Surrey businesses tackle employment and labour shortage

How to attract, hire and retain skilled immigrants will be the focus of a 15-session program across the province.

On Friday, Feb. 10, employers representing businesses in Surrey will brainstorm on the topic.

Lead by the Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC-BC), with funding from the Province of BC, the purpose of the consultation is to better understand the labour market needs of the Surrey region as part of an overall effort to develop more effective solutions that address the hiring challenges of businesses in BC.

Surrey has a rapidly growing immigrant population, yet employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find and retain talent. As a result, it is becoming increasingly important to work with employers to develop solutions to more efficiently and effectively connect employers with the talent they need. These solutions will benefit Surrey's economy and offset the growing number of retirees, as the population ages and as residents leave the workforce.

"Business, small and large, need to seriously think about the skills that they need to make their products, sell their products and services," says Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade.

"A global talent shortage is poised to hit employers by as early as 2015. This means we will require a significant influx of talent to counter the rate at which our aging population is leaving the workforce. Employers in BC will become increasingly reliant on skilled immigrants to remain competitive in this changing economy. Integrating immigrant talent is critical to BC's future economic prosperity. However, we need to see this talent pool not as a temporary economic remedy, but as a new reality about our diverse community that will unquestionably affect the way we hire and conduct business now and for the foreseeable future," says Kelly Pollack, Executive Director, Immigrant Employment Council of BC.

"We are taking a sector-based and regional approach to develop solutions that address the labour market needs of employers in BC. This is why we are meeting with employers in regions across BC to obtain feedback on how to more effectively attract, hire and retain immigrant talent."

Surrey's visible minority population in 2010 was 182,860 or 38.3 per cent of the city's total population and 24.8 per cent of the provincial population. Population growth in Surrey was higher than the provincial rate (2.9 per cent increase between 2005 and 2010, compared to 1.5 per cent) and Surrey's business community has identified immigrant employment as a top business priority in the region.

With support from the Surrey Board of Trade, IEC-BC has invited businesses operating in Surrey, and the surrounding region, to participate in a guided focus-group that is expected to yield recommendations that will inform the development of provincial and federal programs and policies that support immigrant labour market integration in BC, where appropriate. This feedback will also assist IEC-BC in building concrete tools, resources and effective practices for employers, especially SMEs, that would benefit their bottom line and ultimately grow BC's economy.

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