Congratulations to Business Development Canada, The Federal Internship for Newcomers Program and TD Canada Group for receiving Employer Champion Awards at World Skills Employment Centre’s 20th Anniversary Celebration .
The following is the script from Magdalene Cooman, Director of Employer Engagement, about the awards and how employers were selected for each award. The awards were presented to the employers by Mengistab Tsesgaye, Executive Director of World Skills, Henry Akanko, Executive Director of Hire Immigrants Ottawa and Carl Nicholson, Vice President of the Board of Directors.
Employers form a huge part in the successful integration of newcomers in the labour market. In 2007, a group of 32 employers joined forces in Ottawa to create a strategy to hire newcomers. Since then, over 300 employers have become engaged with World Skills Employment Centre, which is becoming more and more, the one stop shop to find newcomer talent. We are engaged at various levels with local Ottawa employers who have hired at least one newcomer to as many as over 500! Although we are recognizing three employers this evening, I want to ensure that every employer in this room and beyond know that beyond a doubt, that their contribution is just as valuable. These three employers were chosen for three specific reasons:
1. A long term relationship with World Skills Employment Centre
2. Strategies to address systemic changes at recruitment, onboarding and retention
3. Financial investment in World Skills to carry out the supports required to be effective and efficient
Business Development Canada
The first Employer Champion Award goes to Business Development Canada for their strong leadership in driving the business case for hiring newcomers. I first met Ellen Austin through Kelly McGahey at Hire Immigrants Ottawa. Our first meeting lasted for two hours as we bounced ideas off each other to explore how BDC could support our programs. At one of our meetings, I boldly asked her Ellen, “Can you be an employer champion for World Skills to help integrate newcomers into the workforce?” She asked me what that meant and I carefully said: “Well, you would promote our cause, host events with us, send us job postings, we can create a mentorship program, an internship program, and you could work with other organizations to help them support us …” Instead of getting worried about my growing list of demands, Ellen’s eyes gleamed and she said, “I would love to!”
Ellen’s enthusiasm has been contagious and she has kept her every every word. Ellen has worked with the brilliant team at EDC to ensure that the talent of newcomers are tapped into. Several of our newcomers are currently working at BDC, many of them have advanced in their careers and BDC has gone even further by sponsoring an entrepreneurship program with us, in partnership with ACCESS Employment Centre, to support our clients in self-employment. Added to the newcomer integration, when we walk into a BDC event, at their offices and beyond, we feel welcomed and a part of the BDC family.
TD Canada Group
The second Employer Champion Award recipient is TD Canada Group. This partnership with TD Canada and the TDVismin Group is an excellent example of how newcomers themselves can effect systemic change within their own places of work. In 2003, Mayank Sharma arrived in Canada and connected with World Skills which supported him with his resume and he successfully landed his first job at MBNA – which has now been merged with TD Canada. Four years later, Mayank came back to World Skills to find out what he could do to support newcomers and World Skills. Together we explored the idea of starting a mentorship program for newcomers and I am proud to say that seven years later, we are proud to say that 117 newcomers have been matched to mentorship opportunities and over 90 TD executives have contributed their time and effort to helping newcomers find employment, and over 30 per cent of the newcomers are actually employed at seven years later, 117 mentees have been matched to over 90 mentors and over 700 lives have been touched indirectly through this program. Numerous volunteers from the TDVismin Group have supported this initiative.
TD’s HR department has been active with our programs and in identifying talent, and many newcomers are employed at TD Canada. In fact, only two days ago, I got an email from one grateful client, Siddarth, who wrote, “I am so happy and excited to share with you that I have been offered a position at TD Canada and will be joining them on 23rd October. I thank you all for the support, guidance and morale boost.”
Federal Internship for Newcomers Program
Our third Employer Champion Award recipient is the Federal Internship for Newcomers Program. This is one of our hallmark programs at World Skills Employment Centre. Words cannot express the excitement and buzz which this program has caused in Ottawa, across Canada and globally. Yesterday, in a conversation with our Executive Director, I learnt about the program’s humble beginning in 2007 and of how the seed was planted. Here is the back drop:
After a meeting with the Employer Council of Champions, one woman in that meeting left with a big idea and she told Mengis that she would like to discuss the idea with him and Hire Immigrants Ottawa. The idea was a brilliant one – one that would forever change how newcomers can access work in the Federal government and leverage on the skills, experience and expertise of newcomers. For the first time in the history of Canada, the doors opened wide to opportunities within the Federal Government. The woman behind this idea was Corrine Prince-St. Amand, who is now the Director General of Settlement, Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Corrine championed the Federal Internship Program and her work and that of her hard working team, has inspired others across Canada and the globe to use this program as a model, which can facilitate systemic change.
What started as a pilot program in 2007 with 10 newcomers, has now expanded to supporting over 550 newcomers in securing employment across 27 Federal Government departments. It has also inspired the City of Ottawa to develop a similar internship program and, if I might add here, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board is also exploring the same. The program, done in partnership with World University Education Services and Service Intégration Travail Outaouais, has expanded across four provinces. World Skills is the lead partner in Ottawa and ensures that all partner agencies are fully aware of the opportunities for newcomers.
The leadership which has been set by this program at the highest level of government, is exemplary and demonstrates to us what can be done when there is an employer champion and a desire to create systemic change to remove employment barriers for newcomers.