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Guelph fast becoming part of the global village

Joanne Shuttleworth
jshuttleworth@guelphmercury.com

GUELPH — Businesses should embrace the wave of immigrants coming to Guelph since they add richness to the community and profitability — both as employees and as consumers — to their bottom lines.

And if they build a sense of community within their organizations, businesses can help immigrants settle into their new surroundings as well.

That was the gist of Roya Rabbani’s presentation Wednesday to business leaders at a lunch and learn event hosted by the Guelph Chamber of Commerce.

Rabbani, executive director of Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington, said Guelph is becoming a destination for new immigrants to Canada. She said according to 2008/2009 data, approximately 477 new immigrants come to Guelph each year to the point where immigrants make up 14 per cent of the population.

“So we have to look at work environments and agencies to see how well (immigrants) are represented in the workplace,” she said. “Many workplaces don’t have that diversity in managerial positions.”

Rabbani said most immigrants come to Canada with post-secondary education, are in good health, and have money.

“What they don’t necessarily have is the language and the accreditation they need to work,” she said in an interview after her presentation.

She agreed it’s important for professionals from other countries to meet Canadian standards, but there are ways local business leaders can help while immigrants work through that process — like mentorship programs, internships and peer partnering in the workplace.

“Sometimes training managers and current staff around these issues is helpful too,” she said. “Studies have shown that when business is involved with social entrepreneurship, they see more profit margins.”

Lloyd Longfield, president of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, said there are three initiatives businesses are taking part in to ease the transition for new Canadians: The Guelph Inclusiveness Alliance, a group of 27 organizations; the Local Immigration Partnership, which strives to make it easier for immigrants to settle here; and the Leadership Intercultural Council, which oversees these projects.

“With the imminent retirement of baby boomers, the workplace will need more workers,” Longfield said. “Immigration is often the source of growth.”

“Guelph is proactive in this regard,” Rabbani agreed. “That’s the beauty of our region.”

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