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Speed mentoring helps newcomers to Canada


Immigrants have larger wage gaps and higher levels of unemployment in Canada than Canadian-born residents, and businesses are suffering because of it.

Study after study shows that immigrants bring increased levels of innovation and productivity to the Canadian companies that employ them. Yet despite impressive credentials and relevant experience, newcomers to Canada continue to experience significantly higher unemployment rates and wage gaps compared to Canadian-born residents.

This situation persists despite a shrinking population of working-age adults and growing critical labour and skill shortages in the country:
• Statistics Canada estimates that by 2056, more than a quarter of the population will be 65 or older.
• Current fertility rates are below replacement levels.
• Canada’s economies will increasingly rely on the support of new Canadians to address these skill shortages in key job sectors.
• For the past 20 years, immigration levels have remained constant with about 250,000 permanent residents entering Canada a year. Many argue we need to double this level of immigration to meet current and future labour force needs.
• Significant barriers to employment include the difficulty immigrants face in having foreign credentials and work experience recognized, in addition to their lack of a professional network here.
• Job applicants with English-sounding names and Canadian experience are more than three times more likely to be considered for an interview than those with Chinese, Indian or Pakistani names and foreign education and work experience. The exception was applicants from Britain.

“The net effect of the hiring bias is a less globally competitive Canada,” said Sonya Kunkel, the director of diversity and inclusion at BMO Bank of Montreal.

“There is a tremendous wealth of talent and experience that is being under-utilized in our workforce. Businesses need to combat higher levels of immigrant unemployment and wage gaps with better strategies to increase their integration into the Canadian workforce. One such strategy is speed mentoring,” she said.

Many newcomers say the need to build a professional network “from scratch” in a new country and job market puts them at a large disadvantage.

One strategy helping to topple this barrier is speed mentoring, which provides newcomers with a unique opportunity to connect with Canadian businesses and build their professional network in a series of rapid-fire interviews and mentoring sessions from prospective employers. BMO, perennially recognized as a top employer for new Canadians, is the national sponsor of ACCES Employment's speed mentoring program.

“We strongly believe a diverse workforce that reflects the communities where we work and do business is critical to attracting and retaining top talent,” continued Kunkel. “Businesses need to open their eyes to the opportunity by adopting more inclusive strategies that increase the integration of new Canadians into our workforce,” she said.

ACCES helps more than 16,000 job seekers a year and has a 75 per cent success rate in assisting them find employment.

“I arrived in Canada from India in 2010, after a long 10-year immigration application process,” says Ashwin Jose, a recently-hired BMO employee. “I was self-financed, had what I thought was a decent education, with a post graduate diploma in business administration, and had considerable experience as a marketing professional at a number of major multinational firms.

“I felt optimistic. I felt confident I would find meaningful work in my field relatively quickly. I really didn’t expect it to be so difficult.”

Ashwin eventually got a job in a warehouse loading trucks. At the same time, he continued to look for a job in his preferred field, and connected with ACCES Employment.

Through speed mentoring, he met a BMO recruiter who saw his potential and suggested he apply for a job as a customer contact agent. Ashwin was soon hired to work in BMO’s Customer Contact Centre in Mississauga.
“Although my sights were set on getting into my field of expertise, I was excited about this opportunity because I knew BMO was a big company with lots of room to move around,” says Ashwin. “I knew nothing about banking, but the six-week training course BMO provided was brilliant. It broke everything down into building blocks to make banking easy to understand. After the training and coaching, I felt ready to help customers with their banking needs.”

Ashwin excelled as a customer contact agent. Within a year, he became a top performer on his team, exceeding his sales targets and boasting exemplary customer loyalty and satisfaction ratings. He is now a qualified lending and investments agent at the bank.

“It’s in our best interest, as one of Canada’s largest employers, to recruit talent from the widest and most diverse networks available to us,” said Kunkel.

“Speed mentoring works. It helps companies like ours reach a pool of highly educated, skilled and experienced professionals who bring a unique perspective to the table. Their insights and experience ensure we continue to deliver relevant and creative solutions to all our customers.”

More information is available in the careers section of www.bmo.com.
– News Canada

Posted: Aug 1, 2012

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