Many employers know that, in a globalized market, hiring newcomers can be a good business decision. But diversifying their workforce may also bring challenges.
Immigration is an important source of workers in Alberta. Many newcomers have high levels of skill and education. This is often coupled with a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn. They understand other cultures, have foreign experience, and can help a business expand into new markets.
However, this client group faces a number of obstacles to employment. These include:
- Language barriers
- A lack of Canadian work experience
- Uncertainty about foreign credentials
- Differences in the soft skills expected in the Canadian workplace
As an employment counsellor, you can help employers understand and address the barriers that newcomers face.
The role of employment counsellors
“Helping employers understand that newcomers bring great skills, experience and expertise is key. The idea is to present a value proposition to employers over and above the optics of hiring newcomers.”
Employers may need guidance on how to:
- Assess foreign education credentials
- Attract, interview, hire, train, and retain newcomers
- Create a welcoming workplace free of discrimination
- Access programs and resources for support
International credentials recognition
Assessing foreign credentials is one of the main barriers to hiring newcomers. The International Qualifications Assessment Service (IQAS) helps employers decide if an applicant is qualified—and be confident in their decision. IQAS assesses international educational credentials and compares them to Canadian standards.
What is an IQAS assessment?
An IQAS assessment determines:
- Whether the institution issuing the credential meets IQAS criteria
- Whether an applicant’s school documents are authentic or have been altered in any way
- What type of program or specialized area of study each credential is associated with, as well as a comparable Canadian educational standard
The applicant pays the cost of the assessment and provides the assessment to the potential employer.
What services does IQAS provide?
Foreign Qualification Recognition
IQAS assessments are done by experienced, expert assessors who:
- Use recognized national and international standards of practice for assessing foreign credentials
- Work in many languages
- Have access to a worldwide network of similar organizations as well as foreign educational databases and an in-house library of reference materials
IQAS will issue:
- Assessment certificates directly to employers upon the applicant’s request
- Priority assessment certificates within 5 business days upon an employer’s written request
Employers can also use IQAS International Education Guides to independently compare foreign credentials to Canadian standards. The guides are available for more than a dozen different countries.
How can employers use IQAS assessments?
IQAS assessments can help employers to:
- Rapidly screen applicants. The assessments allow employers to quickly see if applicants match their hiring needs. They also confirm the genuineness of applicants’ credentials.
- Make better hiring decisions. The assessments give employers the information they need to ask follow-up questions about a person’s program and area of specialization.
Encourage employers interested in recruiting newcomers to consider these strategies:
- Use online job boards such as the Government of Canada’s Job Bank, where they can market positions to newcomers. Job ads posted to the Job Bank will automatically appear in the Alberta Job Postings here on alis.
- Connect with candidates through specialized services. This includes members of the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies and the Government of Alberta’s employment services directory.
- Create job descriptions that clearly identify the duties of a position. Outline the credentials, knowledge, and skills it requires. Use plain language in job ads.
- Determine what English writing, speaking, listening, and reading skills the job needs. How often does the job interact with customers, clients, and co-workers?
- Offer short-term contracts or internships as trial periods and ways for workers to gain Canadian work experience.
- For regulated occupations, specify the licence or certification required by law. Can the employer offer work experience in a lower-level position until the applicant can meet the licensing requirements? The employer should say so in the job posting.
- If the employer needs internationally trained applicants to provide an IQAS assessment, provide a link in the job ad.
Interviewing and hiring
Before an interview, employers may want to outline the interview process and offer sample questions.
Recommend they avoid bias in interviewing and selecting candidates by:
- Reviewing their current screening processes. They should have clear criteria for each position. To avoid bias, some employers use blind screening. This process removes the candidate’s name and other identifying factors.
- Training managers to give objective interviews using a scoring system that helps eliminate bias.
- Focusing on job skills, not interview skills. The Canadian interview process has unwritten rules and expectations. These may not be clear to newcomers.
- Ask candidates to describe how they meet specific job requirements. Ask them to give you examples of relevant experience.
If foreign employment references are hard to check, accept local references from schools, community organizations, and volunteer groups.
Employers may have more questions about interviewing people from different cultures. Point them to this diversity guide for human resources [pdf].
Onboarding and training
To help integrate newcomers into the workplace, you can suggest the following best practices to employers:
- Clearly identify the company’s culture, values, workplace norms, and expectations.
- Identify the skills for success each position needs. Offer support for building these skills.
- Provide a mentor or buddy system. Does another employee speak the same language? Ask if the new employee wants to be paired with that person.
- Offer or pay for language classes.
Workplace culture and anti-discrimination
An inclusive workplace demands day-to-day respect and equitable treatment for all employees. Recommend that employers:
- Have clear policies to deal with harassment, discrimination, and racism from co-workers or customers
- Provide diversity training for all employees, including managers
- Use performance appraisal tools that apply to all employees
- Clearly outline the standards for judging performance
- Include diverse religious holidays and cultural events in the company calendar—and celebrate them
Programs and support
For more support in recruiting and employing newcomers, you can encourage employers to:
- Partner with a bridging program or immigrant-serving agency to access diversity training and workshops.
- Participate in mentorship programs through the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council or the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council.
- Access funding for recruiting and training employees. Programs include Workforce Partnerships and the Canada-Alberta Job Grant.