Virtual hub matches skilled newcomers with jobs

MaryAnn Kempe’s crew has a list of job postings ready: she’s been waiting for the Newcomer Employment Hub.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/03/2022 (189 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MaryAnn Kempe’s crew has a list of job postings ready: she’s been waiting for the Newcomer Employment Hub.

The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce launched the virtual hub last Friday. The portal matches job-seeking immigrants with employers by using artificial intelligence.

“There’s (been) a gap,” Kempe, who’s the chief human resources officer for Birchwood Automotive Group, said. “Newcomers are looking for work. They’re talented, they’re experienced. Employers like us need this talent… but there was no common place for us to say, ‘This is what we need.’”

Through artificial intelligence, job seekers will apply for jobs matching their skills and browse postings. The site then highlights people who best fit a company’s requirements, says Loren Remillard, the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce’s president and CEO. (Winnipeg Free Press files)

“The Chamber just stepped up and has filled that need.”

Newcomer service agencies — five for now — will help clients upload resumes to the hub on the chamber’s website. Chamber members will post jobs in the same space and list their core qualifications.

Through artificial intelligence, job seekers will be invited to apply for jobs matching their skills; job seekers can also browse postings. Employers will see flagged applicants as they read resumes — the site highlights people who best fit a company’s requirements.

“Instead of going through 100 resumes and assessing, the AI program does that work for you,” said Loren Remillard, the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce’s president and CEO.

Newcomer agencies will assist in settling the new hire in their role and will help companies work to overcome barriers, Remillard said.

“That’s the goal… that that person coming into your workplace is welcomed and feels, as much as can be, barrier free,” he said.

The project has been in the works since 2019.

“We have this wealth of talent within the newcomer Canadian community that are either unemployed or underemployed,” Remillard said.

He’s on Immigration Partnership Winnipeg’s council. The group brainstormed how to connect newcomers to relevant jobs while also filling gaps in the workforce.

“Whenever we survey our members, for years, talent attraction, retention and development has been a top issue,” Remillard said.

The Chamber and its partners launched a feasibility study including interviews, surveys and focus groups.

“We knew that this was going to be something that required significant research, significant investment (and) significant collaboration, so we wanted to make sure we took the requisite time to understand the need,” Remillard said.

The results came out in February 2021, in a 22-page report, leading to the creation of the Newcomer Employment Hub.

Monika Feist, CEO of Success Skills Centre, is excited about the possibilities the hub will present. (Joe Bryksa / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Entry to advanced-level jobs will be on the site.

“Ideally, it is really designed to assist those companies whose growth is being constrained because they just can’t find people,” Remillard said, adding the pandemic has exacerbated the problem of finding staff.

Five newcomer agencies are on board for the pilot version of the program, which will last two months, Remillard said.

“It’s so exciting,” said Monika Feist, CEO of Success Skills Centre, one of the five agencies. “The employer is looking for a good match, and so are we.”

Success Skills Centre is joined by N.E.E.D.S Inc., Opportunities for Employment Winnipeg, Seven Oaks Immigrant Services and the Immigrant Centre.

The organizations have a plethora of offerings for clients, including resume workshops and practice interviews. They can help clients through the application process.

Uploading resumes to the Newcomer Employment Hub will be done on a one-on-one basis, and only when the client is ready, Feist said.

“(This) doesn’t do away with the contacts that we have with individual… employers,” she said. “This is an additional help.”

Employers will have access to the Chamber’s diversity and inclusion programs and will be able to connect with the newcomer agencies for support upon hiring.

“Maybe it’s some cultural brokering,” or troubleshooting, including talking about workplace culture with the new employee, said Jessica Praznik, a project manager with Immigration Partnership Winnipeg.

Praznik worked closely with the Chamber on the hub. Immigrants not with an agency can also submit a resume.

“Part of the hub is trying to build up (newcomers’) networks,” Praznik said.

Most people who stay in their home country have relationships that make it easier to get a job, whether it be through friends, family or distant acquaintances, Praznik said.

Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Jessica Praznik, a project manager with Immigration Partnership Winnipeg, worked closely with the Chamber on developing the hub. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“When (immigrants) come here, they don’t have those connections,” she said.

Kempe, from Birchwood Automotive Group, said having employees from different countries makes the business “stronger.”

“It really allows us to connect with our customers,” she said. “We should be representative of our customers, and our customers are from all (over).”

Diversity brings increased cultural sensitivity, she added.

Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada is giving $175,000 over three years for the hub. The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce is also providing funding.

The Chamber plans to bring more newcomer agencies into the fold once the pilot finishes, Remillard said.

The goal is for the private sector to fund the hub completely in the future, and to expand to Indigenous communities and people with disabilities.

“We know they are significantly underrepresented in the workplace but represent just a tremendous talent pool,” Remillard said.

The Chamber is hosting a virtual training session on the Newcomer Employment Hub on April 7.

gabrielle.piche@winnipegfreepress.com

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché
Reporter

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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