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The role of employers in bridging newcomers’ absorption and integration in the Canadian labour market: A knowledge synthesis project

Canada’s Economic Action Plan 2013 recognizes that training is not sufficiently aligned to the skills employers need or to the jobs available, resulting in a skills mismatch that leads to higher unemployment and slower economic growth. Because the Canadian-born work force is aging, baby boomers are retiring, and the number of young workers entering the work force is declining, there is also a growing skills and labour shortage amidst global competition for talent (Grant, 2013; CIC, 2009; Industry Canada & HRSDC, 2008). As skilled Canadian-born workers are becoming increasingly difficult to find, immigrants will play a more significant role in Canada’s labour force (Canadian Chamber of Commerce, 2009). Statistics Canada (2008) research indicates that before the middle of the next decade, almost all labour force growth will come from immigration. Forthcoming revisions to the federal selection system for skilled workers (the proposed Expression of Interest (EOI) system) call for an increased role for employers, in part, to facilitate a better match between skilled immigrants and the labour market. Thismodernized’ system will be implemented early in 2015. The federal and provincial governments, the community of employers, and immigrant service providers all have roles to play in increasing employers’ capacity to recruit, hire and settle immigrants. The federal government’s role is critical for employers in respect of making decisions on who is admitted to Canada, including immigrants, temporary foreign workers and foreign students. Thus, federal decisions affect employers’ hiring practices in their workplaces and ability to attract, retain and integrate newcomers (IECBC, 2012). As key actors in the immigration system, employers are actively encouraged to hire newcomers in Canada. Yet newcomers face challenges with the lack of recognition of their foreign education and work credentials, which impacts labour market integration. This hard reality is forcing a re-examination of existing policies with a view to achieving earlier labour market integration, including policies aimed at retaining skilled newcomers already in the country. The goal of the knowledge synthesis project is to describe the state of knowledge on the role of employers and employer organizations in bridging newcomers’ absorption and integration. The knowledge synthesis project considers the following questions: ï‚· What is the impact of immigration policies on employer behaviour and response to policy measures and, by extension, on labour supply and skills development uptake? ï‚· What is the œvalue proposition for hiring newcomers from employers’ perspective? ï‚· How could employers be motivated to play a greater role in social and economic integration, and what strategies might provide them with the tools and resources to do so? ï‚· What is the potential contribution that settlement agencies can make to employers in shaping behavior and assistance to conduct settlement activities? In answering these questions, the project sought to: 1) Identify employer interests and perspectives in bridging gaps between labour market demand for skills and the supply of skills using different immigrant flows to accelerate labour market absorption; 2) Identify the most promising policies and practices, so as to better discern and meet future skills needs; and 3) Compile a knowledge synthesissummary’ to inform dialogue between government policy-makers, education and training institutions, researchers, stakeholders, and employers.