Canadian companies struggle to hire Ukrainian newcomers

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, third from left, was among those to greet a flight of 170 Ukrainians in Moncton, New Brunswick, on June 7.Kevin Bissett/The Canadian Press

A Canadian business group that pledged in March to help bring up to 1,000 Ukrainian families to Canada says progress has been surprisingly slow as job offers have gone unanswered and barriers such language training have proven difficult to overcome.

Shortly after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, a group of 18 Canadian companies, mostly based in Quebec, publicly pledged to provide jobs and support to 80 Ukrainian families each.

The coalition is led by music and media provider Stingray Group Inc. RAY-AT and includes Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. ATD-T, National Bank of Canada NA-T, Bombardier Inc. BBD-BT and KPMG Canada. Other companies joined the initiative in the following months.

Although several of the participating companies have made hiring, many said they have not hired any employees and half did not respond to requests for an update from The Globe and Mail.

“It was much slower than expected. Participating companies have posted a number of positions and resumes are trickling in, but it’s taking longer than expected,” said Stingray spokesperson Eva Hartling. “It’s hard to know exactly why, but interviews are taking place and employers remain hopeful.”

Among the most successful participants in the initial coalition were Groupe Helios, an industrial machinery manufacturer based in Longueuil, Quebec, which hired 15 Ukrainian newcomers, and Resolute Forest Products Inc. RFP-T, which hired 15 14 in its Ontario pulp and paper operations.

CGI Inc. GIB-AT said it hired employees but did not share exact numbers; the Montreal-based IT company said it is making a $5,000 lump sum payment on new employees’ first paycheck. Manufacturer CAE Inc. CAE-T, National Bank and Bombardier have all said they have hired one employee so far, with Bombardier adding that it is offering 30 days of accommodation to new hires.

Stingray itself, technology company Coveo Solutions Inc. CVO-T and KPMG Canada said they posted jobs but made no hiring. Desjardins Group and Couche-Tard did not respond specifically to questions about hiring.

But Craig Batten, regional human resources manager at Resolute Forest Products, said it was a learning process: companies continue to share their ideas and grow their volunteer communities in Canada to reach Ukrainians. looking for a job.

“I’m not going to consider the goal of 1,000 employees a daunting task, because we have hundreds of opportunities here,” he said. “We will continue to advertise these opportunities to find the best candidates who want to come and work for us.”

At a time of record unemployment, many employers saw the influx of Ukrainian newcomers to Canada as an opportunity to fill jobs and support families fleeing conflict.

Nearly 70,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada since Russia invaded in late February, and while early delays in work visa applications have mostly been resolved, experts say Canadian businesses are now facing unexpected challenges.

Some barriers begin even before newcomers arrive in Canada. Reaching Ukrainians abroad has proven difficult. While many companies have posted job openings on online job boards, these have not attracted as much attention as expected, some executives said.

Helios Group President Simon Beauchamp said that although the company initially posted more than 20 jobs online, it had little success in finding candidates.

But the momentum grew when several Ukrainians arrived in the city later in the spring and hired two translators. These two new employees are now reaching other Ukrainians through social media and community connections, and have helped the company find the rest of its 15 new employees.

“They now coordinate recruitment, training and translation of documents. They also assist newcomers with the details of arranging their daily lives,” said Beauchamp.

For communities and businesses outside the GTA, having such a “champion” is key to raising awareness of opportunities outside of major urban centers, where most asylum seekers first land, said Chris Garwood, Economic Development Supervisor for Norfolk County, a municipality outside of Hamilton.

The “champion” of his community, a Ukrainian immigrant who has been in Canada for 14 years, acts as an interpreter and follows up with Ukrainians who arrive here.

“By the time they arrive in Toronto, they already know they’re heading to Norfolk County,” Garwood said. To date, 25 Ukrainians have settled in their community.

But he said employers still face one of the biggest hurdles to employees: language barriers. Most employers post translated job descriptions online, but although many newcomers to Canada have English skills, many need additional courses before qualifying to work. For companies in Quebec, where French is required, this represents an additional obstacle.

In his county, providing training in English has proven difficult in recent months, Mr Garwood said.

“Agencies here that usually offer classes only do so during the school year. We had to buy textbooks, recruit volunteer teachers and create an ESL classroom ourselves. We have so many companies looking for workers, but newcomers must first achieve a certain level of English proficiency.

Once settled, many need additional support in their personal lives before finding employment. For example, many are mothers with young children who face additional barriers to entering the labor market, said Tania Maksymenko, project manager for the Rural Employment Initiative at the Newcomers Center of Peel, an organization who helps people once they arrive.

Ms. Maksymenko said that since the start of the year, between 4,500 and 5,000 Ukrainian mothers newly arrived in Canada have joined parenting communities in the Greater Toronto Area. In addition to language barriers, she said, they often struggle to find adequate transportation or childcare. “There’s a lot of community support, but it’s still very difficult,” she said.

And like all other newcomers, finding accommodation is a problem – rent is expensive in cities, and where it is cheaper in rural areas, a car is often necessary. In order to attract employees, some companies offer accommodation, as well as transport to their employment base from Ukraine itself.

One such company is Resolute Forest Products, which operates in 30 cities across Ontario and Quebec, many of which are located in the North or in remote areas. The company provides new employees with three months of accommodation and transportation of their families and belongings from Toronto.

“We don’t assume that person has ever taken care of this,” Batten said. “It’s not just a one-time effort.”

Their efforts created momentum: Ukrainians who moved to Atikokan, a northern Ontario town where the company operates one of its sawmill facilities, began to attract friends and family, attracting next wave of potential employees.

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