United Way to focus on jobs for immigrants

Making it easier for new Canadians to find jobs is one of the top priorities the United Way has identified in Ottawa, president and CEO Michael Allen said Tuesday.

Despite the controversy surrounding a campaign promise by the Ontario Liberals to give a $10,000 tax credit to businesses so they can hire skilled immigrants, Allen said regardless of who gets hired, job shortages need to be filled.

“The employers that we speak to in the health care professions or in accounting or financial services, their problem isn’t deciding between a foreign-trained professional or a Canadian — they’ve got no one,” Allen told the Sun’s editorial board.

United Way has its own campaign to focus on and will announce the 2011 fundraising goal on Thursday.

Last year’s campaign was record-breaking, raising $33.2 million — $11.2 million of which will be invested in 182 front-line programs, some of which assist new Canadians. Of the remainder, $11.5 million went to 4,000 registered charities and another $5.8 million went to a range of partnerships and community initiatives.

United Way Ottawa has received almost $1.7 million from the federal and provincial government for a project called Hire Immigrants Ottawa, pairing employers and community agencies with stakeholders to discuss integration from an employer perspective.

In the last three years, the Ontario government has given about $600,000, while the feds have chipped in $1.5 million since 2009.

“We have seen the creation of 1,000 jobs in the past four years with the support that we’re getting, and finally breaking through that marketplace,” said Allen.

New Canadians face barriers that range from language to unrecognized credentials to socialization to networking, he said.

Immigrants are expected to contribute 100% of the new net job growth in Ottawa in the coming years.

“We know we can have impact in bridging the gap where there are needs — in terms of labour market needs — and people who bring those skills, whether they be disabled, or whether they be new Canadians,” said Allen.

He’s confident Ottawans will once again open their hearts and wallets for the campaign, saying he doesn’t believe in donor fatigue, but acknowledges people may be tired of the “volume of asks.”

“I believe what they are looking for is to be inspired,” said Allen.

Federal public servants play an instrumental role in the agency’s fundraising success.

Last year, government employees in the region raised an astonishing $23.5 million through workplace donations.

“Their generosity is phenomenal,” campaign chair Max Keeping said.



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