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Thriving Toronto tech firm shows wisdom of hiring immigrant talent

Samtack Computer Inc. doesn't believe Canadian experience is the best thing since sliced bread. 90 per cent of this tech firm's workforce is comprised of immigrants or folk trained outside Canada -- a hiring practice that has paid off big time.
3/26/2010 6:00:00 AM By: Nestor E. Arellan


"Help wanted. Canadian experience not necessary".

For many immigrants applying for jobs in Canada --be it as a factory worker or an IT professional -- those words are but a dream.

Unless, of course they happen to apply with Samtack Computer Inc. where having "Canadian experience" on your résumé doesn't mean a thing.

As a job qualification Fouad Jazouli doesn't believe Canadian experience counts for much. "I respect it, but set greater store on a person's attitude," said Jazouli, vice-president of marketing and operations for the firm.

Jazouli is originally from Lebanon.

Based in the Greater Toronto Area, in the city of Markham, Ont., Samtack is one of the largest computer and parts distributing companies in Canada. It counts Wal-Mart, Future Shop and Best Buy among its clients. More than 90 per cent of its workforce -- from factory floor to the board room -- is comprised of immigrants who've been educated and trained outside Canada.

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For nearly 20 years now the company's hiring strategy has been to tap into skills of immigrants rather than turn away job applicants because they lack Canadian experience that many hiring managers seek from applicants.

The strategy has worked very well for Samtack, according to Royson Ng, president of the company and himself an immigrant from Malaysia. In the past nine years, the firm's revenues soared more than six-fold from $20 million to $130 million.

The icing on the cake was when the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) recently awarded Samtack the RBC Immigrant Advantage Award in recognition of the company's efforts to hire newcomers. The Council's mandate is to create and champion initiatives that better integrate skilled immigrants in the Greater Toronto labour market

Living the Canadian dream

"I am living the Canadian dream and would like to give other newcomers a chance to achieve it to," said Ng whose first job upon landing in Canada, 19 years ago, was working as a gas jockey at the age of 32. The going was tough. Ng's wife was pregnant and his salary barely paid for their needs.

Ng managed to snag a position as a salesperson at Furture Shop. Within three months he was a manager in training, another three months later he was manager of the branch. Within two years, Ng became regional manager for Future Shop. Eight years later he left the electronics store to take up a vice-president's position with Samtack.

"I know immigrants have it in them to succeed. That's why we give them the opportunity and training to achieve that," he said.

Ng said his company has 115 employees and about 90 per cent come from countries such as China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Africa and Malaysia.

Immigrants, typically, are hardworking because they come to Canada with a strong focus on getting a better life and providing for themselves and their families, he said. "They also usually have a great attitude, and you need that to succeed."

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