When the Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia (IEC-BC) was founded in 2008, it was created to do things differently. While there were many immigrant-serving agencies working directly with newcomers to help prepare them for work in Canada, no one was helping employers see the talent in front of them.

Instead of focusing on what immigrants need to do to fit into the Canadian labour force, IEC-BC works with employers to help them understand the value of including newcomers in their organizations and make the changes required to facilitate their integration. It produces reports on the benefits of a diverse workforce and resources to help employers conduct bias-free interviews, create inclusive workplaces and more.

“Our goal is to fill the gap between what employers need and the talent skilled immigrants bring to the table,” says Iona Santos-Fresnoza, Program Coordinator for IEC-BC’s highly successful FAST program.

Highlighting the value of the BioReady recognition

FAST (Facilitating Access to Skilled Talent) focuses on areas with the most acute skills shortages. It offers a set of free online tools and resources for both skilled immigrants and employers looking to fill vacancies. And it works.

IEC-BC’s studies have shown that around two thirds of FAST participants land jobs in their fields within four weeks of arriving in Canada. Santos-Fresnoza says partnering with BioTalent Canada to expand the program (which initially focused exclusively on skilled trades) to include the bio-economy was an easy decision.

“The BioReady program gave newcomers a way to showcase their skills and recognition that would let employers know their skills, competencies and previous experience had been checked and evaluated,” she says. “That kind of a recognition was something we already wanted to offer, so it was a great fit.”

The partnership also helped the agency build connections with more bio-economy employers. Many weren’t familiar with IEC-BC but knew BioTalent Canada, and Santos-Fresnoza says that helped open doors.

“It helps companies better understand the value of what we’re bringing when we contact them,” she says.

Thanks to the partnership, more companies are starting to recognize the BioReady seal and understand what it means. Now, Santos-Fresnoza says she believes it’s helping clients get invited to interviews that they otherwise might not have, if an employer only looked at their Canadian experience.

A deep talent pool waiting to be tapped

Santos-Fresnoza adds that she looks forward to continuing to partner with BioTalent Canada to find more ways of connecting highly skilled immigrants with companies that need their talent.

“The biggest hurdle remains awareness and understanding,” she says. “The talent employers need is right there in a pool they already have access to. Programs like this help them see it and make it as easy as possible for them to leverage it.”