These N.B. Businesses Have 4 Pieces of Advice On Hiring and Retaining Newcomers

Image: JD Irving

New Brunswick’s population challenges mean businesses in the province often need to source talent from elsewhere. Some are doing this through the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIPP). But whether a business is looking to fill one position or hundreds, the immigration process could be daunting. A couple of New Brunswick businesses share their experience.

1. Meet candidates in person

Fredericton’s Thermtest, which makes and sells thermal conductivity testing products, recently on-boarded a scientist from Greece via Australia. Founder Dale Hume said businesses need to network and make the effort to meet candidates in person.

“New Brunswick being a small province, it’s not unexpected that we can’t find experts in all fields. And in some areas, we’re looking for not just an expert, but maybe one of the best,” he said. “We started through our network, just seeing who’s out there.”

Thermtest’s candidate was a Greek faculty member at the University of Western Australia who is among a handful of people with the technical expertise Thermtest needs for its research and development efforts. Hume found her through an acquaintance he met at a conference in Slovakia.

“There’s a lot of opportunities to get resumes. I know [AIPP] does different meetings where they can collect resumes on your behalf. But I think at the end of the day if you’re looking for an expert, you still have to meet them and see if they’re a good fit,” he said.

Dale not only met the candidate in person but also spoke to her on Skype before processing the paperwork. Dr. Sofia Mylona has joined Thermtest full-time since early August.

“If you’re looking for an expert, putting the effort to travel here or there, is probably a good use. That helps reduce the risk for the whole thing for them and you,” he added.

2. Plan ahead for the paperwork

In July, the Canadian government increased the number of skilled immigrants and their family members who can get permanent residency through the AIPP in 2018 to 2,500 from 2,000. The program helps employers in Atlantic Canada hire people with the right skill set, while also increasing immigration into the region. Gilles LePage, Minister of Labour, Employment and Population Growth, said at least 390 New Brunswick companies are taking part in the program this year.

These companies have filed for around 1,000 endorsements for full-time workers, but many will likely only land in Canada next year. LePage said businesses should plan ahead because it takes time to process new immigrants.

“There is a need [for immigration] – we have jobs available, and urgently,” said LePage said. “But immigration could be a long process also. It’s not something that we can hire somebody today. We want to make sure employers have enough time, maybe even a year ahead of time to prepare. Because with all the paperwork, once everything is done, we can expect as long as six more months after that with the federal government.”

But Hume says processing the paperwork “wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought it might be.” Otherwise, Thermtest wouldn’t consider hiring more people from abroad.

“We started in about February or March with the process [to get provincial endorsement], and [Post Secondary Education Training and Labour department] has dedicated staff working specifically for the program. I had great continual communication through the early stages of the program,” said Craig Dixon, Thermtest’s Project Manager for Programs.

“The next step was through Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada. I had a caseworker immediately assigned. There was an individual with a name and consistency to proceed with the federal portion of the application.”

The federal government then provided a work permit to allow the candidate to enter and work in Canada. Once here, she can apply for a permanent residency.

“It’s been a very seamless process. Maybe it’s daunting in the beginning, because you think, ‘Gosh, it’s not something we’ve done before.’ But you invest in the process, deal with the two levels of government, make sure everything is done properly and hit all the requirements.”

3. Make them feel welcome

Once the employee arrives, often with their families, Susan Wilson, Director of Immigration for J.D. Irving, Limited, said it’s important to make them feel welcome so they’ll stay.

JD Irving hired workers in 2017 and this year through the AIPP. It plans to fill 8,800 jobs in Atlantic Canada over the next three years, and 240 of those will be filled by newcomers.

“One of the key differences with AIPP is the requirement for the employer to identify a complete settlement plan. I think that’s a big plus,” she said. “Through the process of developing that plan, we get to learn about what are those best practices around settlement, what are all those things we should be doing to help people be as happy and productive as they can be once they arrive in New Brunswick or Atlantic Canada.”

Wilson found that many services and supports are available for employers. This includes settlement agencies, multicultural associations, and other governmental and non-governmental organizations.

“It really helps employers that haven’t worked a lot with immigration to know what they’re doing to support their new employees,” she said. “Because [newcomers] have gone through a lot of change – typically they bring their family to this new country and community.

When I’ve seen it done really, really well, it’s typically because we’ve made a personal connection to understand what’s really important for that family and truly making them feel a part of the community, both within the workplace and outside the workplace.”

In some parts of its business, JD Irving implemented things like community barbecues, welcome dinners, and an official buddy program so the newcomer can always have someone to turn to for questions.

The company also provides support for the employee’s family by helping the spouse in their job search, for example. It also takes part in mentoring programs for newcomers in general through Opportunities NB and the Multicultural Association of Greater Moncton Area.

“One of the pieces of advice I’d give to employers is not necessarily to do it all yourselves, but to know where are the resources in your community and spending the time with those partners and give them a heads up that people are going to be arriving in your town, and working collaboratively from that standpoint.”

4. Match newcomers with the right jobs

Even with the AIPP’s more streamlined process, Wilson said there needs to be more help for the newcomer to get their immigration application completed.

“They really have to do that on their own. The employer can’t do that for them. So that’s been a focus for us and for the provincial government – how can we help the candidate during that part of the process,” she said. “Because it’s a lot of paperwork, and it’s challenging to get all the documentation together. And of course, folks aren’t in Canada when they’re doing that.”

A bigger challenge is matching workers to employers, she added.

“I think our opportunity going forward is try to better match newcomers or even folks locally that are looking for opportunities to the employers that are trying to find [workers]. It seems quite simple, but as you go around and talk to employers and attend immigration discussions, a lot of time that’s what people will tell you,” she said. “We have so many newcomers that haven’t found that great career opportunity yet. So I think that will continue to be something that we focus on as a region.”