A global minset: Hiring newcomers pays off twice
Sara Ericcson, Sept. 6, 2019, 4:20 p.m.
Imtiaz Ahman says he owes a big thank you to ISANS. - Paul Darrow
Imtiaz Ahman lost hope he’d find a job when his applications went months without a response.
He says despite his qualifications and English skills the numerous applications he sent out to business analyst and other positions brought him no results in his job search process after he arrived in Halifax from Bangladesh.
So he returned to where he started and reconnected with employment programming providers at Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) and says the process proved invaluable — he landed a job in his field he’s been at now for nearly a year.
“After three or four months, you start doubting yourself and think that maybe you’re not good enough.
But that’s not the case, because you know everything you need to know. It’s just the communication and finer details that need honing, and that’s where ISANS comes in,” says Ahman.
Skills and confidence both key
When Ahman arrived in Canada in 2018, he felt baffled by the country’s application and interview process. It was a shock he did not know to anticipate but is something nearly all immigrants will encounter during their job search.
He enrolled in an ISANS job search and skills workshop and says the experience was “brilliant” because it taught him small yet significant skills like how his resume should be two pages, how to structure a cover letter and how to target an application for each specific job.
It’s a process ISANS’ Employment and Bridging Program Manager Mohja Alia says all newcomers should prioritize when they arrive in Canada because such skills don’t just set them up for one specific job, but rather the labour market as a whole.
“If they don’t learn about the job search process, their chances of landing job interviews will be limited. These techniques and practice sessions give them the self-confidence to become better prepared for the labour market and job interviews,” she says.
When he completed his first round of job search training, Ahman says those months without reply soon turned into requests for interviews that presented him with a new challenge — the job interview.
And so he returned to ISANS again for help on how to face this new hurdle, and found the one-on-one instruction and practice sessions transformed his confidence, and set him up for success.
It got him his job as a Senior Business Analyst at the IWK Health Centre.
“Having that confidence made all the difference, and really helped. I got the job because things went well and things are going well for me at the IWK,” he says.
Why hire from away
Carol Logan is the Director of Human Resources at The Prince George Hotel and Cambridge Suites Hotel, where nearly 20 per cent of hotel staff is immigrants hired through job programs and partners including ISANS.
The hotels participate in recruitment sessions conducted by ISANS and later partner with the association to provide paid English as second language courses and other job-specific training for each employee they hire.
“These might not be forever jobs for them, but they are great opportunities for a first step. If we can help them get Canadian work experience, we feel really great about that,” says Logan.
Alia says ISANS job programming includes occupation-specific job training for low to medium skilled persons in areas like automotive, construction and hospitality, from which The Prince George Hotel and Cambridge Suites Hotel regularly hire. But they also offer higher-level bridging programs like a competency assessment through Engineers Nova Scotia that currently employs 90 per cent of the engineers who’ve participated in their chosen fields.
Alia says ISANS helped a total 1,200 clients gain employment in the 2018 fiscal year, and of that 75 per cent in their field or related field.
The vast majority of immigrants arriving in Nova Scotia are highly-educated, English-proficient individuals, with 80 per cent having earned a bachelor’s, masters or PhD degree in their native country.
Ahmad was one such arrival, and says he still made a point of taking English classes tailored to words to use to make his resume stand out.
He says the one-on-one training he received went a long way in helping him understand colloquial Canadian English, but also what specific words to use to make his resume stand out.
“We all speak English, but this language has so many variants. So it was important for me to learn those soft skills, because those are often even more important than the technical knowledge in getting the job,” he says.
A diversified workforce
Logan says the hotels continue hiring international employees not only to help them gain Canadian work experience, but also because of the unique perspective they bring.
“Hotels are a global business, so employees from different places can help navigate languages with guests and can help understand their perspectives. These employees also bring a great selection of creativity and innovation,” she says.
Alia says she would encourage any company to consider hiring immigrants and to consider their unique qualifications, skills and experiences when hiring for jobs.
She says hearing someone speak with an accent, as an example, can be seen as a unique opportunity to bring a new language skill to your team, instead of making you wonder what circumstances they’ve come from.
“Look at that before you look at where they are coming from — give them an opportunity and try to benefit from them to build a diversified workforce, because it will allow everyone to excel,” she says.
Ahman says immigrants like him do just that, and also bring a diversity of ideas and different viewpoints to the table.
He says he’s been able to cover loopholes because of his own unique way of thinking, and says other immigrants likely do the same in their respective jobs.
“We contribute to the thinking process, most of all I think, because sometimes with a different background you think in your own way. And all of that adds up to give everyone a better understanding of the business,” he says.
This article first appeared in the July/August edition of Business Voice Magazine, produced on behalf of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.