Local employers, academic honoured for work with immigrant employment

OBJ Staff
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Four local employers were recognized Wednesday for their commitment to hiring immigrants in the Ottawa area.

Export Development Canada, Hydro Ottawa, La Coccinelle preschool centre and OZ Optics received Employer Excellence Awards from Hire Immigrants Ottawa (HIO) and the Employer Council of Champions at the ECC’s annual summit.

EDC’s commitment to a multicultural workforce is part of its current corporate plan and is considered one of its top three corporate priorities.

The organization’s workforce is more than just bilingual. It says many of its staff were born or studied outside Canada, giving them broader cultural understandings and the global perspectives companies need to succeed in foreign markets.

“Diverse and inclusive workplaces do not just happen and need to be developed and nurtured through dedicated programs aimed at achieving specific goals,” EDC’s director of diversity, bilingualism and employee relations Cheryl Caldwell said in a statement. “Much time and effort is being spent on ensuring our workplace culture is diverse as well as inclusive for all employees.”

With 44 per cent of Hydro Ottawa’s trade and technical workforce set to retire in the next decade, the company created a diversity plan as part of its talent management strategy to attract qualified workers from a number of groups, including visible minorities.

“Diversity is essential to putting our customers at the centre of everything we do,” Hydro Ottawa president and CEO Bryce Conrad said in a statement.

La Coccinelle is a not-for-profit that runs eight day-care centres in Orleans and Vars. More than 35 per cent of its 220 workers are immigrants.

“Our immigrant staff help us create classroom environments that reflect the different cultures of families we serve,” La Coccinelle’s human resources manager Céline Côté said in a statement.

“When children and parents enter a classroom and see that some educators have the same cultural background as themselves, this makes them feel reassured and breaks social isolation.”

More than 70 per cent of OZ Optics employees are immigrants, representing 40 countries.

Zahide Sezerman, vice-president of human resources for the Stittsville-based photonics company, said its diverse workforce helped it get through the high-tech collapse of the early 2000s as well as the global economic crisis of 2008 and 2009.

“Our people have made it possible for OZ Optics to remain one of the most innovative companies in its industry,” she said in a statement.

ECC co-chair Frank Bilodeau said Wednesday’s summit showed employers practical steps to avoid “unintended bias” in the hiring process.

“As employers, we should understand how unconscious bias can undermine our best intentions to create diverse and inclusive workplaces,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Bilodeau is also vice-president of Scotiabank Ottawa and West Quebec. The bank was a winner in another immigrant employment award ceremony earlier in the week.

Scotiabank Ottawa was recognized in the employer category when the Ontario Awards for Leadership in Immigrant Employment were handed out in Toronto on Monday.

The director of Carleton University’s Technology Innovation Management program, Tony Bailetti, was recognized in the entrepreneur category for being an immigrant entrepreneur who has contributed to the province’s globally connected economy by creating jobs and valuing workforce diversity and inclusion.

Born in Peru, Mr. Bailetti immigrated to Canada after completing his MBA and PhD studies at the University of Cincinnati. He has been with Carleton for 37 years.

The TIM program has 97 full-time students representing 28 countries. The program trains aspiring entrepreneurs giving them an opportunity to not only graduate with a masters degree but also launch a business at the same time.

“In addition to their skills and knowledge, immigrants provide us with their connections to the world, which are incredibly important to all entrepreneurial ventures,” Mr. Bailetti said in a statement. “Immigrants contribute to the health of many of Ontario’s entrepreneurial ecosystems.”

The Ontario Human Rights Commission won the final award in Toronto on Monday, recognized in the champion category.








Organizations: Export Development Canada, OZ Optics, La Coccinelle preschool Scotiabank Carleton University University of Cincinnati Ontario Human Rights Commission

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada, Orleans Vars Ontario Toronto West Quebec Peru

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