suggest a few of the ways in which immigration already furthers economic development objectives in Ottawa. As a starting point, I’ll refer to some work recently produced by the International Economic Development Council(IEDC), which is the world’s largest membership organization of economic development professionals. Last July, the IECD released a report outlining four ways in which immigration furthers economic development objectives: by contributing to economic expansion; by fueling STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) industries; by leading to immigrant owned businesses; and by supplementing the labour force in critical ways.

Let’s look at each of these in turn and see how it relates to the situation in Ottawa. Bear with me as I take you through a few numbers.

Read more here

Diversify Your Team: Looking Beyond Recruitment

Law firm Stikeman Elliot recognizes the value of hiring a diverse staff but they also realize the need to also invest, mentor and engage these new staff members to develop a productive working atmosphere. This article was originally published by HRM Online oJune 13, 2013

Canada’s population is becoming increasingly diverse, so your customer base and talent pool are likely a mix that wouldn’t have been seen 20 years ago. There are plenty of soft reasons for increasing diversity, but if you still need to be convinced, how does an increase in sales and revenue sound?

Companies with teams are likely to have better results, according to a University of Illinois study, which found that for every percentage increase in the rate of racial or gender diversity up to the rate represented in the relevant population, there was an increase in sales revenues of approximately 9% and 3%, respectively.

It’s an area that law firm Stikeman Elliot has been focused on for 15 years, starting with an ad hoc, grass roots system and building to today’s organized process for hiring, developing and promoting staff.

A focus on diversity gives the company two advantages, according to Anne Ristic, the Assistant Managing Partner Toronto. One is in recruitment – a focus on diversity gives a broader pool of candidates and therefore a better opportunity to hire the best talent. Secondly, as the firm, like many companies, increases its global client base a diverse team is an advantage for building relationships and understanding other culture groups.

“Having diversity in our workforce helps us increase our cultural fluency and our ability to connect with clients from different cultures whether in Canada or internationally,” Ristic said. It’s also  a recruitment tool as diversity becomes increasingly important for attracting top candidates.

Over the past 15 years the company has seen a big increase in diversity at every level, learning that simply hiring a more diverse group is not enough.

“When we started our focus tended to be on recruitment. We thought we just need to recruit people from different communities and then the problem would take care of itself,” Ristic said. “We realized we needed to do more on both sides – community outreach to get people applying in the first place, and then on the other side, once people are working with you, investing in mentoring and engagement. It’s important to look at what you’re doing at every stage along the pipeline.”

So how did they do it? First was to analyze every step of their employee’s lifecycle, from hiring to partner, and developing clear, objective, written criteria for every stage so everyone from new candidates to the hiring team to the executive branch understood the criteria and expectations.

They also expanded the mentoring program so each junior staff member had more than one mentor, ensuring a more diverse mentor group which gave all the employees more opportunities to learn, grow and take on more advanced assignments.

But sometimes it’s the small thing that counts. If you have ever attended an event where there was nothing you could eat or had someone repeatedly butcher your name you know how demoralizing that can be. “We ask about dietary restrictions and religious observances. They sound like small things but I think taken together it has made our workforce feel that a broad range of communities recognized within the firm,” Ristic said. “We probably get more feedback on the small things than any of the big things.”

For example, Stikeman’s “Hear my name” initiative allows co-workers to listen to a recording of an individual saying their own name before calling them. This broke down barriers where team members might resist asking for help or collaboration out of fear of mispronouncing a name.

There’s also a reflection room available for religious observances, and the company’s Outlook Calendar includes multi-faith holidays to help accommodate any potential conflicts.

It’s made a difference to engagement at the company, with the last few years’ surveys showing Stikeman staff feel welcomed and supported by the company.

“You need to keep moving forward and keep engaging people. We’re not resting on our laurels and thinking we’ve got it all under control,” Ristic said
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Five Reasons Canada Leads the World on Immigration

Alan Broadbent and Ratna Omidvar from Maytree on why they think Canada are leaders in immigration including how immigrants achieve long-term success.

Maytree Opinion, December 2012

By Alan Broadbent and Ratna Omidvar

December 18 is International Migrants Day, a time to reflect on the 214 million international migrants in countries around the world. If migrants all gathered in one place, they would constitute the fifth most populous country in the world.

It is also the eve of a new year, a time when we take stock of what we’ve done over the past months and look forward to what we will do in the coming year. Now might be the right time to take a look at the success that Canada has made out of immigration.

While we are not perfect, Canada has made determined and deliberate efforts to encourage conditions in which newcomers can flourish. We are recognized internationally as a leader in immigrant integration. Here are five reasons why:

1. Immigrants become Canadian citizens at one of the highest rates in the world

Not only has Canada traditionally welcomed newcomers as permanent additions to this country, we have also seen immigrants as “citizens in waiting.” At 89%, Canada has traditionally had one of the highest naturalization rates in the world. High rates of citizenship are associated with better employment rates, and being a citizen is a prerequisite for many aspects of civic and political participation. It also gives immigrants and refugees protection and assurance that their commitment to Canada and being Canadian is reciprocal. Recent changes to our citizenship policies make it more difficult to become a Canadian citizen, which should concern all of us.

2. Immigrants achieve long-term economic success

Although immigrants might initially suffer an earnings penalty, traditionally they have caught up over time, so that the average wage for immigrants comes within a few percentage points of the Canadian-born. Employers report strong satisfaction with immigrants who are chosen for their human capital through the points system. While we must continue to work to shorten the initial period, both of these suggest that once immigrants are able to get into the labour market, many are successful. Similarly, immigrants own homes at nearly the same rate as the Canadian-born – an anomaly among OECD nations. Owning a home is one expression of the emotional and financial commitment that immigrants make to Canada and their local community, and is therefore an important factor in successful integration.

3. The children of immigrants attain high levels of education and earnings

In fact, second generation immigrants outperform children of non-immigrants. Second generation Canadians attend post-secondary education at higher rates than non-immigrant Canadians, which results in higher earnings. One study showed that nearly 55% of second generation Canadians go to university, for example, compared to 38% of non-immigrant Canadians. The second generation also tends to improve on the lot of their parents. On average, they earn more compared to their parents at a similar time in their lives.

4. We get along with each other

Canadians of all stripes go to school together, work together, walk the same sidewalks and play in the same parks. Increasingly, we are seeing immigrants making inroads into leadership positions in our boardrooms, city halls and parliaments. Isolated incidents of interethnic conflict make headlines because they are shocking and contrary to our norms and values.

Another way that we know that we get along is that we marry each other. Mixed unions (in which one partner is a visible minority and the other is not, or between two people from different visible minority groups) are growing rapidly – at more than five times the rate of growth for all couples. While immigrants are not necessarily visible minorities, statistics show that of first generation immigrants who are visible minorities and in a couple, 12% are in a mixed union. By the second generation, that figure rises to 51%, and by the third generation, 69% of coupled visible minorities are in a mixed union.

Further, mixed unions are more likely to have children in their household. These children, even more so than Canadians at large, will grow up with diversity as a simple, given fact of life. And that bodes well for our continued social harmony.

5. Canadians support immigration

Surveys and polls consistently show that the majority of Canadians believe that immigrants make positive contributions to our country and to our communities. Canadians recognize that immigration is not a threat to our jobs or way of life. In fact, our own poll on the meaning of citizenship found that Canadians value being active in the community, volunteering, helping others and accepting others who are different – and that being a good citizen was unrelated to where you were born.

Moreover, while multiculturalism is hotly debated elsewhere in the world, it persists as a foundation of Canadian values. A recent survey suggests that three-in-five Canadians believe that multiculturalism has been good for the country. Younger Canadians believe so at an even higher rate, which, again, bodes well for all of us.

This public support is the result, in large part, of positive messages from our governments over the years about how immigration helps to build our nation, and open discussion about immigration policies that do just that.

We cannot take this support for granted. Negative messages that obsess over marriage “fraud,” “bogus” refugees and “queue-jumpers” needlessly undermine public confidence.

Indeed, we cannot become complacent about any of these achievements. Our nation’s success depends upon our continued deliberate and thoughtful efforts to create conditions where all Canadians prosper.

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.