When Wayne Sales immigrated to Canada from the United States, in 1991, he landed a job almost immediately in retail. And within 10 years, he was president and chief executive officer of Canadian Tire–one of the country's largest retail chains. He recognizes, however, that not everyone is so lucky. “As I meet new Canadians, I find a huge disconnect and a huge amount of frustration [when it comes to penetrating the labour market],” says the 55-year-old executive. “Our ability to leverage their skill sets, capabilities and academic achievements coming to Canada is very, very difficult.” With news that Prime Minister Paul Martin's office is considering a major expansion of Canada's immigration system and an announcement that the Ontario government plans to quadruple per-person funding to help new immigrants with job training and other services, the issue of integrating new Canadians into the workforce will likely become even more of a political hot potato. About 40,000 highly qualified immigrants move to the Greater Toronto Area each year–many of whom end up unemployed or working in jobs well below their skill level. To do his part, Sales joined the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council's Mentoring Partnership program–officially launched last February. Over the past six months, he met regularly with 32-year-old Cecilia Asuncion, helping her with resumé writing and professional networking. To date, the program has made 363 matches, and 115 participants have found full-time employment–97 of them in their chosen fields. Pretty good batting average.
The Integration Game
With news that the Prime Minister's office is considering a major expansion of Canada's immigration system, the issue of integrating new immigrants into the workforce will likely become even more of a political hot potato