TORONTO – On Friday a broad group of business, corporate, and community leaders met with academics to ensure that diverse talents from immigrant communities are contributing to corporate success, and according to former Ontario PC leader John Tory, the meeting couldn’t come at a better time.
“We need immigrants,” says Tory. ”We need them in our workforce, we need them to sustain and expand not only the labour market, but our consumer market as well. And they want to be here. But there are still significant hurdles to overcome, and we need to come together to find a solution quickly.”
Those solutions are precisely what are being sought by the Beyond “Canadian Experience” forum, at which Tory will present the keynote address. Academics from the University of Toronto will join community and corporate leaders, to share knowledge not only about the barriers facing immigrants as they attempt to enter the Canadian workforce, but also effective strategies used by major Canadian companies like CIBC to take advantage of the untapped and increasingly necessary labour resource offered by highly skilled immigrants.
“The more we can do to help newcomers get into roles that match their abilities and income potential – be it through credential recognition, language training, facilitating jobs and self-employment, or other means – the better the results will be for our economy,” says Tory.
Tory cites compelling statistics: by 2015, a full 100% of Canada’s labour growth will come from new immigrants. But as of March of this year, GTA unemployment rates, at 5.4 per cent for Canadian-born workers, stood at 9.6 per cent for immigrants, and at 14.2 per cent for immigrants who arrived in the past five years. Immigrants also earn less. From 2001 to 2006, the average university-educated Canadian-born worker earned $61,904, more than three times as much as their newcomer peers ($20,143).
The panel discussion is the brainchild of the Beyond “Canadian Experience” Project, which combines the expertise of four leading organizations on this subject, the Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto, the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), and the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. This project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), brings together findings from two research projects that have just been completed, focusing on the hidden barriers keeping immigrants from full participation in the Canadian labour market.
After bringing their findings together, researchers from the project agree that employers’ request for “Canadian experience” is one of the most significant barriers preventing immigrants from contributing their talents to corporate success.