The health of our society — and economy — is indelibly tied to the success of newcomers
More than 300,000 people immigrate to Canada in a typical year. Those individuals are vital to diversifying our culture and economy, and expanding our workforce.
In fact, without significant levels of immigration, the country’s labour market would shrink. But help is needed. Entering the labour force is a critical step for newcomers to Canada, yet many of them arrive with education and work experience that is either undervalued by the Canadian labour market, or completely unrecognized. In addition, some individuals may arrive with no formal qualifications or previous experience at all.
With the right supports in place, immigrants — and refugees — stand a better chance of becoming contributing members of Canadian society.
Research, advocacy and an innovative networking platform co-created at Ryerson are helping to meet that goal.
Making a difference in the lives of immigrants and refugees
The successful settlement and integration of newcomers is clearly an important policy issue for Canada.
“The ability of Canada to do it right is critical for the future growth and economic, cultural and social health of the country,” says John Shields, a politics and public administration professor at Ryerson’s Faculty of Arts and senior scholar with CERIS, Ontario’s leading network of researchers, policymakers and practitioners working in the field of migration and settlement.
He is also a prolific author of books, articles and research papers whose work is widely cited in international journals. He frequently appears as a guest or panelist on radio, television and podcasts to discuss issues relating to immigration and integration, and as an expert in his field he has shared his insights as a witness before parliamentary committees.
300,000Number of people who typically immigrate to Canada each year
“The research I have been engaged in has been very grounded in the real policy challenges facing newcomers after their arrival in Canada,” Shields explains. “It involves working closely with community-based partners. Hence, the work is centred both in the critical academic literature but also in the lived experiences of support practitioners and immigrants themselves.”
Ryerson’s mandate for applied policy-relevant research and its connection with the community has greatly facilitated his work, Shields adds.
What drives his inquiries is a desire for clarity. “We need to know more about what kinds of settlement programming have the greatest positive impacts on newcomer populations and how best to deliver them,” he says. “This also includes how to reform systems of government partnering with non-profit settlement agencies to ensure those organizations have the ability to respond flexibly to newcomer needs.”
When asked what more he would like to see happen, Shields is quick to list a few ideal-world priorities.
We need to know more about what kinds of settlement programming have the greatest positive impacts on newcomer populations and how best to deliver them.John Shields, Professor, Politics and Public Administration
“Financially supporting community partners to more actively engage in research would give us greater insight into the working of settlement programs and the immigration policies that guide them. It would allow for more in-depth interviews with settlement workers and immigrants to understand better their experiences. Such funding would also allow us to engage in deeper and more reflective evaluations of new settlement initiatives, including pre-arrival programming. This would help to refine and better target programs for improved outcomes,” he says.
There is no shortage of ideas from Shields. In the meantime, his work and the projects he is leading are already making a profound difference.
Responding to the needs of newcomers
Matchmaking is not always about romance. “We often hear about jobs without people and people without jobs,” says Mark Patterson, executive director of the not-for-profit, social innovation platform Magnet.
“There’s an opportunity to better support employers and workers — especially vulnerable newcomers — during challenging times such as we are experiencing today,” Patterson adds. “The question is, how can we equip employment service providers, community organizations and employers across Canada to create a more inclusive labour market that meets the needs of our evolving 21st century economy?”
Magnet is providing part of the answer. Its mission is to accelerate economic growth in Canada by advancing careers, businesses and communities. It does that by connecting people and organizations to opportunities through an intelligent matching technology that was developed in 2014 at Ryerson’s DMZ — North America’s top-ranked university incubator and one of a series of on-campus zones for startups, causes, projects or ventures — in partnership with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
“Ryerson has a long history of partnering with community organizations to support inclusive economic development and has a culture that fosters fresh ideas and solutions to social challenges. This environment provides the perfect home for Magnet,” says Patterson.
Magnet’s network now includes 1.1 million job seekers and students, 500,000 employer accounts, 60 industry associations, and 300 community organizations. The organization also provides the digital infrastructure for Canada’s Future Skills Centre, a federally funded partnership led by Ryerson, alongside The Conference Board of Canada and non-profit research organization Blueprint.
500,000Number of employer accounts within the Magnet network set to connect with 1.1 million job seekers
One of the chief challenges that Magnet is responding to is the needs of newcomers. Its Hire Immigrants initiative helps employers recruit, retain and promote those who are pursuing a place in the Canadian workforce. It also provides policy makers, researchers and community activists with analysis and global thought leadership on immigrant employment and entrepreneurship.
“Magnet’s ALiGN project is also key. In place of creating matches based on skills and experience, it creates talent-to-role matches based on the results of a personality assessment,” explains Patterson.
“We believe this work is critical in a time of rapid change and disruption in the labour market,” he adds.
Indeed, empowering organizations in communities across the country with technology, tools and assessments such as ALiGN can help ensure a brighter future in Canada and potentially beyond. The technology Magnet leverages in service of the Canadian economy is both exportable and scalable in other parts of the world. The possibilities for expansion are immense.