IEC-BC and the Immigrant Employment Councils of Canada (IECC) National Network are excited to announce the launch of an innovative new project to deepen employer engagement, amplify employer voices, and promote the sharing of effective practices and strategies for skilled immigrant labour market integration. Read our press release below, and be sure to visit the IECC website to learn more about the network and its members.
National Employer Feedback Forums Aim to Transform Immigrant Talent Inclusion
Groundbreaking project shifts focus to employers’ perspectives
VANCOUVER, December 7, 2023 — As Canada continues with its ambitious targets to welcome up to 500,000 in 2025, employers need effective strategies to attract, hire, and retain skilled immigrants more than ever.
Despite this need, Statistics Canada data reveal a concerning disparity in employment outcomes for newcomers compared to individuals born in Canada, resulting in lost output, prosperity, and inclusion. In response to this challenge, the national network of Immigrant Employment Councils of Canada (IECC) has introduced the National Employer Feedback Forums Project. The Forums will establish a formal structured feedback mechanism that will provide governments and organizations serving immigrant communities with valuable insights into employer perspectives and needs to shape future policies and programs. The project will also build a common platform where best practices are shared.
The Feedback Forums will collect and analyze constructive input from employers and share practices between diverse stakeholders. These include employers, local business experts, and community and service providing organizations (SPOs) across Canada. The forums will use facilitated, thoughtful consultations and rigorous analysis to help employers learn and share the most effective ways of attracting, hiring, and retaining immigrant talents in Canada.
Employers are pivotal to the success of Canada’s immigration priorities and are responsible for a large part of the integration and inclusion of newcomers into the labor market. However, they currently lack a formal process and place for comprehensive discussions regarding their challenges, insights, and strategies for the recruitment and retention of qualified immigrant talent. The project will give them a louder voice when it comes to programs that prepare newcomers for work or determine how newcomers are chosen to come to Canada.
The project will be organized by local immigrant employment councils across Canada, including the Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC-BC), Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC), Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC), Rural Manitoba Immigrant Employment Council (RMIEC), Saskatoon Open Door Society (SODS), Workforce Collective, Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), New Brunswick Multicultural Council (NBMC), and Halifax Partnership.
“If we want a successful economy, we must give employers the tools and the voice they need to attract and recruit top talent. That’s why I’m thrilled to partner with immigrant employment councils from coast to coast so that Canada’s employers can communicate labour market needs promptly and share and learn practices to integrate immigrant talent,” says IEC-BC CEO Patrick MacKenzie.
The Feedback Forums Project empowers local IECs to facilitate focused and intentional discussions about effective labor market integration practices informed by employer perspectives and needs, fostering action-based solutions co-developed with stakeholders.
This initiative aims to transform the landscape of immigrant talent integration, enhancing the comprehension of the immigration system from the employers’ standpoint, and formulating forward-looking approaches to align immigration plans, policies, and processes with labor market needs.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia
About the Immigrant Employment Councils of Canada (IECC) National Network
The IECC National Network is a collaborative partnership of twelve immigrant employment councils across Canada, committed to working together to improve labor market attachment by connecting skilled immigrants with Canadian employers. The National Employer Feedback Forums Project is a flagship initiative of the IECC National Network, aiming to fortify employer engagement and enhance immigrant talent integration in the Canadian workforce.
IEC-BC is proud to announce the publication of our 2022-2023 Annual Report. Below, you can find an excerpt from the report’s Message from Board Chair Jay Schlosar and CEO Patrick MacKenzie:
The past year has been one of tremendous growth for IEC-BC. As the BC and Canadian economies roared back to life in 2022 the country’s population grew by over a million people, or 2.7 per cent—the greatest relative increase since 1957. In welcoming more immigrants, the need for IEC-BC’s unique expertise has grown: the last four years have seen the organization’s programming grow fourfold.
With a larger team and more resources at our disposal came greater impact for employers. Dozens of partners from coast to coast continue to adopt IEC-BC programs like FAST and ASCEND, confirming the value of employment programming developed in collaboration with industry. Here in BC, we connected three times more talented immigrants with employers than last year, deepened our engagement with tech sector employers, and drastically increased numbers of employer mentors, who consider IEC-BC programs as key pillars of their hiring and inclusion strategies. Longtime partners continue to look to IEC-BC for solutions to their labour force needs while more small- and medium-sized businesses than ever are benefitting from our programs.
By Ryan Carter, Project Lead at the Immigrant Employment Council of BC
It’s no secret that immigrants are crucial to Canada’s prosperity. Immigrants make up over 23% of the country’s population, which is a higher percentage than every other developed nation except Australia. Immigrants are also one of the most productive parts of the labour force: they are younger and significantly more educated than Canadians. Despite this, immigrants struggle to find work. As of August 2023, immigrants suffer from 9.2% unemployment, compared to only 5.4% for people born in Canada.
The question of why immigrants struggle to find work conjures time-tested solutions such as foreign credential recognition programs, soft skills training, and mentorship. However, this misses a central issue: what is stopping employers from hiring immigrants?
The Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC-BC) is a not-for-profit that provides BC employers with solutions, tools and resources they need to attract, hire and retain qualified immigrant talent. Two of our recent projects, Tech Connect Plus and the Tech Bootcamps, have helped us to identify three main challenges employers face in connecting with immigrant talent, along with potential solutions as well:
Soft Skills in the Workplace
Soft skills are critical to succeeding in the workplace: 92% of hiring professionals believe that they matter as much or more than hard skills. Despite their importance, soft skills are poorly understood. Over two years, IEC-BC collaborated with employers to unpack soft skills in the tech sector and to co-design bootcamps to help newcomers understand and demonstrate theses skills in the workplace. Through this process, 109 soft skills were identified and distilled to the top six soft skills needed to succeed in Canada’s tech sector:
While they have been a popular topic for several years now, many employers continue to struggle how to assess soft skills. Some of the most effective solutions employers involved in the bootcamps developed included clearly defining soft skills, building context-specific rubrics for assessing soft skills, and prioritizing their development as part of a broader retention strategy.
Workplace Culture Fit
One of the biggest barriers identified by employers when trying to hire newcomers is alignment with workplace culture. In panel discussions, focus groups, and surveys for this report, both employers and newcomers reported that workplace culture fit is one the most significant barriers to hiring immigrants.
Unsurprisingly, when employers were asked to pick between two hypothetical candidates with equal hard skills, they responded with soft skills as being the tie breaker. However, when asked to expand on their answers, employers explained that good soft skills meant good workplace culture fit.
Employers are reticent to artificially change their workplace culture, but also recognize that jargon, cultural norms, and unspoken rules can cause talented new hires to burn out, or to not be chosen in the first place. IEC-BC is currently developing a series of workshops and courses that address this by helping employers more effectively and inclusively identify what kinds of interpersonal skills they want in new hires through improved job descriptions, more inclusive interview strategies, and better onboarding and retention strategies. Our hope is that these solutions will help employers better understand themselves and, in the process, learn how to more effectively cultivate diverse talent.
Internal Barriers and the “Risk” of Hiring Newcomers
According to LinkedIn, between August 2022 and August 2023, Canada’s hiring rate slumped by 24%. In the same period, the number of job applications has increased by 13%.A cooling job market may have resulted in more ‘risk-averse’ hiring methods. IEC-BC’s Tech Connect Plus project has revealed important insights into the barriers inside organizations to hiring and retaining diverse talent. This project focuses on uncovering what combination of demographic factors and workplace readiness programs newcomers have undertaken makes them most conducive to employers interviewing and hiring them. Learnings from this project are being adapted into employer learning resources. Through this project, we have found a continued emphasis on the gap between recruiters and talent acquisition on the one hand and hiring managers on the other.
Talent acquisition specialists indicate a great interest in connecting with diverse talent. At the same time, this is countered by a reluctance from some hiring managers who suggest that immigrants require more work to onboard. However, their potential reluctance to hire newcomers does not mean that they are less welcoming of diverse talent, but instead reflects a broader trend: both hiring managers and talent acquisition are under-equipped to utilize newcomer talent. As of 2017, 36% of employers did not have a structured onboarding process, and only 12% of employees in 2021 felt their company does a good job of onboarding.
This closely reflects IEC-BC’s recent findings from ongoing employer workshops. Talent acquisition specialists noted that onboarding needs more time and resources to be successful. Interestingly, they also felt that they needed to take on more expertise for onboarding instead of leaving it to hiring managers. For internal barriers to be overcome, organizations need to question why these barriers exist: what workplace culture gaps exist, what resources are needed to successfully onboard and retain talent, and how can they build a driven, diverse, and dynamic team?
Effective is Inclusive, and Inclusive is Effective
Building a diverse workforce isn’t just a good thing to do, it makes business sense. 75% of diverse companies exceed their financial targets, 70% are better positioned to capture new markets, and 43% of companies with diverse management had higher profits.
In other words, diverse teams aren’t just a moral good, they’re an economic necessity in order to remain competitive.
Be sure to register for our upcoming Effective Inclusion in Tech series of workshops and courses here to learn more about how you can overcome these barriers and more.
Meet our 2023-2024 Board of Directors, composed of new and returning members dedicated to building BC’s economy through improved immigrant integration into the provincial labour force.
Ealeen Wong (Vice Chair)
Brooke Ko (Treasurer)
Jay Schlosar (Chair)
We are fortunate to have the steady guidance of these industry and community leaders on the IEC-BC Board of Directors. British Columbians benefit from the expertise, backgrounds and perspectives they bring as stewards who help IEC-BC bring greater impact to those we serve.
IEC-BC extends a special thank you to those board members who will be completing six years of dedicated service as of our next annual general meeting!
IEC-BC is pleased to announce the publication of its latest onboarding toolkit for employers.
The purpose of this toolkit is to assist British Columbia employers to effectively recruit, hire, onboard and retain a diverse workforce that includes Afghan refugees. To effectively create a welcoming and inclusive workplace and successfully integrate new employees who can contribute productively, employers can find the most success with a planned approach that follows practical steps.
We encourage you to share this IEC-BC product with your network or replicate it to suit your needs, however, please ensure that any versions of the product are attributed to IEC-BC.
Recently, IEC-BC’s CEO Patrick MacKenzie and New Brunswick Community College President and CEO Mary Butler penned an op-ed about the FAST program‘s impact and potential in New Brunswick. Like many other parts of Canada, New Brunswick is experiencing a housing shortage. Part of this is because there are not enough skilled tradespeople to build the new housing that communities need.
Read the full piece below:
A recent report by economist Richard Saillant for the Housing Hub of New Brunswick contends that New Brunswick housing costs will continue their alarming run-up unless we make meaningful additions to the supply of skilled tradespeople who can build more housing. In an interview, he recommended making the most of the skills possessed by immigrants arriving in New Brunswick as one way out of the crunch.
Newcomers to Canada still face too many hurdles when it comes to having their skills and qualifications recognized and getting hired. As a result, many are underemployed and do not contribute to their full potential, as a recent study from RBC confirms.
When skilled tradespeople are underemployed, we all feel the pinch through reduced housing availability and affordability.
Last year, New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) became the first post-secondary institution in Canada to pilot the Facilitating Access to Skilled Talent (FAST) program.
Developed by the Immigrant Employment Council of B.C., FAST provides newcomers planning to come to the Atlantic region and those already here the opportunity to assess and certify their skills in a wide range of occupations in the skilled trades, beginning with carpentry.
Newcomers using FAST undertake occupation-specific workplace technical and cultural competency assessments online, testing their knowledge and skills against industry benchmarks. They become more confident and ready to show employers their skills.
As early adopters of the FAST program, NBCC sees the incredible potential of this program to add skilled tradespeople to the workforce and give newcomers the economic opportunity they deserve. The program has already delivered results for hundreds who have taken part across the country and around the world.
With the recent expansion of the federal immigration levels, more newcomers than ever will be arriving on our shores. It is vital that these new workers can make meaningful contributions in sectors like housing construction. That means an immigrant selection process that responds to the need for trades, as well as more cooperation between community organisations, government, post-secondary, employers and municipalities to holistically integrate newcomers.
New Brunswick’s housing supply challenges can’t be fixed overnight, but this partnership to deploy the FAST program will help new immigrants certify their skills and better demonstrate them to employers, putting more people to work building housing. That’s a great start.
Mary Butler is the President and CEO of New Brunswick Community College (NBCC). She worked in the public and private education sector in multiple jurisdictions prior to joining NBCC in 2011. Central to her values and practice is her commitment to every individual’s right and opportunity to reach their full potential.
Patrick MacKenzie is the CEO of the Immigrant Employment Council of B.C. He has made a career of public service from coast to coast, working in policy and program areas supporting Canada’s most vulnerable communities. Previously, Patrick spent 11 years working for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in Ottawa and its offices in Vancouver.
IEC-BC recently wrapped our final Tech Bootcamp, and we’re delighted to report that it was a huge success.
The Tech Bootcamps initiative was developed to provide an opportunity for employers in the tech sector to co-design an engagement opportunity that will help tech-skilled newcomers adapt and upgrade their soft skills, and encourage employers to use learnings from their participation and interactions with tech-skilled newcomers to create more inclusive and effective workplace practices.
Why are the Bootcamps needed? Although the BC tech sector has seen phenomenal growth, hiring of tech-skilled immigrants hasn’t kept up with the larger trend. With the sector expected to grow another 22 per cent from 2022-2024, the unemployment rate for immigrants remains 1.73 times higher than for those born in Canada.
In addition, immigrants who are employed consistently earn less than people born in Canada, despite having higher levels of education and experience. For example, 44% of Tech Bootcamp attendees have 5+ years of experience in tech, and 56% have a graduate degree.
From our surveys and interviews with tech employers, the most common and significant hurdle to hiring newcomers was soft skills. These are the loosely-defined and expansive category of skills that include interpersonal and cultural communication, personal resilience, critical thinking, collaboration, coachability, and emotional intelligence.
The Tech Bootcamps differ from other soft skills training by making these nebulous skills objective, improvable, and achievable through activities and exercises that we have optimized in collaboration with employers over the course of the bootcamps. As we advanced through the in-person and virtual bootcamp schedule, we incorporated real-time feedback from participants and tech facilitators to tailor the experience to provide the most value.
As participant Sima told us, “I really enjoyed both bootcamps…I had the opportunity to engage with various facilitators and gain valuable insights into the tasks at hand. I was particularly glad to see that the second bootcamp incorporated even more practical components and introduced fresh thoughts and ideas to enhance the overall experience.”
Through activities like breakout sessions working on mock interviews, personal narratives, leveraging Linkedin, and emotional intelligence, tech-skilled newcomer participants gained valuable and hands-on experience adapting and upgrading their soft skills to the Canadian job market.
Even though the final bootcamp is now in the rear view mirror, the project is still very much in progress.
In conjunction with partners at Hire Immigrants Ottawa, IEC-BC will organize and deploy a series of employer workshops. The Tech Bootcamps Employer Workshops will focus on helping employers build more effective and inclusive job descriptions, interviews, onboarding strategies, and how to develop a workplace culture focused on growth.
Working with our partners at the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, we will also be developing and launching a series of six online micro-credential courses. The Tech Bootcamps Online Employer Courses will focus on helping employers better understand, identify, and assess the top soft skills identified in the Bootcamps.
Stay tuned for more news and updates on these employer workshops and online courses!