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Burnaby Board of Trade: Diversity Dialogue

On the evening of April 28th, at the Hilton Metrotown Hotel, the Burnaby Board of Trade brought 150 local employers and connected them with ready-to-hire new immigrants in a round table discussion in an effort to bring more awareness to the issue of new immigrant employment.

The guest speaker was the infectious, passionate Ian Cook, Director of Research and Policy for the BC Human Resources Association.  He enthusiastically spoke about his HR experience working with large firms in Europe and after moving to Canada, was faced with the question, “Do you have any Canadian Experience,” to which half of the room nodded their heads.  He spewed out a series of alarming numbers, long story short, that Canadian employers must look at foreign born immigrants as a source of recruitment to survive.  He asked employers sitting in the room to ask instead, “How is your experience relevant in Canada?” to get a better answer during interviews.

The Burnaby Board of Trade showed a video of their sponsored bus that brought close to 30 new immigrants to three different Burnaby employers for a site visit.  They were shown the working environment, given a short presentation from the respective HR manager regarding what they’re looking for, etc.  The video showed the job seekers really appreciating the insight and experience, but many of them have become somewhat bitter from their long job search process.

We were then broken into roundtables − two employers per table, along with eight job seekers.  I was sitting with an East Indian man who is a programmer working at IBM, not an employer, but representing IBM.  He immediately got slammed with questions from job seekers, if IBM is hiring, and how they can apply etc.  Because he wasn’t in HR, he could only tell them his own job seeking experience, but that didn’t satisfy the candidates.
I took the facilitation role and asked everyone what their concerns were, and addressed each of them.  One job seeker was an eager Chinese lady whose work experience is in import exporting.  She was quite impatient and often cut me off mid sentence.  It made me laugh, because this type of behaviour is considered normal in Asia, but considered very disrespectful and exactly the reason why she’s unemployed.
I did get to meet some great job candidates with IT background, and Steve, an IT security specialist from Russian later came to work with us as a job candidate.  I see great potential in him and hope to place him soon.
It is really great to see Burnaby Board of Trade and Surrey Chamber of Commerce taking initiative in addressing issues within the community and building the bridge so it helps those less advantaged.  Diversity should not be a slogan, but something we champion everyday.

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