If you’re struggling to find qualified, skilled job candidates for your business – you’re not alone. Similar to other industries, BC’s tourism and hospitality industry is experiencing its share of challenges when it comes to finding the skills it needs. This situation is expected to become more extreme as higher numbers of baby boomers retire over the coming years. Fortunately, there are some publicly-funded employment agencies to help you tap into a labour pool of skilled, foreign-trained immigrants who are ready and able to work.
The Maple 2.0 – Mentorship in Action Program and Skills Connect for Immigrants Program (Skills Connect) are two initiatives that help match businesses with qualified, skilled new immigrants who have the kinds of expertise and experience often sought by employers. A number of service providers run the Skills Connect Program, including Back in Motion and the Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC). The Maple 2.0 program which is run in Vancouver by ISSofBC, is a unique mentorship placement program for employers to access potential job candidates through paid and unpaid work-mentorship placements.
Maple 2.0 Mentorship Program
A national mentorship program, Maple 2.0 helps new immigrants gain Canadian work experience in Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver, by matching them with local employers through paid and unpaid work-mentorships placements and job matches. In the case of paid mentorships, the individuals are compensated by their respective employers. The professional placements last anywhere from four to 12 weeks in areas that include administration, project management, accounting, marketing, website development, engineering, information technology, etc. for a variety of industries, including tourism and hospitality.
“This program was created in an effort to reduce the unemployment and under-employment rate of new professionals and promote the full utilization of immigrants’ skills and talents so they can contribute to Canada’s overall economic development and strengthen the provinces’ economic competitiveness in the national and global marketplace,” said Freda Fernandes, manager for the Maple 2.0 Program in Vancouver as well as ISSofBC’s Skills Connect for Immigrants Program. “Through Maple 2.0, employers have access to skilled professionals, while also gaining awareness on how to effectively diversify their teams, which adds to their own success as well.”
Since this pan Canadian program was first introduced in 2011, more than 620 (310 in Vancouver) companies have participated by offering Canadian work experience and other opportunities to more than 1,500 diverse mentees. Remarkably, 60 per cent of Maple 2.0’s matches across Canada result in direct hires.
For employers, Fernandes cited several key benefits of partnering with the Maple 2.0 Program, including access to a rich pool of highly-talented and qualified professionals, free cultural competency training, and ongoing one-on-one cultural competency support through the duration of the work-mentorship placement.
The Maple 2.0 Program hosts several events throughout the year, such as virtual and non-virtual hiring fairs, workshops, entrepreneur exhibits and alternative career information sessions that offer employers a chance to meet, connect and network with these qualified and skilled immigrants for professional mentorship placements and possible future hiring opportunities.
Skills Connect for Immigrants Program
One of the ultimate goals of the Skills Connect for Immigrants Program (Skills Connect) is to help professional new immigrants find employment that maximizes their pre-arrival skills, qualifications and experience, while also helping local businesses find qualified and viable job candidates for successful employment. This practical and cutting-edge program takes an individual approach, matching the needs of employers to this diverse and talented labour pool.
“We focus on quality, job-ready skilled candidates for the employers that we work with, and do all the pre-screening, recruitment and prep work, and make sure their English is at a high level, check references and so on,” said Anna Price, Program Manager of Back in Motion’s Skills Connect for Immigrants. “We can then put forward the candidates who are best suited for the available positions.”
The program matches foreign-trained, professional new immigrants with employers by tapping into its extensive database of skilled, job-ready candidates. The program also distributes job postings to this database, as well as to job counsellors, employment specialists and case managers who work directly with these qualified candidates.
“We look at the candidates as a whole, evaluating and verifying their credentials and skills, making sure the information they’ve listed is accurate and legitimate, and then comparing them with the needs of the employers we’re working with,” Price said. “All of this is part of our heavy pre-screening process to help employers rest at ease, and create a viable shortlist of job-ready candidates to make the hiring process that much easier and more efficient for employers.”
Along with distributing job postings and working with other programs and agencies, Skills Connect coordinates job fairs and specialized hiring fairs for companies that work in the same industry. The program also addresses cultural expectations and issues to assist these professional immigrants transition into their new jobs, thereby helping to ensure a smooth transition for employers and setting up both parties for long-term success.
Since its creation, the Skills Connect program has successfully placed more than 170 new immigrants into positions such as hotel managers, restaurant managers, chefs, front desk agents, servers, customer service representatives, group tour operators – among others. The program is also experienced in working directly with employers in the local tourism and hospitality industry, including Concorde World Travel, Edgewater Casino, Executive Hotels & Resorts, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, River Rock Casino Resort, Sandman Hotels, Sinclair Travel and the Vancouver International Airport.