Hiring newcomers is up to employers. Not government. Not NGOs. Not newcomers. Employers.

I keep seeing new reports and research coming out, as well as platitudes from business leaders about how we don’t harness newcomer talent enough in our labour market, and that we really need to especially given lower immigration numbers during COVID and our existing and coming economic economic crisis and if this sounds like a run-on sentence it is because I’m, like you I’m sure, so sick of hearing the same old same old about labour market barriers to full participation for newcomers and it’s just so blah, blah, blah without action.

What put it over the top for me was this blah blah opinion piece from the president & chief executive officer of the Business Council of Canada: Canada needs to get its stalled immigration system back on track

It ends with “The demographic factors that drive Canada’s need for immigrants have not changed due to COVID-19. Neither, it seems, has public support for immigration. In a Leger poll this summer, respondents agreed by a three-to-one margin that newcomers will help rather than hurt Canada’s long-term economic recovery. The sooner Canada’s immigration system gets back on track, the better.”

And, yeah, of course they’re correct. But, so what? Wouldn’t it be great for employer groups like the Business Council of Canada to outline their concrete steps to stop the brain waste of newcomer talent that does make it into Canada? So I went looking on their site to see how they were tackling this issue they’re so clearly passionate about and found this amazing insight: “We therefore recommend that governments and business work together to improve the recognition of foreign credentials by making the process fairer, faster and more transparent.”

On Twitter my reaction to them was “Really? That’s all you’ve got? Advice that’s 4 over decades old?” (thankfully no one really pays attention to me there)

You know, like I shared in my previous article about the WES Twitter Chat, this is so old and tiresome. How many reports, programs, organizations, projects, leaders, and success stories do you need before employers and business associations just stop publishing reports, whining, and actually do something?

Maybe the answer is employer fear of self-destruction, when employers finally looked over the economic and demographic cliff and realize they have no choice but to finally start looking at the massive newcomer talent pool. At least you’ll all be ready for them (you, who do this work in underrated appreciation while you wait for these so-called leaders to wake up and figure out what you’ve known for decades, I just want you to know that I see you and appreciate you. Hopefully one day they will too.).

The reality is there is already a tremendous body of research that continues to tell us that “hey, newcomer talent is here and it’s great and we suck at harnessing it!” And, lo and behold, it just keeps coming (see the latest reports below)!

There are a myriad of government funded and private initiatives that have spent decades holding employers’ hands, guiding them towards newcomer talent, spending public money to ensure “job ready” newcomers have been groomed for employer consumption, readying them for the Canadian workforce, helping get “Canadian experience,” providing academic and skills upgrading in “bridging programs” that connect and hand newcomers off to employers, mentorship programs, job developers who work like non-profit head hunters at no cost to employers to funnel experienced newcomers to employers, and more, and if this is another run-on sentence, it is because there is no end to the rationale, business case, supports, even money, that employers can access to hire skilled and talented newcomers.

And yet…

Right now, during a pandemic, when the economy is sluggish, employers can be complacent again. Unemployment is high, employers don’t have to worry about a labour pool (except those whose sectors have for years been advocating for faster immigration for sectors with labour market shortages (or is it training, R&D, investment shortages? Really, always hard to figure out…). So, it’s easy for them to tune out and it’s harder for non-employers to convince them. It’s up to employers.

At this point, I don’t know what to say other than that it’s up to employers. None of them can say they don’t know. None of them can say they can’t get help. None of them can say it’s too hard.

Do I have the magic solution? Nah. But, decades of the same old, same old in research, reports, diversity and inclusion initiatives do. As usual, what’s missing are the employers stepping up and getting it done.


Senator Ratna Omidvar recently hosted a conversation focusing on Immigration in Post-Pandemic Canada & Beyond that included that president & chief executive officer of the Business Council of Canada. I just can’t bring myself to watch the recording, in fear that I might throw my computer out the window in frustration. But maybe you’ll find it useful…

For now, I suppose, let’s keep on keepin’ on tellin’ those employers about the talented brain gain they keep ignoring in Canada…

Immigration and Firm Productivity: Evidence from the Canadian Employer-Employee Dynamics Database (2020)
This study examines the empirical relationship between immigration and firm-level productivity in Canada.

Persistent overqualification among immigrants and non-immigrants (2020)
Using integrated data from the 2006 and 2016 censuses, this study examines persistent overqualification over time among immigrants and non-immigrants.

The Improved Labour Market Performance of New Immigrants to Canada, 2006-2019 (2020)
This report provides a descriptive analysis of the labour market outcomes of new immigrants to Canada from 2006 to 2019.

Who is Succeeding in the Canadian Labour Market? Predictors of Career Success for Skilled Immigrants (2019)
This study is intended to inform Canadian policy and practice with respect to skilled immigrants, and to increase awareness among prospective immigrants of the factors that are associated with labour force success.

Improving Immigrant Inclusion in the Workplace (2019)
This project aimed to uncover organizational practices and strategies to facilitate immigrant attraction, inclusion and retention.

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