Making Accommodations for Immigrant Workers

August 12th, 2010 by

By Pat Hinds,

I read an interesting article in the Calgary Herald last week entitled, “Why aren’t more businesses hiring immigrants?”. The premise of the news article is:

“Here’s a paradox: Business owners constantly complain about scarcity of talent to work in trades or semiskilled jobs, or the difficulty of finding motivated people willing to work in lower-wage service positions. Yet these same owners often overlook a mother-lode of talent right under their noses.

A survey by the Canadian federation of Independent Business shows 78% of small business owners reported not hiring any recent immigrants between 2003 and 2006.”

This article resonated with me as I tried to hire a Chinese immigrant who spoke English as a 2nd language and train her to become a salesforce administrator. I felt she was a perfect candidate, her training in China was engineering and she had worked in marketing for a major controls equipment manufacturer. I was paying to have her study for her salesforce admin test so she could become certified and work with POIM on salesforce projects. My motivation to hire an immigrant worker was simple: she was smart, a hard worker and provided a lower cost for a small company to hire a person with this type of education.

I ran into one problem as companies like salesforceare not set-up to accommodate people in their North American certification process who are English as a second language learners. The salesforce admin certification requires extensive memorizing of material and to compound the difficulty the questions are often abstract and designed to fool the test taker. If you are an English as a second language learner, it is next to impossible for people to read an English question that is designed to challenge the test taker by being abstract. The net result for POIM is the new hire took the test twice and failed twice, she became discouraged and decided to go back to school.

My point is we small businesses have access to a large resource of talented immigrant workers, but enterprise organizations are slow to accommodate the requirements of ESL workers. An analogy would be if I wanted to hire a person in a wheelchair that required mobility and I did not install wheel chair ramps. In Canada we are faced with a shrinking pool of Canadian workers; as a result immigrant workers will be a driving labor force and companies need to make changes to the way they approach these workers if Canada wants to maintain its productivity.

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Topics: Sales Consulting