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Integrating immigrants into the workforce fosters business and economic growth

Diverse team of immigrant workforce

To better understand the issues preventing business growth and economic stability, the most critical piece of the puzzle is often people. In fact, it’s becoming an ever more pressing issue for local businesses, and was a major issue covered in the 2023 Welch LLP Business Growth Survey.

People, meaning the labour force, are the cogs in the wheels that keep things moving. Without people, businesses (and society) simply cannot grow and prosper.

We need to position people in the right professions and roles to maximize their skill sets and potential. Increased global mobilization of skilled workers has become an important topic and, along with the “Great Resignation” and more baby boomers leaving the workforce, Ottawa is relying heavily on newcomers to fill labour market needs.

However, there is a large portion of the population whose skills are underutilized because they are not working in their trained profession. Newcomers to Canada, often internationally educated and/or trained professionals, face many barriers to practicing their professions and often end up working in positions that do not use the skills our society sorely needs.

In other words, there is a mismanagement and misuse of the newcomer talent pool.

In the 2023 Welch LLP Business Growth Survey, we asked: In the next year, do you plan to recruit new employees, keep employee levels the same, or reduce employee numbers?

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But the problem remains how best to match newcomers’ skill sets to businesses and organizations looking for qualified talent. Qualified talent equals business growth. Full stop. The inherent problems with integrating immigrants into the workforce are layered and complex and require a multipronged approach to finding solutions — there is no quick or easy fix.

Governments, immigrant-serving organizations and businesses need to adopt strategies that leverage and maximize newcomers’ skills and abilities so they can work within their profession and fuel economic growth.

Given Ottawa’s urgent labour shortage, government and businesses need pathways to new ways of thinking. We need to expose the gaps between the successful employment of skilled professionals and the failure in the Canadian system to attract, foster and retain newcomers, which often results in downward career mobility for newcomers and talent waste.

On the government side, there is a need for additional funding for coaching and mentoring programs, along with policies that shift the focus from jobs to employment trajectories based on economic needs and the professional identities and goals of newcomers.

There must be the creation of pathways that provide much easier opportunities for newcomers to build on their existing professional skills so they can accelerate to positions that maximize their talents.

Businesses can help by investing in a positive, inclusive and healthy work culture that allows newcomers to feel accepted and thrive. By understanding the cognitive process that can influence and facilitate a cohesive and collaborative working environment, businesses can bring new cultural perspectives to the table.

Productive intercultural exchanges improve overall workplace efficiencies and create a more synergistic work culture overall. Removing cultural barriers fosters inclusivity — in the 21st century, this is critical for businesses to retain talent and
foster a growth mindset.

Collaborative problem-solving strategies must go beyond the academic community so that different levels of government, the private sector and immigrant communities can be part of the dialogue of change.

Luciara Nardon is a professor of international business at the Sprott School of Business and Amrita Hari is a director and associate professor with the Feminist Institute of Social Transformation. Their book, “Making Sense of Immigrant Work Integration, An Organizing Framework,” offers a roadmap to addressing the paradox of a global race for talent and talent waste.

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This article was submitted by Sprott School of Business. This piece first appeared in the 2023 Welch LLP Business Growth Survey, the city’s premiere survey and magazine that looks at business trends and confidence in the capital.

To download your own copy of the WBGS magazine, click here.