Board of Trade workplace program connects immigrants and Burnaby businesses


The Burnaby Board of Trade is working to break down barriers to employment for new residents.
The board has conducted six Breaking Down the Barriers workplace tours and is hosting its final forum for the project on April 28.
The aim of the project was to connect more than 250 immigrants with Canadian companies over a period of 18 months.
The project was designed to create meaningful dialogue between immigrants and employers, allowing attendees to exchange experiences and share perspectives.
The project has helped immigrants and employers better understand the challenges each faces, according to Darlene Gering, president and CEO of the board.
"Employers are saying, we do have to look at our hiring practices," she said.
And immigrants get an idea of what businesses are looking for, Gering added.
For instance, one of the common threads on the tours was that immigrants looking for work didn't realize employers do the majority of hiring through networking or employee recommendations, she explained.
"It was quite new for immigrants to learn that," Gering said, adding this surprised her, as people on the tours have gone through employment training with social service agencies.
Another interesting challenge for immigrants was understanding the different types of workplace culture in Canada, as they often expect to have to adapt to one cultural standard, she said.
But in fact, workplace culture varies depending on the industry and the type of company, Gering explained.
Gering addressed some of the challenges immigrants face in finding employment at a recent tour..
"The Canadian employment market is significantly more robust than others, but accessing it can be difficult and daunting for immigrants for whom language and cultural difference pose an inhibitory barrier to entry," she said.
"However, we need more immigrants to drive innovation, which is fundamental to our economy's success. We must continue to position British Columbia as the preferred destination for the world's best and brightest - therefore Canadian companies need to understand the challenges immigrants face in accessing the employment market. Additionally, immigrants need to be given the tools to market themselves so they are more appealing to employers."
Gering added that she is proud of the board's partnership with the Burnaby Intercultural Planning Table, which is leading the initiative.
The final tour was on April 14.
The board has been conducting the tours over the past 18 months, to introduce new immigrants to businesses in Burnaby. Tours have included the healthcare industry, engineering, finance, the IT and technology sector, green businesses, and accounting.
The forums are intended to raise awareness and reach out to the business community regarding the importance of newcomer integration into society, particularly through employment opportunities.
They are designed for immigrant job seekers, industry professionals and hiring managers.
The final forum, which is free to employers, is on April 28 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Vancouver Hilton Metrotown.
Bob Elton, chair of the Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia and former president and CEO of B.C. Hydro, is presenting.
The Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia have provided funding for the Breaking Down the Barriers project.
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