Hiring Foreign Skilled Workers

As an employer, you want to hire the right person for the job. It’s important to keep in mind that the right person could be an immigrant to Nova Scotia. Foreign skilled workers not only contribute to our labour market, they also possess knowledge, expertise and skills that are helpful to your business.

The purpose of this guide is to encourage you to hire foreign skilled workers. In today’s highly competitive environment, companies seek new markets and customers to grow and be profitable. Skilled workers from different cultural backgrounds can provide valuable insights into serving customers with diverse needs.

Click on the links below for more details.

The Value of Immigration

Immigration has always played an important role in Canada’s population and labour force growth. Between 1991 and 2001, 978,000 immigrants joined Canada’s workforce, representing 70 percent of the decade’s total labour force growth of 1.4 million people. By 2011, the Government of Canada predicts that immigration will account for all of Canada’s labour force growth.

Immigration is playing a central role in Nova Scotia as our province faces both demographic and economic change. Over 23% of automotive collision repair technicians are over the age of 50. It is expected that the majority of those technicians will retire or make a career change by 2011.

The effects of our aging population are not unique to Nova Scotia. Canada is experiencing the same demographic shift as are other parts of the world.

Immigration is an obvious solution to the skills challenge, as most immigrants arriving in Canada are of working age, are highly skilled and educated, and are willing to adapt to the Canadian work environment. They also provide diversity of thought, culture and practices, which are beneficial in a global economy. A skilled and motivated labour force contributes to economic growth and immigrants have the potential to make significant contributions to our workplaces and businesses.

Case in point is Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. These large and vibrant cities attract almost three quarters of Canada’s immigrants, demonstrating a strong correlation between high levels of immigration and economic vitality.

The Nova Scotia Automotive Human Resource Sector Council conducted a provincial labour market study on a variety of issues, including labour force requirements. In the 2004/2005 survey, employers revealed that there will be an estimated 495 jobs available between 2004 – 2006. The most pressing issue is the availability of skilled journeyperson, and without a proactive strategy to filling those positions, the landscape of the industry will reshape itself.

Dispelling Myths of Immigration

Immigration to Nova Scotia has declined steadily since the mid-90s, and our retention rate is low. Only about 40 percent of immigrants stay to live and work in Nova Scotia. The primary reason they leave is lack of meaningful employment in the province, an irony considering that we face skills and worker shortages in Nova Scotia.

We have to work harder to attract, retain, and integrate immigrants if we want to reverse a shrinking population and labour force. The private sector has a role to play by creating appropriate conditions, including employment opportunities. Immigrants come from different countries and cultures but, like the Canadian-born population, they are looking to satisfy fundamental human needs, one of which is meaningful long-term employment.

One common myth is that immigrants “steal” jobs from local residents. In fact, there are not enough new apprentices and employees entering the automotive service and repair industry to completely fill all of the employment vacancies. Immigration is part of the solution to ensuring a sufficient supply of skilled workers in Nova Scotia, however, higher levels of immigration alone will not be enough. Immigrants need to be more engaged in economic activity with employment that is suitable to their qualifications. If they are the most qualified candidates for job opportunities, they need to be given a chance to prove themselves in our workplaces.

Foreign Skilled Workers Bring Technical Expertise

In many cases, foreign skilled automotive repair technicians bring expertise in specialty areas such as air conditioning, advancing technologies on imports, diesel engines and diagnostics, to name a few. These specialty skills can fill a skill shortage as well as create new business opportunities for employers, where they were unable to expand services otherwise.

Immigrants Characteristics

Aside from the experience and knowledge they bring, immigrants have other qualities needed in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

By necessity, immigrants are open to change and willing to learn. They leave for an uncertain future in a new country with different people, customs and systems. Once they arrive, they have to find employment, housing, health care services, transportation and social connections as well as adjust to new systems and customs. In today’s global environment, where business has to adapt and take risks to be competitive, having employees who are open to change and learning is a competitive advantage.

Recruitment Process

Permanent Resident Status

There is no special process for hiring immigrants who are already in Nova Scotia. They are permanent residents of Canada and are entitled to work in the country. You review their job applications and conduct interviews with them as you would with Canadian-born residents.

Recruiting Abroad – Nova Scotia Nominee Program (NSNP)

If you have specific job that cannot be filled by a Canadian, then you can recruit from abroad. You can do this either through the Temporary Foreign Worker program administered by Service Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), or through the Nova Scotia Nominee Program (NSNP), which is the primary vehicle for recruiting immigrants to this province. In both cases, you must advertise provincially and nationally to prove and substantiate that there is no appropriate candidate in Canada to meet your needs.

In 2002, Nova Scotia signed an agreement with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to allow the province to have a more active role in selecting immigrants who wish to live in the province. The program is designed to help Nova Scotia employers fill shortages in the permanent workforce and to create economic benefit for the provincial economy. This program became operational in July 2003 and allows the province to nominate up to 1,000 immigrant candidates over five years. Nominees accepted under NSNP will become permanent residents of Canada.

For more information on the NSNP, visit www.novascotiaimmigration.com

Temporary Foreign Worker Program

This program is a vehicle through which you can fill skills and labour force shortages. As an employer, you are required to submit specific documentation to HRSDC for assessment, including proof of an unsuccessful job search for a Canadian worker to do the job at a fair salary, and the job offer to the potential foreign worker. To find out more about the application process, call HRSDC in Halifax at (902) 426-8229 or visit the website.

Hiring Process

7 Steps to Hiring a Foreign Skilled Worker

Step 1: Refer individual to the Automotive Human Resource Sector Council for preliminary interview. The Council may recommend that the client have a Foreign Credentials Assessment, Automotive Occupational Profile completed and English Language Training.

Step 2: Information Exchange between Automotive Human Resource Sector Council and Employer

Step 3: Foreign Worker will complete a voluntary Workplace Skills Assessment

Step 4: Employer provides Cultural Sensitivity Training to employees

Step 5: Employer Interviews foreign worker

Step 6: Employment offer & orientation period

Step 7: Automotive Human Resource Sector Council follow-up and evaluation

Interviewing Immigrants

If the foreign skilled worker has contacted you directly, we recommend that you refer them to the Automotive Human Resource Sector Council for preliminary interview and review of the new Immigration Pathway.

The Council will help the individual access information, resources and the necessary steps to successfully prepare for employment.

Once the individual is ready to work, in your interview you can evaluate whether the persons skills and experience meet the requirements of a particular position. To avoid misunderstandings during the interview and to ensure you don’t eliminate the best candidate for the job, you should learn about differences in cross-cultural communication.

For example, what would you think if someone did not make eye contact with you during an interview? You might question the person’s trustworthiness or interest in the job. However, in some countries, not making eye contact is a sign of respect. In this situation, not knowing about cultural differences may create bias in the selection process.

Recognizing Foreign Worker Credentials

Foreign skilled workers face two major hurdles to continuing their professional careers in Canada: difficulty transferring their international credentials and lack of Canadian work experience.

In some cases, foreign skilled workers may come to Nova Scotia with training documentation and certificates. You can contact the Apprenticeship Training Division to learn if a credential equivalency review has been already done, or you may use professional Credential service providers.

World Education Services (WES) performs evaluations of certificates, diplomas and degrees earned by skilled immigrants and its services are accessible to employers and job seekers across Canada. The average processing time for an evaluation by WES is seven business days and the cost for a basic assessment is $115 per application. Visit www.wes.org or call 1-866-343-0070 for more information. Other credential assessment services are listed in the Resources section.

Asking for Certification Documents

You can ask for apprenticeship, journey-person, or certification documents (when applicable). Technicians arriving from the UK, Europe, Asia and other countries who have worked for international automobile manufacturers may present dealer-specific certificates. For instance, the United Kingdom uses a similar Apprenticeship model referred to as ‘City & Guilds’. Automotive Human Resource Sector Council has contacted several of the manufacturers for more details on the papers and is working with Apprenticeship to compare the training modules. You may wish to contact the Automotive Human Resource Sector Council should you be presented with these certificates.

For assistance with qualification assessment, skills upgrading and certification, contact the Apprenticeship Training and Skill Development Division, Nova Scotia Department of Education, at 1-800-494-5651.

“Trying Out” Foreign Skilled Workers

The Automotive Human Resource Sector Council has established a Workplace Skills Assessment program as a key component to hiring international skilled workers. This process was designed to create a realistic skills assessment for the immigrant that will compliment the Apprenticeship Training Division’s theory assessment.

The Immigration Workplace Skills Assessment process utilizes a user-friendly skills checklist that compliments Apprenticeship modules. An employer assigns an experienced technician(s) to assess their skills, complete the form, and provide a copy to the immigrant and Apprenticeship Training and Skill Development division.

It is recommended that you provide an opportunity for the international worker to demonstrate their technical and non-technical skills for you over a course of one to six weeks. This can be conducted without an obligation to hire, however it is the employers best interest to indicate that you are looking for the right fit. Immigrants should come to you with safety training, e.g. WHMIS, Occupational Health & Safety, and St. John Ambulance First Aid and CPR.

Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS)  also coordinates work placements through the New Beginnings Program (NBP). An immigrant is placed with a Nova Scotia employer for up to six weeks – unpaid work placement. The placement will give you an opportunity to try out a potential employee, with no obligation to pay or hire. There is no cost to employers, but the Canadian work experience that the immigrants gain is invaluable.

Your screening process should include a skills test for all job applicants to assess technical and other competencies.

Occupational Profiling

Industry is now using the Automotive Occupational Profile when hiring, promoting and managing employees. This Profile improves the process of hiring the right fit, and helps management get to know the individual much sooner than otherwise. Occupational Profiling assesses a person’s learning style, behaviour and occupational interest. The Profile is available and administered by the Automotive Human Resource Sector Council.

Retention Process

Click on the links below for some techniques to improving your retention of foreign skilled workers.

Developing a Culturally-friendly Organization

As with any employee, you want your immigrant employees to feel welcome in your organization. This is especially important for foreign skilled workers as they try to integrate into a new country. Immigrants have cultural differences from the mainstream norms and your staff should accept and be open to these differences. This diversity can even be recognized and celebrated for the value it adds to your organization’s culture. An atmosphere of acceptance and openness, in turn, further enriches and promotes your organization as one that is culturally friendly.

Diversity Training

The Automotive Human Resource Sector Council encourages you to provide Cultural Training for employees to enhance understanding of different cultures. A common theme in diversity training is awareness: awareness of stereotypes, awareness of oneself, and awareness of those different from you. Contact the Automotive Human Resource Sector Council for training availability.

Orientation Program

As part of your organization’s human resource strategy, you should have an effective orientation program for all employees. This training period helps create awareness of the organizational and expected norms and practices across the organization.

Canadian Workplace Education

ISIS now offers pre-employability training that will help the new comer better understand the Canadian workplace. Setting expectations before employment will help play a role in successfully integrating the person into the workplace. During the interview process, you may ask questions about their style of workplace in their country of origin.

Mentoring Program

Mentoring is a valuable tool for employers and employees. The Automotive Human Resource Sector Council has developed an Automotive Mentorship Strategy to help employers adopt the program into their workplace. Mentorship facilitates the transfer of information, the enhancement of skills and productivity, and the development of relationships. You can develop a program to match existing staff members with immigrant workers.

ESL (English as a Second Language) Tutoring Programs

If an immigrant does not qualify for LINC training, there are ESL programs that rely on volunteers to assist immigrants in developing language skills. The tutor is someone with whom to talk, share, and learn. ESL tutoring programs are offered by MISA, the Halifax Regional Library, and the Centre for Diverse Visible Cultures.

English in the Workplace Program

The Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre (HILC) offers an English in the Workplace program for employees requiring additional English training at your workplace. An instructor delivers customized training to foreign skilled workers at the workplace. While there is no cost to employers, the program is delivered at the workplace and employees are expected to attend the sessions during regular working hours. For more information, call HILC at (902) 443-2937.

On-line Automotive Translation Websites

There are a variety of free websites that will help the foreign skilled worker to learn English automotive terminology. We recommend that the employer bookmark these on their shop computers for quick and easy reference.

Technical Skills Checklist

The ‘Technical Skills Checklist’ was developed from the Apprenticeship skills assessment model and can be used by the employer to determine the technical skills of a potential employee.

Employer Interview Questions

The Employer Interview Questions were developed to help the employer identify and address cultural differences prior to hiring a foreign skilled worker.

Immigration Pathway

The ‘Immigration Pathway’ is a guide to assist the foreign skilled worker to enter the Nova Scotia automotive industry. The pathway provides an outline of the roles and responsibilities for MISA, the Sector Council and the foreign skilled worker to allow a smooth transition into the workforce.