By The Star | Link to Article
A skills shortage and a Mississauga employer’s leap of faith have changed the fate of Krishnarl Suntharesan and hundreds of skilled immigrants desperate for elusive Canadian work experience.
Instead of being stuck in her survival job delivering flyers, Suntharesan, a biochemist from Sri Lanka, was enrolled in Maxxam Analytics’ co-op program for skilled immigrants and is now a senior lab analyst at the Mississauga-based company.
Since the program’s launch in 2001, Maxxam, which tests environment products and food and water samples among other services, has brought in more than 400 co-op students like Suntharesan, later hiring half of them, from lab technicians to IT and human resources specialists.
Maxxam will be presented with the Toronto Star Award for Excellence in Workplace Integration at the 6thToronto Region Immigrant Employment Council Immigrant Success Awards Thursday at the Royal Bank Plaza.
“Everyone gains in this program,” said Jon Hantho, CEO of Maxxam, which has almost doubled its workforce to 2,200 employees in six years. “We gain the skills of the well-educated and motivated technical employees, who get to learn a new culture and start a new career in Canada.”
Maxxam’s co-op program for skilled immigrants is essentially the same training it offers to other new employees and Canadian graduates.
For 12 weeks, Suntharesan, who has a master’s degree from India’s Madras University, commuted daily from her Scarborough home to the Maxxam labs in Mississauga.
Although the job was unpaid, she learned about basic health and work safety in a Canadian lab, new tools and programs for sample testing and the company’s own standard operating procedures.
“The experience is totally worth it. I didn’t have a job in Canada for a year. Everywhere I went, they asked for Canadian work experience,” said Suntharesan, 34, a mother of two, who immigrated with her husband in 2004.
“I wouldn’t say I needed the Canadian experience but I needed to learn how things were done at Maxxam. We have the right attitude. We are quick learners. All we need is the faith from employers.”
Thoai Huynh, 30, joined Maxxam’s co-op program in March and is optimistic his experience will lead to other job opportunities in labs.
“I am happy to work at Maxxam. I am grateful for the experience. I am hoping to get the work reference that I need for my future job,” said Huynh, a native of Vietnam.
The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council received 59 nominations for its Immigrant Success Awards. The other winners are:
The Career Bridge Program by Toronto-based Career Edge. Over 15 years it has administered 1,700 on-the-job paid internships for skilled immigrants seeking their first job. More than 80 per cent landed full-time jobs in their chosen field six months after interning.
Huawei Technologies Canada, a global telecommunications company based in Shenzhen, China, which has tapped into the technically strong immigrant workforce. Sixty per cent of its Markham employees are immigrants; 43 per cent of all new hires came via internal referrals.
Zuleika Sgro, manager of Talent Management Services and human resources business partner at Questrade, who developed a groundbreaking recruitment practice of internationally trained professionals at the online brokerage firm. Half of Questrade’s employees have been in Canada for less than five years.