TO support newcomers to British Columbia, a government-funded labour market partnership has identified ways to help refugees and immigrants connect with jobs and employers.
The Province provided the Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC-BC) with more than $186,000 for the Mapping Refugee Skills and Employer Needs project. This year-long project focused on developing employment opportunities for refugees in Surrey and Abbotsford, where the majority of refugees in B.C. have settled. A final report has summarized the project findings.
Of the refugees who were surveyed through this project, 55% had some level of post-secondary education, up to and including doctoral degrees. These newcomers have a lot to offer potential employers.
The project also uncovered the challenges faced by employers in connecting to the refugee talent pool in these two communities, which includes knowing how and where to connect with job-ready refugee talent and boosting refugees’ ability to communicate effectively in English.
The final report identified specific strategies that would help employers connect to the refugee talent pool. These strategies include co-ordinating the development of pre-employment programming, including English language training in the workplace, and facilitating interactions between employers and refugee job-seekers.
IEC-BC already has tools in place to help employers reach this untapped talent pool. BC JobConnect, its new online portal, connects job-ready refugees and other newcomers to B.C. employers seeking the skills and talents they bring.
The Community and Employer Partnerships program provides more support to people who are struggling to gain a foothold in the job market. It helps build stronger partnerships with industry and labour to connect British Columbians with classroom and on-the-job training, while making it easier for employers to hire the skilled workers they need.
To date, the program has helped more than 1,675 job seekers benefit from work experience and funded almost 300 projects throughout the province.
Patrick MacKenzie, CEO, Immigrant Employment Council of BC, said on Monday: “Having a job that one can be proud of is one of the best ways to integrate into your new community and refugees have a lot to give ― their skills, resilience and unique perspectives. Employers recognize the value of this talent pool, but often need help tapping into it. Working with our partners, we have identified strategies that can ensure successful employment outcomes for this newcomer group.”
Manpreet Grewal, director of multicultural and immigrant integration services, Abbotsford Community Services, noted: “The biggest asset of the project was the collaboration between all the partners, which helped us understand individual refugee’s level of readiness for employment, and uncover the needs of employers in terms of their successful recruitment and retention.”
Allan Asaph, executive director, Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, said: “We were pleased to have been part of this valuable research. When we reached out to local businesses for their participation we found that there was a high level of interest in engaging in dialogue on this important issue.”
- Mapping Refugee Skills and Employer Needs in Surrey and Abbotsford was carried out between November 2016 and October 2017 by IEC-BC, in partnership with the Surrey Board of Trade, Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society and Abbotsford Community Services.
- It was informed by substantive input from 42 employers in Surrey and Abbotsford and it maps the skills and occupational profiles of 144 refugees living in these communities.
- The Immigrant Employment Council of BC is a not-for-profit organization that provides employers with solutions, tools and resources they need to attract hire and retain qualified immigrant talent.
- Surrey Newcomer Employment Week, October 21–27, is hosting over 35 events through 18 community partners.
- On average, British Columbia welcomes 37,000 permanent residents every year, 1,600 of whom are refugees.
- Due to the federal government’s commitment to Syrian refugees, B.C. received 1,725 refugees in 2015, and 4,095 in 2016.
- In response to the federal government’s Syrian refugee initiative, the B.C. government has provided up to $2 million under the Canada-B.C. Job Fund to help get refugees job training and match them with employers.