Ottawa employers looking to new Canadians to fill skilled positions

CTV News

Tyler Fleming CTV News  Sept. 15, 2022

There is a labour crisis in Canada and as many business sectors struggle to find and hire qualified workers, there are many skilled and educated immigrants who can fill these roles, and there are organizations in Ottawa who work to make that happen.

Miguel Gonzalez and his wife came from Venezuela to Ottawa in December 2019. 

"Canada is known as one of the best countries for immigrants," says Gonzalez, adding that it was not without its challenges. "It is scary for sure because I have no relatives here, I have no friends so you have to start from the beginning and before I had a job in my country and I had a status."

Including a degree in accounting and a diploma in business administration, solid credentials for employment in his field, but there are many newcomers to Canada that are faced with a similar problem.

"Underemployment, where we see highly qualified immigrants doing jobs which do not require even a high school degree," says Henry Akanko, director of Hire Immigrants Ottawa. "When somebody arrives, somebody has to give them that first Canadian job in order for them to acquire that experience and it’s just like hiring someone who is fresh out of university, The focus should be on what skill set does the individual bring as part of your businesses talent management strategy."

Organizations, like Hire Immigrants Ottawa, an initiative of the United Way, aim to lift those barriers through programs and courses, which help connect employers with potential employees. And in doing so, companies can build a stronger, more diverse and inclusive workforce which Akanko says, is a necessity in order to drive economic growth in Canada.

"We need to do everything it takes to make sure that that skilled talent from around the world is put to good use. We were looking at immigrants around 19 to 34 years of age which means that they are going to be contributing to the labour force for a very long time," says Akanko. "And also the global connections that they bring means that we can tap into international markets."

Gonzalez transitioned through a similar program, In-Tach, and it is where he met Jessica Zhang-Chapman, who was training a group of newcomers.

"I really, really want to help newcomers but its two way right, the employers will have to open the doors and change their policies to a reasonable degree to let newcomers come into the workplace," says Zhang-Chapman. "Our demographics are changing and Ottawa is becoming a more diverse city, Canada is becoming a more diverse country and we have the immigrants so we got to provide them with more equal opportunities to continue on their professional journey."

Zhang-Chapman, is a first-generation immigrant, who has lived in Canada for more than 10 years and is also a certified professional accountant and senior manager with Welch LLP - the company which provided her first job in Canada.

Gonzalez, applied to a job opening with Welch, and in February, he was hired as a cloud booker, helping to transition companies to digital accounting. 

"This year has been amazing news for me personally because my life has changed totally," says Gonzalez. "This is an excellent company to grow and that’s why this was one of my first decisions to make. My main idea is to become a CPA and grow here in the company and personally as well. The best advice I can give to everybody is to continue knocking doors because you will find an opportunity to be here and be successful in Canada."