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13 New Canadians Articles | Page:

Good as New, Good for Business

Pop-up shops are often associated with higher-end retail: up-and-coming designers stocking small spaces with collections that get snapped up quickly. Recently, Goodwill and Newcomer Women's Services Toronto (NEW) launched a pop-up shop with a very different vibe: their inventory consists of one-of-a-kind products, created by participants in NEW's green entrepreneurship program, out of materials provided by Goodwill.

The women who created the recycled and repurposed products—marketed under a line dubbed Good as New—were participating in one of NEW's self-employment training programs.

The idea arose when some of the participants expressed a particular interest in sewing, says the program's faciliator, Deepa Premnath, and the products include clothing, jewelry, and other accessories. The program's goal is to help give participants the skills ito start home-based businesses; the pop-up shop's goal, meanwhile, is to spread the word about that program, and also to give the designers a trial run—a chance to market test their products and see how they sell.

"Our goal in general is to connect people to resources around the idea of self-employment," says Premnath. She freely admits, "it is not a panacea for all employment ills, but one possibility" in a volatile employment market, and one that can be particularly accessible for newcomers, who often face disproportionate challenges entering the workforce.

You can find the Good as New pop-up shop at the Goodwill Islington South Community Store (871 Islington Avenue, Etobicoke).

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Deepa Premnath, Program Facilitator, Green Entrepreneurship Program, Newcomer Women's Services Toronto
Photo: Courtesy of Goodwill

TRIEC celebrates 10 years of helping skilled immigrants

More than a decade ago, the Toronto City Summit Alliance (now CivicAction) and the Maytree Foundation conducted some community outreach, asking what the most compelling issues facing Toronto were—including which issues were being neglected and required more attention.

One key issue that came up in that survey: integrating immigrants effectively into the city's labour market. And so those consultations led to the creation of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).

This week, the organization is celebrating its 10th anniversary at an awards ceremony that will also honour individuals and organizations for their leadership in this sector.

When that initial survey was conducted, community groups said that while there were many immigrant settlement organizations, "there weren't a lot of organizations that were focused on this issue of opportunities for skilled immigrant labour," says TRIEC's executive director, Margaret Eaton.

And the resources that were being devoted to the issue were scattered. "Mentoring had been done in different organizations," she goes on, but once the new organization was formed "they came together under that umbrella," allowing for a better distribution of talent and increased scale of activity. The core of TRIEC'S activities is a one-to-one mentorship program that currently has 1,300 pairings; Eaton says that those who go through the program see an average increase in earnings of 62 per cent.

Reflecting on the past decade, Eaton says that "one of the big things we've seen is that some things have stayed very much the same: skilled immigrant unemployment is still double what it is for university-education Toronto-born population. if anything, it has gotten worse through the recession."

When asked why she said that, one key factor is that "the economy has changed so much. we're now seeing secondary migration—[people] coming to Toronto first, then moving elsewhere in Ontario or out west," where there are more plentiful job opportunities.

On the positive side, there is now an Ontario commission looking at regulated professions to try to make their requirements much more transparent to the applicants, easing the process for new immigrants who want to transfer their credentials from elsewhere so they can pursue their professions here.

As part of its 10-year anniversary, TRIEC is also looking to the future, and expanding its strategic objectives. "One of those," says Eaton, "is employer culture—looking at the glass ceiling that immigrants experience."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Margaret Eaton, executive director, TRIEC

New study: Toronto region needs to band together to attract foreign investment

A new study examining the state of foreign investment in the Toronto region—Roadmap to Revizalization—includes some important calls to action for spurring local economic development. The Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance (GTMA), a public-private partnership, released the study last  month. Among its members: all the municipalities and regions that make up the GTA, along with private and public sector partners. 

"Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is accelerating as a key driver of economic growth," reports the Roadmap. "Over the period 1990 to 2011, FDI globally grew 75 per cent faster than Gross Domestic Product (GDP). When foreign firms open up shop here they create jobs and capital investment, and generate tax revenue that feeds back into the Canadian economy."

There are also knock-on effects: an influx of talented workers, and a more dynamic, innovative economic environment in general. And crucially, these benefits spill across municipal borders: it's not a question of pitting one city in the region against another in an attempt to attract a new office HQ, for instance, but understanding that as soon as one foreign investor sets up here, the benefits will be distributed, which is why the report's key conclusion is so crucial.

"The GTA currently lacks effective regional coordination," writes the Roadmap, in attracting FDI. Multiple organizations and levels of government all try and tackle this issue, but they are not working in concert, and in some cases find themselves at odds. If the Toronto region is to strengthen its capacity to attract foreign investment, in short, we need to start pulling together in a coordinated and organized way.

"The Toronto region is the primary engine for FDI attraction in Ontario and in Canada, representing 52 per cent and 24 per cent respectively of all FDI activity," the Roadmap explains. We perform relatively well compared to other North American regions, but globally we are ranked 18th of 27 cities. And this, says the report, has a lot to do with how we pitch ourselves.

It isn't that the Toronto region lacks the relevant, appealing qualities foreign investors look for: "This performance is at odds with the Toronto region’s relative attractiveness as a destination for foreign direct investment. For example, on a global basis the Toronto region ranks high in terms of key FDI drivers such as size, location, demographics, economic growth, skilled labour, infrastructure, ease of doing business and the provincial and federal fiscal policy environment."

So how do we improve? Among the recommendations: 

  • Increased resources in attracting FDI. (The study found that Toronto spends considerably less, per capita, on attracting foreign investment than many other comparable cities.)
  • Coordinated, clearly planned out strategies which give all stakeholders defined roles in attracting FDI. This should include agreement on strategically selected "target sectors and markets"—ideally about 9 or 10 of them.
  • More extensive private sector involvement, which is lower here compared to many other regions.
"The Toronto region is significantly underperforming relative to its potential," the report concludes. "The opportunity is significant, and the ROI is clear. But money alone will not be enough to fix the current situation. Significantly improved collaboration and coordination of efforts across a broad range of organizations is needed."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source:Roadmap to Revitalization (report)

Provincial and federal governments expanding opportunities for skilled immigrants

The Ontario Bridge Training Program assists skilled immigrants by providing support while they get their credentials, licenses, and professional certifications settled in their new home, and helping them find jobs in their fields once they have.

Recently, the provincial and federal governments announced that they will be "expanding and enhancing" the program over the next three years.

Details are right now scarce—representatives for Ontario's Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration could not spell out any of the particulars—but we're told that more announcements are coming soon. What we do know is that the province is putting $63.6 million into the program over three years, and the federal government is kicking in another $16.6 million; of that pot $15 million of provincial money is "additional support."

Mamdouh Shoukri is president of York University, which runs a certification program for skilled immigrants, and which hosted government officials for the announcement. "These important programs are helping to build a globally connected economy and to support diversity in our communities," he said, addressing an audience of dignitaries and skilled immigrants.

Representing the federal government, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander chimed in: "We need to remind ourselves of that economic logic of immigration, of the desire of immigrants themselves to work in their fields, to build lives, to provide for their families, and to contribute."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration

TRIEC celebrates skilled immigrant mentors

Immigration isn't just a matter of navigating clearly defined legal and employment constraints: getting your paperwork in order, re-credentialling, and so on. There is also a host of soft skills—cultural conventions and communication best practices, social insight and networking capacity—that anyone needs to successfully make a transition to a new country.

Helping skilled immigrants do just that: the mentors of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), who assisted 1,000 immigrants this past year via a program called The Mentoring Partnership. Mentors offer sector-specific advice (mentees and mentors are matched by occupation), but also help with the ephemeral, essential task of getting settled in a new work environment.

Those mentors and their successes were celebrated recently, at an annual reception.

Indra Maharjan was a mentee with the program in 2010; he returned in 2013 to act as a mentor to two new skilled immigrants; he was one of the program participants honoured at TRIEC's reception. Like many new immigrants Maharjan had done a lot of research and planning when it came to logistical issues, but it was the Mentoring Partnership, he says, that "helped me to get lots of other information which is not publicly available: how to deal with people, how to make sure your boss is happy," and other similar matters.

The Partnership helped him learn about Canadian work culture and communication styles, which allowed him to find and flourish in new work more quickly. "The crux of success lies in how you communicate with people," Maharjan says, and there's is no better guide to that than another person who can answer real-life questions about it, and help you work through situations as they arise. Years later he and his mentor are still in touch.

This year Maharjan's two mentees each found jobs within two months, he says with pride. "Most people are hardworking, but if they can't express themselves that creates a bottleneck."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Indra Maharjan, The Mentoring Partnership
Photo: Camilla Pucholt

A portrait of minimum wage workers in Ontario

In order to help combat the increasing wage gap in Ontario, the Wellesley Institute is joining in calls for a $4 increase in the minimum wage.

We've heard it for years, both anecdotally and through a growing body of research: the middle class is shrinking and the gap between rich and poor widening.

A new study
just released by the Wellesley Institute explores one particular element of this development: the status of minimum wage workers in Ontario.

The study is animated by two key ideas, says its author, Sheila Block. "One is that the minimum wage is just for kids…however, 40 per cent [of minimum wage workers are over the age of 25."

The second, she says, is that "minimum wage work isn't distributed equally." There are some demographic groups with a much higher proportion of minimum wage work than others—specifically women, young workers, racialized workers, and recent immigrants (defined as those here less than 10 years). Crucially, this state of affairs is worsening: the proportion of Ontario employees earning the minimum wage has more than doubled in the eight year span between 2003 and 2011, and the proportion of minimum wage workers is increasing more rapidly among racialized employees than in the population at large. In short, more of us are working for less money, and the distribution of minimum wage work is increasingly unequal.

Some of Block's findings:

  • In 2003, 4.3 per cent of Ontario's workforce earned the minimum wage; in 2011 it was 9 per cent.
  • Among racialized workers the rate went from 4.5 per cent (2003-2005) to 12.5 per cent (2009-2011).
  • A greater proportion of women are minimum wage workers: in 2003 5.1 per cent (vs 3.5 per cent for men), and in 2011 10.5 per cent (vs 7.6 per cent for men). The rate of increase in minimum wage work has been roughly equal between genders.
  • The demographic group with the highest proportion of minimum wage workers are recent immigrants who are women: 26.5 per cent of this group are working for minimum wage.
Increasing minimum wage would, Block says, "have a disproportionately positive impact on those groups [that currently have the greatest proportion of minimum wage workers]" in addition to raising the floor for all workers in the province.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Sheila Block, director of economic analysis, Wellesley Institute

New report published on immigrant entrepreneur challenges and opportunities

We know, broadly speaking, the key factors that help create the conditions for success for would-be entrepreneurs. They include access to capital, mentorship, and a very practical knowledge of day-to-day business operations. However, though Canada--and especially Toronto--have very high rates of immigration, we tend to spend less time thinking and talking about the challenges that are specific to immigrant entrepreneurs, and the conditions for success that are particularly pertinent to newer Canadians.

Stepping in to the breach is North York Community House, which recently released a study (conducted with the help of Public Interest) examining precisely those issues.

The report, DIY: Immigrant Entrepreneurs are Doing it for Themselves, looks at the specific challenges immigrant entrepreneurs face, and in the process outlines some major opportunities for offering more and better support to this community.

Among the report's key findings: English language skills, and knowledge about the mechanics of opening a business--the rules and regulations and procedures and nitty-gritty details--are two of the biggest determinants of success of failure for immigrant entrepreneurs. Mentorship and entrepreneurial experience (either directly, or within one's family) are also crucial--and all of these can be particular challenges for new immigrants, who may not have ready access to many of these supports in the way that Canadian-born entrepreneurs might.

"There are some really good programs going in Toronto for newcomer entrepreneurs," says Shelley Zuckerman, executive director of North York Community House, "but there aren't a lot."

She goes on to explain that there are some very targeted supports in place, for particular demographics or providing very specific services, but there simply isn't a sufficient number or variety of programs to meet the demand. "There's definitely a need for more mentorship programs," she says, especially for people without a family history of entrepreneurship, and especially aimed at those who are trying to get started with very small businesses.

At the most general level, the report finds that immigrant entrepreneurs fall into two main groups: those who are "pulled" towards entrepreneurship, who are attracted to it and choose it and arrive in Canada with that course of action in mind, and those who are "pushed" towards it, who don't find satisfactory or sufficient employment elsewhere and turn to entrepreneurship to close their income gap, or provide more flexibility in their scheduling and family life.

It's the latter group in particular that needs the most support, since it generally consists of people who have fewer resources (both financially and in terms of a pre-existing knowledge base), and aren't quite ready to hit the ground running. Even simple things like how language classes are structured can make a significant difference, explains Zuckerman.

"One of the difficulties around language for immigrants is that a lot of the language classes are during the day, or quite intense, so if you're running a business [at the same time] it can be quite challenging to attend," she says.

NYCH convened a roundtable of groups offering services to immigrant entrepreneurs in the course of putting together the study; that group will continue meeting now that the results have been released, to share more information and examine how they might coordinate their services more effectively.

They'll also be discussing the "need for government and funders to look at different ways of supporting small entrepreneurs" and, in particular, try to learn more about how services can be best structured to be of greatest value.

DIY: Immigrant Entrepreneurs are Doing it for Themselves is available online [PDF].

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Shelley Zuckerman, Executive Director, North York Community House

New study examines long-term fate of immigrant workers

Though Toronto prides itself on being a welcoming place for immigrants--half of us come from elsewhere, after all--a new study shows that the long-term employment prospects for immigrants are often bleaker than for those born here.

The study, An Immigrant All Over Again? Recession, Plant Closures and (Older) Racialized Immigrant Workers, comes out of the Centre for Labour Management Relations at Ryerson University, and examined what happened when more than 2,000 Toronto-area workers--a large majority of whom were racialized immigrants--suddenly lost their jobs when auto-parts manufacturer Progressive Moulded Products shut down a local factory in 2008.

Researchers tracked the employees in the years that followed, following their experiences in the labour market, with retraining programs, in temp agencies, and elsewhere. They note, especially, that since those workers had been coming out of a long-term stable employment situation, they "might have been considered successfully 'settled' and 'integrated'."

Unfortunately, the report goes on, "participants' struggles to find the appropriate training and stable re-employment in the years after the [plant's] closure suggest that, for many immigrant workers, their immigrant status never disappears."

Among the study's key findings:

  • Only one third of the workers studied have found secure full-time employment since the plant shut down.
  • Men have had an easier time finding re-employment of any kind.
  • While half the study's participants completed career retraining, only one quarter of that group found work in their new field.
  • While 42 per cent of the study's participants found new work via temp agencies, many found those agencies to be "exploitative and discriminatory."
  • Almost 70 per cent of workers surveyed "believe discrimination has been a barrier…in getting work."
The study has put together a series of detailed recommendations emerging out of its research, ranging from increased regulation of temp agencies to the suggestion that settlement services "should not be restricted solely for newcomers… Services should be extended to all users based on needs instead of being determined by the length of their stay in Canada."

Writer: Hamutal Dotan

Who's hiring in Toronto? MaRS Discovery District and more

Welcome to Yonge Street's first ever job round-up, where we highlight a few of the most interesting job opportunities available in Toronto right now.

Community-oriented food organization Not Far From the Tree helps homeowners collect fruit from the trees in their yards, and sends much of the harvest to local agencies like food banks and shelters. NFFTT is looking for a project director to start this spring. It is the organization's primary leadership position.

Also for those with a green thumb, the Toronto Botanical Garden is looking for a new executive director to oversee all programs and fundraising. Candidates should have a background in horticulture as well as organizational leadership.

FreshBooks makes easy invoicing and accounting tools for small businesses and freelancers. The company is seeking an Android developer who will "make FreshBooks a world-class Android development centre."

Another organization on the hunt for a mobile developer: the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. The company needs someone to develop an Android and potentially also an iOS educational app. The app(s) will explain the benefits of citizenship to youth ages 16-24.

MaRS Discovery District, Toronto's best-known innovation centre, is hiring an investment manager for the Investment Accelerator Fund, which puts funds into early-stage technology companies. This business development opportunity is a mid-level position.

Major design firm DIALOG (550+ staff) does work in urban design, interior design, architecture, and engineering. They are seeking a graphic designer to work in their Communications and Creative Services departments.

The Ontario Power Authority is looking for specialist to help support their Conservation Fund, which is OPA's "vehicle for the incubation of innovative approaches to energy conservation and demand side technologies."

Finally, ebook and ereader company Kobo is looking for a front-end web developer to work on merchandising and marketing materials.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan

New Start-Up Visa program aims to attract foreign entrepreneurs to Canada

Innovation requires, first of all, innovators: people with the creativity and talent to come up with plans and projects, products and services, that hadn't quite occured to anyone else before. And innovation in the globalizing world requires increased flexibility, knowledge of foreign markets, and the capacity to adapt to changing technologies and circumstances.

Enter a new immigration initiative from the federal government. Announced last week, the Start-Up Visa Program is a pilot project that will run for five years, with 2,750 visas available each year for immigrant entrepreneurs and their family members.  The goal is to attract entrepreneurs and entice them to start new businesses -- and by extension creating new jobs -- here in Canada. To be eligible, applicants must have some funding from Canadian backers lined up: a minimum of $75,000 from an angel investor or $200,000 from a venture capital firm. If accepted, applicants will become permanent residents. The Start-Up Visa Program is the successor to the defunct Federal Entrepreneur Program, a previous immigration stream that the government halted in 2011.

"Recruiting dynamic entrepreneurs from around the world will help Canada remain competitive in the global economy," said Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney when announcing the program. In order to help support the program, the government will be working with Canada’s Venture Capital & Private Equity Association (CVCA) and the National Angel Capital Organization (NACO), who will help line up potential investors.

Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism

Transportation giant Thales Canada among three orgs recognized for leveraging immigrant talent

Michael MacKenzie, the COO of Transportation for Thales Canada's Toronto Transportation unit says that Toronto's diversity has been a strength for his company. "Having employees of international origin who can speak the language and understand the culture of our customers in regions such as China, Korea or Turkey, for instance, has greatly aided our ability to meet our project obligations, which leads to continued growth."

For exactly that type of business acumen, MacKenzie's Thales Canada Transportation was awarded the RBC Immigrant Advantage Award at the recent Immigrant Success Awards presented by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council. In the award's citation, TRIEC says that Thales "systematically targets and cultivates internationally-trained professionals to ensure its position as a leader in transportation systems worldwide," and notes the company's 95 per cent retention rate of skilled immigrant employees.

Other Immigrant Success award winners announced last week were the Toronto Foundation for Student Success, Deloitte and Nancy Steele of American Express Technologies.

The awards recognize companies, non-profits and individuals who demonstrate exemplary practices at integrating skilled immigrants into the Toronto region. "Over five years we've seen a notable uptake and sophistication of recruitment and retention strategies. Employers are now realizing the benefits of a more diverse, globally aware and connected workforce," TRIEC executive director Elizabeth McIssac said in announcing this year's fifth annual awards. "IS Award winners are real examples of the benefits that can come from mobilizing the best and brightest in our city."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Sources: Julia Howell for TRIEC, Roger Fradgley, Thales Group

8 GTA cultural orgs get over $2.76 million to build diversity infrastructure

In a move that provincial Minister of Tourism and Culture says will help the province's "diverse cultural communities" and contribute to the economic development of the province, his government has given grants totalling slightly more than $2.76 million to eight Greater Toronto Area cultural organizations.

The grants are part of the province's Community Capital Fund, administered by the Trilium Foundation, which is a $50 million pool of grants specifically designed to help non-profit organizations who serve "diverse cultural communities." According to a spokesperson, the funding is explicitly designed to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

This round of grants go to the following GTA groups:

Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention: $49,600 to renovate its Financial District office

Catholic Family Services Peel Dufferin: $310,400 to retrofit its Brampton location to begin offering services to abused families in 12 languages as well as specialized services for South Asians

Dejinta Beesha Somali Multi Service Centre: $409,100 for a designated office and programming space in Rexdale

J.H. Chinese Professionals Association of Canada: $342,200 for classroom and counselling space for its programs serving skilled foreign-trained professionals

Parya Trillium Foundation: $439,200 to transform its Markham office building into a community service centre for the region's Farsi-speaking community

Sampradaya Dance Creations:
$233,800 for the South Asian dance company to expand its performance and training space in Mississauga

Sanatan Mandir Cultural Centre: $500,000 to build an addition onto its Markham community centre serving the Hindu and Indian communities (read more details in our Development News section here)

The Church of the Virgin Mary and Saint Athanasius
: $500,000 to build a recreation and wellness centre for Arabic speaking seniors in Dufferin County

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: Alexis Mantell, Ontario Trillium Foundation

After helping 5,300 newcomers in six years, TRIEC welcomes Scotiabank as new corporate sponsor

Through its Mentoring Partnership program, the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) has helped more than 5,300 skilled immigrants in Toronto get closer to meaningful employment since 2004. Last year, it announced it would work collaboratively with local  professional immigrant networks to establish learning exchanges, an online learning platform, and a professional and social network for members, employers and other community members.

That effort got a major boost earlier this month when Scotiabank came on board as a corporate sponsor of the program. Scotiabank VP of Multicultural Banking Ahmad Dajani said the bank makes helping newcomers a priority. "Our sponsorship of TRIEC's Professional Immigrant Networks initiative is a natural extension of our focus on ... programs and services that will help newcomers get a head start."  Dajani says the program will help give newcomers the "tools they need to build their lives in Canada."

Both the provincial and federal governments recently recognized TRIEC's Mentoring Partnership for its impact on the employment picture for immigrants. Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Eric Hoskins also gave credit to Scotiabank for its sponsorship, saying "we welcome the leadership role Scotiabank is taking with ... supporting newcomers' success in joining the workforce." Federal MP Bob Dechert, on behalf of the federal Citizenship and Immigration ministry said, "The programs provided by TRIEC are instrumental in helping immigrants succeed in the Canadian economy."

Writer: Edward Keenan
Source: TRIEC
13 New Canadians Articles | Page:
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