PLANT

Skilled immigrants boost GTA companies’ fortunes

The results of a recent survey in the Greater Toronto Area shows there are benefits to hiring skilled immigrants for manufacturers that do business abroad.


May 17, 2011
by PLANT STAFF

TORONTO: The results of a recent survey in the Greater Toronto Area shows there are benefits to hiring skilled immigrants for manufacturers that do business abroad.

Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), which advocates better integration of skilled immigrants into the local labour market, engaged research company EKOS to ask 461 Toronto area companies, mostly small and medium enterprises from a range of sectors, about their employment practices.

The results show 20% of employers hired skilled immigrants to help expand globally and locally. Of these respondents, 93% feel the skilled immigrants hired have been effective doing so globally and 83% locally.

One in 10 have hired a skilled immigrant because they discovered that competitors were benefiting from hiring skilled immigrants. Of those employers, 81% feel those hired have been effective.

TRIEC offers some examples of manufacturers that are tapping into the skilled immigrant community.

Phoenix Geophysics Ltd., a geophysical manufacturing and contracting company in Toronto that exports to more than 80 countries, does more than half its business in China and about 20% in Russia. It hires “market makers” who can help the company open up new opportunities in their home countries. The company has 51 employees from 20 countries who speak 15 languages.

Almost all (99%) of Toronto-based George Kelk Corp.’s sensor sales to steel rolling mills are international. More than 80% of its employees are immigrants, hired in engineering, technology and sales roles. The Toronto employer says customers can call and expect to speak to someone who knows their language.

Thales Canada makes what it calls “brains for trains” technology that allows trains to run without operators. With 90% of its business in the global marketplace, Toronto-based Thales systematically targets and cultivates internationally trained professionals.

Samtack, a computer manufacturing and distribution company in Markham, Ont., has a 100-person workforce, more than 90% of which are immigrants. It has leveraged this talent to respond to the changing needs of mass merchant customers; to increase market share with smaller, local and diverse retailers; and to purchase parts from overseas suppliers, mainly from China.

Close to 40% of the businesses surveyed had more than 100 employees, 30% between one and four; and close to 30% between five and 100.

TRIEC’s members include representatives from employers, labour, occupational regulatory bodies, post-secondary institutions, assessment service providers, community organizations, and the three levels of government.