Ottawa businesses might be overlooking immigrant talent pool, says survey


Ottawa business leaders say they’re concerned about finding the right talent to grow their businesses, but new data released from the 2018 Ottawa Business Growth Survey on Wednesday shows that some are hesitating to embrace the city’s immigrant talent pool.

Asked to rank the most important issues for Ottawa businesses over the next five years, 63 per cent of respondents to the annual survey listed talent acquisition and retention in their top five concerns. Attracting new customers to their own business was seen as the biggest concern for 31 per cent of those surveyed, with a total of 72 per cent of respondents putting the issue in their top five.

Increases to Ontario’s minimum wage, access to capital and attracting more businesses to the Ottawa region rounded out the top five concerns.

Elsewhere, the survey points to a disconnect between the perceived value of immigration to Ottawa’s economy and the impact skilled immigrant workers can have on one’s own business.

While 77 per cent of respondents said they felt immigrants were either very important or somewhat important for the overall local economy, only 44 per cent said immigrant talent was in any way important for their own company. Slightly more than half of respondents said they’ve hired an immigrant in the past year.

Even in terms of the local economy, the perception of immigration’s value appears to be in decline. Last year’s survey showed that 82 per cent of respondents felt that immigrants were either very important or somewhat important to Ottawa’s economic success.

Though the findings seem negative, one answer to why companies aren’t hiring immigrant talent is that some are not hiring at all: 45 per cent of respondents that indicated immigrants are not important to their own business growth said it was because they’re not currently hiring.

Other respondents said immigrants are not part of their pool of applicants (21 per cent), they’re not sure how to evaluate international experience and education (11 per cent) and they’re concerned about cultural fit (nine per cent).

A Techopia Live panel featuring the likes of Shopify and Hire Immigrants Ottawa tackled the issue of talent recruitment earlier this year. Panellists encouraged business leaders to broaden their horizons when growing their companies and acknowledge unconscious biases in their recruitment processes.

Among those that believe immigrant talent is important for growing their business, roughly half believe diversity enhances innovation, productivity and profits, and 45 per cent believe new Canadians provide access to new markets and customers.

Though comprising only a quarter of the city’s overall population, Ottawa’s immigrant workforce makes up a large percentage of the capital’s most-educated talent. More than half of Ottawa residents that have doctorate degrees, and more than a third of residents with a master’s degree, are immigrants.

You can download a free copy of the 2018 Ottawa Business Growth Survey here.