One of Halifax’s greatest challenges in the next decade is attracting and retaining highly skilled and educated talent. Over the past few years, the Partnership, in collaboration with many of you, has used its Halifax Connector Program to help immigrants and newcomers find their way to gainful and appropriate employment here in the City.
This is the final article in this series, with a viewpoint on why your organization needs to consider hiring an immigrant.
Chances are slim you will hear an immigrant say they are looking for ‘work/life balance’ in an interview. Our Canadian-born graduating sons and daughters may be saying that, but immigrants? Not so much.
In the past several months, I have had the opportunity to interview six immigrants who have found gainful employment through the Partnership’s Halifax Connector Program. All of them – students or mature adults – are articulate, thoughtful and smart. Their command of the English language, both written and oral, is astonishing. They learned their English at school, in the same manner our children learn French (not immersion) as a core subject. I wonder if my children, after core French, could study Commerce in French and then emerge fluent enough to land a job in France? Perhaps. That not only takes smarts but a wonderful quality called perseverance.
Sisley, who appeared earlier in this series, said, “It’s expensive for us to come here so we have to study hard. Due to the high costs of being an international student, a student arriving here takes that seriously and plans to succeed.” And that work ethic follows her right to an employer.
Zahra, another international student, was so dedicated to learning English before she left Tehran that she studied it at the language school from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday to Friday. She would then return home to study every night from 3 to 11 p.m. for 90 days before writing the internationally recognized Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
What employer wouldn’t want this kind of dedication on the job?
“Many immigrants leave their countries simply because they want to use their education and experience in a nation that welcomes diversity,” says Margie Casallas, the Partnership’s Coordinator, Immigration Employer Support Program.
Being welcomed means immigrants bring another wonderful quality to the table about living and working here that we too often take for granted: Gratitude for what we have. Things like fresh air, open spaces, and that it’s not too crowded.
The people I interviewed are deeply thankful for the new beginnings Halifax has offered them. Being here is good. Being here with a job aligned with one’s expertise and education is better. Being here with a meaningful career and welcoming communities – at work and in the neighbourhood – is best.
We know that ‘like hires like’. In 2011, stretch. Go beyond your comfort zone. Become a Connector and share your network. Better yet, interview an immigrant for an opportunity, one aligned with their expertise and education. They will bring their experience and more – their perseverance, tireless work ethic and gratitude for a new and fresh beginning.