"I am the living proof that refugees have skills beyond anybody's imagination and I am now changing the narrative and I am excited that my story is going to be part of something that is bigger than myself."
– Joseph Thon, HIRES alumni & Creative Director for “Changing Lives, Enriching Businesses: One Job at a Time” (forthcoming video series)
The project in brief
The project is implemented by World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and partners in Canada and Kenya. It began in November 2019 and is currently ongoing.
HIRES engages the tourism and hospitality sector in Canada to sponsor and employ refugee youth from a protracted refugee situation. By way of complementary immigration pathways, employment-ready refugees can access a durable solution and entry-level employment within a sector facing labour shortages in Canada. Pre-departure training and job matching is coordinated by WUSC, while Canadian workplaces support the integration and career development of refugee youth upon arrival.
The goals of the project are to:
- Expand economic opportunities and durable solutions for refugees.
- Engage new private sector and community partners in the creation of third country opportunities for refugees.
- Build the capacity of Canadian employers to welcome and employ skilled refugees.
- Accelerate the settlement of and pathway to self-reliance of refugees in welcoming communities.
Main activities of the Good Practice
The main activities of the project included:
- Employer outreach and mobilisation in collaboration with sector associations and post-secondary institutions’ industry networks.
- Identification and selection of refugee youth living in Kenya that meet program eligibility.
- Verification of official documents with the country of asylum and validation of secondary school leaving certificates.
- Delivery of sector-specific pre and post-arrival training to refugee participants to equip them with the skills and knowledge needed to enter the labour market in Canada upon arrival.
- Coordination of interviews between participating workplaces and selected participants who meet the criteria of the positions being filled.
- Facilitation of the immigration form submission and arrival process for groups of beneficiaries.
- The provision of training to workplace volunteers and community partners to support the integration and mentorship of refugees within their workplace and host community.
"Participating in (the) HIRES program has created a wealth of benefits for our team, our leaders and our organization as a whole. Not only have we been able to welcome amazing new Canadians to the hospitality industry, but we have gained new Fam-Jam members and been able to show them how we Lead with Love. We can only hope that their time with us, whether a year or much more, is the launching pad for their future contributions to the communities we operate in. We are committed, as an employer, to radically enrich the lives of our people and the HIRES program is a phenomenal opportunity to do just that."
- Accent Inns / Hotel Zed / Roar
- British Columbia Hotel Association
- Camosun College
- 24 hospitality workplaces
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
Employer engagement barriers, such as housing shortages, the seasonality of the industry, and limitations in HR capacity, presented obstacles in establishing sustainable partnerships with employers. The impact of COVID-19, marked by immigration and travel restrictions, added an unforeseen layer of complexity, affecting the mobility and integration of newcomers. Another significant challenge was the limited availability of settlement services in rural and remote communities experiencing high labor demands, posing difficulties in adequately supporting newcomers. Furthermore, sustaining volunteer engagement in transient industries and communities proved challenging, requiring continuous efforts to foster commitment and ensure a consistent level of support throughout the project's duration.
How they were overcome
The challenges encountered during the project were addressed through a combination of measures. To navigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and housing shortages, the project team expanded geographies to identify employers less affected by these challenges. This involved collaborating with companies that offered on-site staff housing, providing a solution to the housing barrier. In the volatile pandemic environment, strong management of employer and training partner relationships proved essential in maintaining project momentum. Additionally, close collaboration with Canada's Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship department facilitated the immigration process and the project's ability to adapt to evolving circumstances. Advocacy efforts were instrumental in ensuring access to and connections with online settlement services, mitigating the limitations faced by newcomers in rural and remote communities. Finally, the project successfully pivoted from the Private Refugee Sponsorship (PSR) model to the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP) immigration channel, demonstrating adaptability and responsiveness to the changing landscape.
"What started out as a labour solution has developed into a success story of collaboration and growth for our team. It has been a special opportunity together as an organization and has contributed to vitality within our day to day. We have been lucky to work with many supportive, helpful, champions throughout the process."
- Long Beach Lodge Resort
Results of the Good Practice
- 59 refugee youth from Kenya were matched to employment opportunities and resettled with a durable solution in British Columbia (BC), Canada
- 24 workplaces in six BC communities engaged in hiring refugee youth, with many positive reports of enriching team culture and/or better understanding the needs and challenges of refugee newcomers in their teams or communities
- Rural host communities participating in the project expanded health services available to refugees through local advocacy efforts.
- Employers in host communities expressing less labour shortages as a result of vacancies filled through HIRES.
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The initiative played a pivotal role in facilitating the swift integration of newly arrived refugees into the Canadian workforce by offering short-term, industry-specific soft-skills training upon their arrival. This targeted training serves as a catalyst for their immediate transition to employment, enhancing their preparedness and adaptability in the Canadian job market. The innovative approach of matching refugees to employment opportunities before their arrival significantly expedites self-reliance from the outset of their immigration journey.
Objective 3: Expand access to third-country solutions
The project has engaged non-traditional, private sector partners in providing third country solutions through refugee labour mobility, and has built positive experiences that may leverage wider support and opportunities for refugee populations to immigrate to Canada based on skills and labour market needs. In total, 59 additional refugee youth over 2 years have obtained a durable legal status in Canada, and an employment opportunity through HIRES.
"(HIRES) helps so many people to do what they want to do in life and adjust in their future."
- Wivine, Program Participant
WUSC is exploring funding avenues and opportunities to expand refugee labour mobility work under the new federal stream of the Economic Mobility Pilot Program (EMPP) in Canada. This includes the expansion of participating sectors and regions in Canada, as well as source countries of asylum.
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
To continue and scale our good practice, critical areas requiring support include securing funding for sustained employer engagement in Canada and activities in first countries of asylum, focusing on identifying, preparing, and matching refugee youth with employment opportunities. Additionally, there is a need expand settlement services and foster collaboration with settlement sector partners within rural and remote geographies where employers are actively engaging in refugee labor mobility. The expansion of settlement services is vital to ensure the comprehensive support and successful integration of newcomers in these regions.