HM Medical Clinic

A report on consultations with
employers and associations
June 2009
Immigrants will represent nearly 100 per cent of net labour market growth in Canada by the year 2011.1 More than ever, employers recognize the need to effectively integrate immigrants into the workplace and they seek solutions to leverage the talents and contributions immigrants bring to the Canadian economy. From January to March 2009, Colleges Ontario and 12 colleges consulted with employers, ethno-cultural business organizations, business associations and unions to find out their views on employing immigrants and how colleges can support the transition of immigrants to the province's workforce. Input was obtained through a variety of formats including facilitated round-table discussions, one-on-one dialogues, and an online questionnaire. The purpose of these consultations was to obtain advice from employers on how colleges can better address language needs for the workplace and support immigrant integration. Colleges engaged in discussions with 218 organizations. These organizations represented a wide cross-section of large, medium and small businesses in five industry sectors that included health care, hospitality, science and technology, construction and manufacturing. Many of these organizations were interested in participating because they understand the valuable role of immigrants in helping companies respond to current labour and consumer market realities.
This report presents the findings from these consultations, offering a snapshot of the experiences of the participants, and outlining some suggestions on how colleges can play an even greater role in effectively integrating immigrants into the workplace.
As part of the Language Skills for the Workplace2 project funded by the federal government, colleges had an opportunity to hold discussions with employers on language needs and immigrant integration. Participants were asked about: • their experiences in the recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion of immigrants • training, education and development priorities in the workplace • occupation-specific and workplace-specific language needs • ways that colleges can effectively help employers in the integration of immigrants into employment.
Colleges held discussions with their local employer community and Colleges Ontario contacted larger provincewide employers and associations. There were 218 unique organizations that participated: 198 employers, 17 associations and three unions (See Appendix for list of participants). Employers from a broad range of sectors were invited to participate. Approximately 60 per cent of participants were from small- and medium-sized businesses and 40 per cent were large employers (employers with more than 500 employees).
1 Statistics Canada, The Immigrant Labour Force Analysis Series, The Canadian Immigrant Labour Market in 2006: First Results from Canada's Labour Force, September 2007.
2 Language Skills for the Workplace: Occupation-specific Language Training in Ontario Colleges, funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. SECTION 1 – KEY FINDINGS
Overall, participants spoke positively of their experiences and outcomes with employees who were immigrants. While training and helping immigrants integrate into the workforce understandably require continuing supports (as is the case for all employees), participants did not see this as diminishing the value that immigrants bring to their job, the company or the economy as a whole. Immigrants were seen as a wise investment in the sustainability, stability and growth of the business. Many participants emphasized the value that immigrants' international experience brings to companies that serve a diverse clientele or are engaged in global businesses. In these situations, international experience was described as an advantage and not seen as a barrier. As a recent report states, "Our immigrant communities represent our key connection to the global economy – giving us inroads into each one of the world's dynamic, fastest growing, emerging economies."3 Colleges were recognized as important partners for employers in effectively integrating immigrants into employment. During the discussions, a number of common themes emerged: a. Communication skills While generic language proficiency of immigrants is fundamental, participants in the consultations emphasized the critical importance of the broader range of socio-cultural, sector-specific and occupation-specific communications skills for immigrants in the workplace.
b. Cultural competency training for employers As workplaces become more diverse, some participants indicated a growing need for employers to be trained in cultural competency4 and how to effectively manage and work with people from different backgrounds and cultures. Building organizational capacity in cultural competency improves workplace dynamics and makes the integration of immigrants more successful.
c. Accessible and affordable training For most immigrants, finding the time and the money to upgrade their skil s can be chal enging. Participants in the consultations highlighted the need for such professional training to be accessible, affordable and flexible enough to accommodate the needs of employers and employees. While some employers cover some financial costs of training immigrants, they acknowledged the limitations of their own budgets to ful y meet the various educational and upgrading needs of their diverse immigrant employees. d. Foreign credentials evaluation and language assessment One of the challenges for employers is a lack of knowledge and resource capacity to evaluate foreign credentials.
e. Role of colleges Participants saw col eges as an important resource for both immigrants and employers in supporting immigrant integration into the province's workforce. A number of participants also raised issues regarding the evaluation of education, training and credentials obtained outside of Canada, as well as the assessment of language skills.
Recognizing the value that immigrants bring to their business, many employers spoke of their immediate need and genuine commitment to find and support sustainable interventions and solutions that would be adaptable to their respective sectors and workplace cultures. They emphasized that such help would be beneficial for the employer, immigrants, and other employees. 3 Martin Prosperity Institute, Ontario in the Creative Age, February 2009, page 33,
4 Cultural competence refers to an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures.
Language Skills are Fundamental to Meaningful Employment
First and foremost, most of the consultation participants emphasized that English/French competency is an essential requirement for securing employment and for opening opportunities for promotion. The identification of the language training needs of immigrants varied among the consultation participants based on sector and occupation. Participants discussed the continuum of language training needs that range from generic English/French oral and written proficiency through to the more focused sector-specific, occupation-specific and workplace-specific language training. Language competency was reported to be of an even more pressing concern for those participants with accountability for workplace safety and health care or regulated standards in the workplace. Participants in the consultations raised common linguistic topics that should be addressed in language training programs for immigrants: • comprehension (e.g., lack of understanding of instruction, requesting information) • listening and speaking • phraseology and word construction • grammatical precision • computer literacy and etiquette • pronunciation. Socio-Cultural Aspects of Communications are Critical for
Immigrant Success in the Workplace
While participating employers generally praised the excellent technical skills, determination and dedication of their immigrant employees, the lack of understanding of the socio-cultural context of the workplace or sector was frequently seen as a major barrier. Many participants said that acquiring socio-cultural communications skills that reach beyond generic English/French language functionality and proficiency is becoming increasingly important for successful workplace integration. This encompasses the range of socio-cultural skills and business/organizational knowledge, both verbal and non-verbal. It covers the broad spectrum of skills for communicating effectively in the workplace, with colleagues, superiors, customers/clients, and suppliers; examples mentioned by participants included eye contact and personal space practices, adherence to time commitments, explicit versus implied performance feedback, as well as how assertive to be in communication with customers, colleagues and supervisors. " A key is educating immigrants on the specific workplace expectations and communications norms, which may vary from an immigrant's home country." – Certified General Accountants of Ontario " In Canada, technical competency is assumed; what immigrants need is insight into the Canadian culture – the subtleties of it." – Ernst & Young Some employers stated that colleges should deliver language training classes that combine workplace orientation, cultural and social norms. Frequently identified social, cultural or business context needs included an understanding of: • culture, norms, practices, diplomacy in workplaces in Canada • regulatory frameworks and requirements • collaborative and teamwork styles • authority versus non-hierarchal work environments • effective and acceptable networking • non-verbal communications, for example, body language, eye contact, tone of voice • colloquialism, idioms, slang • leadership and management styles. Many participating employers reported that immigrants with solid language proficiency often still experience difficulty communicating effectively in in-person, telephone and online communications. This can result in misunderstandings in the workplace or not achieving desired outcomes related to, for example, day-to-day operations, collaborative problem solving with colleagues, and presentations. Helping immigrants translate and reframe their prior experience for the workplace in Canada was seen as essential for effective integration. For example, the difference in management practices and organizational hierarchy can vary significantly between the Canadian business context and that of the country where the immigrant was previously employed. Participants noted that communications training required varies from immigrant to immigrant depending on, for example, their prior country of residence or origin and the stage in their career path or work cycle.
" Internationally trained workers need to gain a better understanding of Canadian corporate culture. This is particularly important for those seeking leadership roles as they may not have learned some of the essential soft skills from their previous experience." – TD Bank Financial Group Some participants in every sector emphasized the growing need for immigrants to have a greater grasp of socio-cultural and business communication skills. These communications challenges also have been highlighted in various other reports over many years, including: • a 2004 study by Environics for the Public Policy Forum (PPF) reported that "very likely barriers" included language difficulties and communications difficulties5 • feedback from a consultation of business sector employers conducted by a GTA college in 2005 indicated that the communications gaps were related to intercultural workplace proficiency and vocabulary knowledge within the business occupations • consultations by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC): · found that soft skills, language competency and communications with other workers are often significant issues that arise after hiring, and that immigrants often face difficulty in understanding the different language nuances in accepting assignments6 · pointed to communications skills as a key barrier to successful employment7 · identified the "ability to communicate in English dominates among perceived Consistent with the input colleges received from employers, these reports highlighted the pressing need for addressing the broader communications skills needs of immigrants as a way of reducing or preventing unnecessary misunderstandings in the workplace and of increasing productivity and employee job satisfaction.
Employers Also Need Training
Several participants raised the importance of training of all staff in cross-cultural/intercultural competency and diversity, particularly managers and other immigrant and non-immigrant employees. This was seen as an essential element to effectively integrate immigrants into the workplace and help the entire workforce work productively in a multicultural environment.
Many employers recognized that understanding the different cultural contexts of immigrants is an important skill. To foster diverse teams in the workplace, everyone in the organization must understand the impact that cultural norms and personal biases have on an individual's perceptions. Without an understanding and awareness of personal cultural norms, some participants reported that the training investments in their immigrant employees and the efforts to integrate them into the workplace can be less than effective. Increasingly, knowing how to better understand, better communicate with and engage immigrants is seen as an important competency for employers and their staff. Some of the larger employers and unions consulted, for example, talked about implementing diversity and cultural awareness training for all employees - from senior management through to all levels of the organization and across all business units. Senior managers, in particular, are frequently expected to manage a diverse team of immigrants and effectively coach and counsel them to success.
5 Survey of Canadian Employers and Human Resource Managers, "Bringing Employers into the Immigration Debate," 6 Skilled immigrants in the labour market: Report on employer focus group in GTA, 2005.
7 – Research for Marketing Plan Development: A COMPAS Report for Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, March 2006.
8 Telephone and Online SME Study – PowerPoint Presentation report by Innovative Research Group, Inc., 2008.
" Equally the non-immigrant manager/coach/counsellor too would benefit from training that allows them to understand that their own perceptions and values can be a barrier to working with, motivating or assessing an immigrant employee with a different cultural context, perceptions and values." – Ernst & Young ACCESSIBLE AND AFFORDABLE TRAINING
More Accessible and Affordable Training for Immigrants
is Needed
Most participating employers were engaged in some internal or external training for their immigrant employees and their organizations. Time and financial constraints were often reported as barriers to the type, frequency and consistency of training. Participants reported that some training for immigrants may be sponsored or subsidized by the employers, depending on the job classification of the immigrant employee. However, there are a larger number of immigrants who do not benefit from such supports. The availability of affordable training is a major issue for immigrants who must take time off for training and for employers who need to provide or subsidize the training.
Multiple demands on time and finances are challenges for most people, and can be particularly challenging for new immigrants. Costs are a barrier and immigrants struggle to afford the cost of training. As one employer noted: " What is the immigrant to do who needs a job to support the family, yet work study means reduced pay and can take up to three to four months for placement during which time there is no income? They are not eligible or too proud to go on assistance, yet want to continue having meaningful employment. They end up falling through the cracks." – Yee Hong Centre for Geriatric Care Collectively, participants made a strong case for accessible, affordable and flexible training schedules and in various delivery modes. There was no consensus on a common approach to address these training needs and participants suggested a range of delivery options. For example, some felt strongly that training should be offered at the workplace during work hours, while others felt it should take place off-site during evenings and weekends. While some emphasized that language training could not effectively be delivered online, others felt that this was a valuable delivery mode. Some employers recommended a combination of classroom and off-site as offering the best of both methods. Government subsidies to support the necessary range and depth of training for immigrants were identified by some as being helpful. Participants talked about issues related to mixing levels of employees in language training. Some maintained that senior-level employees would feel most comfortable training on their own (e.g., through the use of online instruction such as "webinars") or in a classroom at a college. Likewise, participants suggested that junior-level employees may feel intimidated or awkward taking training with their managers or supervisors. In virtually all cases, flexibility was seen as paramount to meet employer scheduling needs, as well as addressing the learning and competing responsibilities of immigrant learners. FOREIGN CREDENTIALS EVALUATION AND LANGUAGE
Evaluation of Credentials for Foreign Trained Workers
The lack of employer knowledge and resource capacity to evaluate foreign credentials in a
timely manner continues to be a barrier and source of frustration. A number of the employers
see colleges as having a valuable role in assisting in the assessment or validation of education
and qualifications acquired outside of Canada.
Standardized Language Assessments
Some participants raised concerns about inconsistent language standards and a lack of easily accessible assessment tools. The consultations identified that employers often are confused about English/French language skills assessment results and training options (e.g., the myriad government programs, deliverers and inconsistency of language skills testing by various assessment agencies). Participants suggested that providing them with more information about Canadian Language Benchmark levels, particularly in the workplace, and a common assessment tool for business communication skills would be useful. Several consultation participants mentioned that college certification, whether for language or skills training, is an easy way for employers to determine the skills and knowledge of prospective immigrant employees. They believe that a college certificate shows that the immigrant has upgraded his/her skills, which makes it easier to find a job in Canada and allows for better integration of the newcomer to employment. ROLE OF COLLEGES
Consultation participants provided a wealth of information on how colleges can continue to enhance the effectiveness of their programs and services to help employers facilitate the successful integration of immigrants into Ontario's workforce. The experience that colleges have with diverse populations was noted by many. In particular, some participants recognized the important role of colleges in assisting immigrants from the early settlement phase through to retraining and employment. Those consulted were keen to learn more about how colleges could work together with employers to better integrate immigrants into the workplace. While some employers have strong ongoing relationships with local colleges, most employers say they would benefit from knowing more about the colleges' specific services and programs for immigrants, employers and non-immigrant staff.
Many participants emphasized the need for stronger links between colleges and employers to assist with the multiple facets of integrating immigrants into the workplace. The greatest demand is for language and socio-cultural communications skills.
" It would be a good approach if colleges could offer one-stop shopping that can be tailored if need be. We spend a lot of effort and investment in trying to find out what external programs are available and where to send our people. There is an appetite for more partnerships with colleges. We can't do it all in-house." – RBC Royal Bank " Colleges can help bridge the gap for individuals who have recognized technical skills but need to develop soft skills, such as the ability to influence others in leadership positions, to round out their experience." – TD Bank Financial Group In addition to the colleges' role in assisting with timely, efficient evaluation of foreign-trained worker credentials and in helping to standardize language assessments, other suggestions for college services included: • seminars for employers to teach them how to hire newcomers • assisting immigrants with career planning, certification and workplace placements • mentorships and internship programs.
There was a shared recognition of the need to continue the dialogue, for example, through college-sponsored information sessions and round-table discussions on what is available to help employers integrate immigrants to employment. Some employers offered plant and workplace tours to college staff so that they can become better acquainted with their needs and operations. SECTION 2 – WHAT EMPLOYERS ARE CURRENTLY DOING
Many of the employers consulted are utilizing some form of formal internal or externally sourced training for immigrant employees. A number of them have sought to embed diversity into their corporate culture and have established policies, practices and programs. These include diversity councils, affinity groups, in-house training programs, mentoring, job shadowing, buddy programs and special events. As well, many employers were actively involved with various external partners or stakeholders through programs or services to support their immigrant integration needs. Some of the organizations or programs commonly mentioned include: • Regional Immigrant Employment Councils (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council – TRIEC, Waterloo Region Immigrant Employment Network – WRIEN) • Maytree Foundation • Career Bridge • Pathways to Education • Skills for Change • ACCES Employment Services • Canadian Immigration Integration Project (CIIP) (government agency offices abroad) • DIVERSECity Community Resources Society • CARE – Centre for Internationally Educated Nurses.
Ontario's publicly funded colleges currently provide communities across the province with a broad range of recognized, accredited education and training programs leading to success in the workforce. As part of this mandate, col eges recognize their essential role in helping immigrants prepare for meaningful employment and/or careers in a wide range of industry sectors.
Ontario colleges are a visible first point of entry for new Canadians seeking information on: • pathways to employment • credential and skills assessment • language training in English and French • upgrading their skills, knowledge and postsecondary education and training. Several of the colleges work closely in the community with local employers in many areas, including the integration of immigrants into employment. Citizenship and Immigration Canada is currently funding a major initiative to develop accessible, client-centred, occupation-specific language training in Ontario colleges to help immigrants acquire the language and socio-cultural skills they need to obtain and maintain employment commensurate with their skills and experience9. Colleges across the province are collaborating in developing and piloting this workplace-focused language training in health, human services, business, technology, skilled trades and automotive. These employer consultations were partially funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The Colleges Integrating Immigrants to Employment (CIITE) project, funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, also provides opportunities to link with college-delivered language training. These initiatives are delivered through the colleges and focus on developing new processes and tools to enhance the continuum of services for skilled and professional immigrants, including: • credential and language assessment • employment preparation • competency assessment.
Through the CIITE project, colleges have served more than 6,000 international-trained immigrants in the past year. Many colleges have created immigrant support centres to better help members in their communities. For example, to help immigrants who often have difficulty getting Canadian employers to recognize their international employment, eight colleges have worked with professional and other associations to develop skills competency lists and appropriate measures to determine competency for two professions (Mechanical Engineering Technology and Respiratory Therapy). 9 Language Skills for the Workplace: Occupation-specific Language Training in Ontario Colleges, funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. SECTION 4 – MOVING FORWARD
These discussions were an excellent catalyst for launching college-employer dialogue regarding immigrant integration issues. Participants provided valuable insights on language skills for the workplace and immigrant integration. The feedback received confirmed what other reports and surveys have shown. Most importantly, these consultations helped inform colleges about what they need to be doing to better support immigrant integration.
Ontario's colleges understand the importance of expanding supports and services for immigrants and are ready to play a leadership role in the following areas.
Developing language skills for the workplace
With funding from the federal government, colleges will offer occupation-specific language training across Ontario at no cost to newcomers who are eligible. Occupation-specific language training will be piloted in the health, human services, business, skilled trades, automotive and technology sectors. Thirteen colleges across Ontario will be collaborating with each other and employers to develop and pilot this workplace-focused language training. Embedding socio-cultural communication skills into language training
The occupation-specific language training curriculum will integrate cultural aspects of workplace communication into the language teaching at all levels. Learning activities will be developed by college language experts working closely with college content experts to address on-the-job communication requirements. Offering flexible and accessible language training opportunities
Colleges have designed occupation-specific language training curriculum that can be delivered by colleges on campus or in a workplace-based setting. The curriculum will be flexible enough to be delivered in a variety of formats on a full- or part-time basis.
Supporting immigrants through advising services
Colleges will continue to deliver advising services to immigrants in communities across the province. Providing credential recognition services
The colleges, in partnership with the Ontario College Application Service (OCAS) and education credential assessment centres, are building an electronic credential recognition system that will, upon completion of the education credential recognition process, house information for immigrants so that it is available to the individual and colleges in Ontario. This system, which is being developed by the CIITE project, is at the piloting stage. Helping employers who hire immigrants
Recently, the provincial government announced the Talent Development for Organizational Effectiveness project that targets small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Under this project, Ontario colleges will be delivering the Working for Change: Building the Capacity of SMEs with Post-Secondary Institutions Program, developed by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) in partnership with Ryerson University. Colleges gratefully acknowledge the time and resources that the participants made to these

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