Making Connections at ACCES Employment: Employer Engagement that Results in Success for Our Job Seekers

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1 Making Connections at ACCES Employment: Employer Engagement that Results in Success for Our Job Seekers

2 Introduction As a non-profit, government funded community agency, ACCES Employment speaks from the knowledge that we have gained over nearly 30 years of successful operational and services experience. Currently, we offer 15 different programs, integrating funding from all three levels of government. In order to deliver strong results as an organization, meet the unique and individual programmatic goals of our programs, and respond to the priorities of all our funders, we have had to develop a strong and consistent strategy with proven results. Our employer engagement strategy is a cross-cutting and overarching approach consistent across all of our programs. A key part of this strategy is recognizing that employers form the other half of our client group, and that both job seekers and employers are more successful with achieving their goals through our strategy of bringing both groups together. Our organization is a proven example that employers must be involved and connected with employment and training services that are offered to job seekers. This is vital to the effectiveness of our programs and the results and success that we have been able to achieve. Too often, service providers operate without real knowledge of workplaces and conversely, employer-targeted initiatives are often developed without direct job seeker service delivery experience. At ACCES Employment, we recognize the importance of building real and mutually-beneficial connections between employers and job seekers. We also work closely with other community agencies to develop collaborative projects that will enhance our sector s ability to respond to the needs of employers. This includes our work with the Consortium of Agencies Serving Internationally-trained Persons (CASIP) through the Employer Services Network. Recently, employer engagement has surfaced as a growing priority of the employment services sector at the local, provincial and national levels. In 2014, the City of Toronto, working with the Toronto Workforce Innovation Group (TWIG) and other partners will start a broader conversation to improve employer engagement. (City of Toronto) The Honourable Brad Duguid, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, emphasizes the importance of collaboration between employers and service providers. In order to most effectively fill the needs of Ontario s changing labour market, it is crucial to increase the level of collaboration between employers and the service providers who work directly with the province s job seekers. Improving employer engagement will help ensure that our training and employment resources are equipping Ontarians with the skills our labour market is demanding.

3 Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently launched consultations with businesses on the Canada Job Grant. He stressed the importance of involving employers in developing skills and training choices that are available to new Canadians. (http://pm.gc.ca) Recognizing that employer engagement is a growing priority in our sector, this paper shares ACCES Employment s experience working closely with employers in the Greater Toronto Area to better integrate and find employment for a diverse group of job seekers in Canadian workplaces.

4 About ACCES Employment ACCES Employment is a leader in providing employment services to job seekers and employers in the Greater Toronto Area. We specialize in meeting the needs of new Canadians and finding them employment. Over 80% of the job seekers we serve are new to Canada. Serving over job seekers a year across five Greater Toronto Area locations, ACCES Employment assists job seekers from diverse backgrounds who are facing barriers to employment. We achieve this by providing employment services, linking employers to skilled people and building strong networks in collaboration with community partners. Employer Profile ACCES Employment works with over 1000 different employers across the Greater Toronto Area. Over 70% of the employers that we work with are small and mediumsized enterprises (SME s) with fewer than 50 employees. The majority of our employers (over 90%) represent the private sector, with public and non-profit sectors at 6% and 4% respectively. Over 60% of the employers that work with ACCES are located in Toronto, 27% in Mississauga, and 7% in Markham. The remaining 6% of employers are located across other regions of Ontario Employment Results 86% of our job seekers found employment or achieved their training objectives 99% of our job seekers were satisfied with our services Over 80% of job seekers in our sectorspecific bridge training programs found employment commensurate with their experience within one year Employer Engagement at ACCES Employment Our approach to Employer Engagement evolves directly from our first priority as an organization: finding employment for our job seekers. In order for us to accomplish our goal, we recognized early on that we have two highly connected client groups: our new Canadian job seekers, and at the same time, our employers. In order to find meaningful employment, our new Canadian clients need a solid understanding of employer expectations, Canadian workplaces and sector-specific trends. In order to meet the needs of employers, we need to identify qualified candidates, provide them with opportunities to experience the amazing talent that new Canadians bring to the

5 workplace, and demonstrate that we are knowledgeable and specialized in what we can offer in terms of services and engagement opportunities. Our two client groups are not exclusive entities; their common interests are the connections that we look for and build. Creating the right opportunities and conditions to bring job seekers and employers together is what drives our organization. It is also the primary goal of our employer engagement activity. Identifying Employer Priorities In a 2013 survey of employers, companies identified the following three priorities that contribute to their working relationship with ACCES Employment. Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent Employers are looking for organizations that can meet their needs to recruit top talent quickly, and to integrate new employees into their workplaces more effectively. When working with employers, our approach allows us to develop job opportunities for qualified and skilled new Canadians. Many new Canadians that we work with face unique barriers to finding employment (e.g., language, knowledge of Canadian workplace, etc.). ACCES Employment works with both job seekers and employers to address these barriers and create job opportunities that address these needs and maximize existing talents and skills. Our programs prepare candidates to enter Canadian workplaces in their sector, and to more effectively adapt their own experience to their new workplace. Our sectorspecific programs also offer a unique post-hire support program to better integrate new Canadians into the workplace. This program also provides employers with the onboarding support that they need to maximize the talents of their new employee. Workplace Diversity ACCES Employment offers employers the opportunity to enhance their workplace diversity, to maximize on the potential international experience and language skills of professionals new to Canada, and to hire new Canadians that will contribute to the overall success and competitive edge of their businesses. ACCES also provides a range of opportunities for employers to learn more about the value of diversity in the workplace, and to engage closely with our programs and candidates through a variety of volunteer opportunities.

6 Identifying and Responding to Skills Shortages A significant part of our employer engagement activities involves responding to employers current and anticipated skills shortages. ACCES Employment works closely with employers and other partners to develop programs that target areas where skills shortages are anticipated and to better prepare our job candidates through our programs. At the program development level, ACCES Employment works closely with industry partners to identify future sectors where new jobs and opportunities will be available. Most recently, our Supply Chain Connections program was developed to meet the significant skills and labour shortages anticipated in this sector both in Ontario and across Canada. Employer Engagement: A Reciprocal Approach Working with employers involves recognizing that their interest in any engagement activity hinges on ACCES s ability to demonstrate an understanding of their business, deliver on services that meet their goals, and remain flexible to their changing recruitment and business needs. There are several aspects of our approach that contribute to building a reciprocal relationship with our employers. The Value of One-to-One Relationships While we have built strong organizational strategies and approaches to engaging our employers, one of the key contributors to our success is recognizing the value of one-toone relationships between our staff and recruiters, managers and other individuals in the companies that we work with. The quality of service, trust and reliability of having a single point of contact at ACCES offers employers a personal connection that results in high quality and customized services. To support this activity, ACCES Employment has developed a two-fold approach that engages employers at different levels: Our team of Employer Marketing and Outreach Consultants meets the job development and recruitment needs of the employers that we work with. This team provides geographical reach across our five locations and the communities of employers in each area: Central Toronto, Peel Region (Mississauga & Brampton), and East Region (North York and Scarborough). This team works closely with our Employment Consultants to identify and develop customized recruitment opportunities (e.g., job fairs, recruitment events), prepare job seekers for potential roles, and pre-screen the right candidates for employers. Our Corporate Engagement team develops cross-region and often multi-faceted employer relationships including recruitment, volunteer and corporate citizenship

7 opportunities, sponsorship, partnership, participation on advisory committees and other activities. The primary goal of this team is to develop the overall relationship between ACCES Employment and employers, facilitating a transfer of knowledge, identifying mutual interests and opportunities for collaboration. This team also regularly develops opportunities for employers to learn more about the benefits of a diverse workplace, as well as the value of integrating and hiring new Canadians. Together, the activities of both teams illustrate our approach to engaging employers not only as recruitment partners, but giving them the opportunity to learn more about what we offer. Engagement involves emphasizing that with the right investment of their time, knowledge, and participation, employers will contribute to our ability to serve them better in the future. Developing Sector-Specific Expertise One of the strategies that we adopted early on was based on the realization that different employers, with diverse areas of expertise, recruitment needs and business structures, could not all be engaged in the exact same way, or, by the exact same team of staff. Employers require a recruitment and engagement partner that can demonstrate the capacity to understand sector-specific needs, trends, and importantly, provide them with direct access to potential candidates that can support their business. ACCES Employment provides specialized recruitment services in various sectors including: Engineering, Information Technology, Financial Services, Sales and Marketing, Supply Chain and Human Resources. In addition to these sector-specific teams, we have dedicated programs serving professionals at a leadership level from various sectors as well as an entrepreneur program for new Canadians starting a business in Canada. Developing this in-house expertise also serves as an important practical knowledge base that informs how we prepare our clients as they embark on their job search in Canada. Our sector-specific bridging programs prepare our job seekers to meet the needs of employers in their field, and at the same time, allow us to develop the in-house expertise to better serve employers. Program Advisory Committees All of our curriculum and training is developed in close consultation with employers in these sectors. This ensures the ongoing practical and sector relevance of the materials. Our program advisory committees for each sector allow input from employers to be integrated into our overall activities, engagement ideas, program curriculum and other strategic decisions. All committees are voluntary and meet twice a year. Currently, ACCES engages the support of seven advisory committees, each ranging between 6-10 members. The nearly 60 advisory committee members represent 40 different

8 employers and academic institutions. Members are senior level professionals in their field, successful program alumni, academic providers and consultants. Committee members see the value of contributing their time and expertise to ACCES Employment which results in stronger and better prepared candidates for their own talent and recruitment process. Many of the employers that participate on the committee represent organizations that have hired directly from our programs, or engage closely with ACCES in other ways. Employee Engagement: A Growing Priority Increasingly, we have received requests from employers and sponsors to provide regular opportunities for them to engage their employees in volunteer activities. The volunteer program at ACCES Employment was designed to provide opportunities for employers to utilize their knowledge and job experience to directly benefit our job seekers. Our approach recognizes that volunteers can not only give to ACCES, but they can directly contribute to the success of our job seekers. Further, these volunteer opportunities expose employers to the value of workplace diversity. At the same time, employers have regular opportunities to meet our talented and highly experienced group of new Canadian professionals. Many volunteers, particularly those who have participated in our Speed Mentoring program have noted that the experience opened their eyes to new Canadians as a highly talented group of potential recruits. There are many groups who continue to come back year-after-year to contribute their time. Below are several opportunities that we offer to employers as engagement opportunities for their staff, supporting ACCES s overall employer engagement strategy. Speed Mentoring at ACCES Employment Speed Mentoring provides employers with a powerful way to enhance their awareness of the remarkable talent of new Canadians and the benefits of diversity in the workplace. By participating in the events, mentors help newcomers to expand their professional network and knowledge of the Canadian job market. In 2013, ACCES Employment welcomed over 60 different employers and over 500 mentors for 45 Speed Mentoring events across our five locations. Mentors are working professionals engaged as volunteer representatives of their employers. Mentees are ACCES Employment s job seekers who may ask for advice on resumes, interviews, job search and other sector specific topics. As part of the mentoring support we provide our clients, ACCES Employment is a partner of The Mentoring Partnership with the Toronto Region Immigrant and Employment Council (TRIEC). This program provides long-term mentoring support to immigrant job seekers in Toronto.

9 Guest Speaking Opportunities We regularly invite senior level professionals to share their experience with our job seekers through guest speaking opportunities within our programs. This enhances the practical knowledge that we can give to our clients, and engages employers by providing them with a space to share sector knowledge, recruitment trends and other information of interest to job seekers. Technical Presentations and Panel Discussions Within each sector, we engage appropriate volunteers and employers to provide feedback to our job seekers on how they present their technical skills on a resume, an interview and in the workplace setting. Participants of our bridging programs develop and deliver technical presentations to a panel of sector volunteers. This exercise provides an excellent learning experience for job seekers as well as an engagement opportunity for employers interested in fully utilizing their own background and knowledge. Multi-Faceted Employer Relationships In our nearly 30 years of experience in the employment services sector, we have realized the importance of developing all aspects of an employer relationship. By supporting the growth of multi-faceted relationships, we are best placed to understand employer needs, and to engage them in our mission to assist new Canadians in finding meaningful employment. Building these relationships often involves listening more than speaking, and identifying mutual areas of interest where both organizations can benefit and grow. The following case examples demonstrate the tremendous value of multi-faceted employer engagement relationships at ACCES. ACCES Employment and Scotiabank Scotiabank has been an active partner and sponsor of the Financial Services Connections program at ACCES Employment since Working closely with this program and other sector teams, over 90 program alumni have been hired at Scotiabank over the years into various roles. Scotiabank team members are regularly invited to deliver presentations, serve as guest speakers, and to participate in Speed Mentoring events and other activities. Sujay Vardhmane, Senior Manager, Global Employment Strategies, currently supports both the Financial Services Connections and Leadership Connections advisory committees.

10 Speaking about the partnership between Scotiabank and ACCES Employment, Deanna Matzanke, Director of Human Resources, shared her perspective on the value of building a long-standing multi-faceted relationship: Scotiabank has been the proud sponsor of the Financial Services Connections (FSC) program since ACCES Employment has a unique program model that targets individual sectors and focuses on training pertinent to professionals in a Canadian workplace. We are proud to work with the FSC program; it is an invaluable support for financial services professionals who are looking for new opportunities in Canada. With the ACCES partnership, we have an ongoing conversation that allows us to anticipate new opportunities to connect new Canadians with upcoming positions at the bank, to continue to provide that bridge between unemployment and employment. Our ACCES hires have hugely benefited the organization. It s a win-win situation for all involved: in addition to their great work ethic, new Canadians have an ability to speak different languages and share valuable experience. When you re a global bank, these qualities are beneficial, especially in a city as diverse as Toronto. Innovation, one of the key reasons we have an inclusion strategy at the bank, is a product of creativity and different perspectives. ACCES Employment and Accenture Accenture was introduced to ACCES through the United Way in Since then, they have formed a partnership with ACCES Employment through their corporate citizenship committee s Skills to Succeed initiative. Over the years, Accenture has supported a number of ACCES services, namely Speed Mentoring, IT Connections, Supply Chain Connections, START and the Talk English Café. In 2013, Accenture was pleased to announce their sponsorship of the IT Connections program. In addition to this support, Accenture has contributed two pro-bono consultation and implementation projects to support ACCES Employment s online service delivery initiative. A member of their senior leadership team currently serves on the ACCES Board of Directors. Speaking about the relationship, Elizabeth Fletcher, Senior Manager, Accenture shared her perspective on why it is important to support the work of ACCES.

11 An economy cannot achieve its potential, or be its most productive until it maximizes all available resources. There is so much that the private sector can learn and benefit from by engaging with ACCES and tapping into their highly qualified talent pool. ACCES Employment and the Business Development Bank of Canada In 2009, a series of cold-calls to the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) led to the planning of their first recruitment event at ACCES. From the beginning, BDC was highly engaged in recruitment activities, including both hiring managers and human resources in the development of the relationship. In the first year, they hired seven candidates, a significant number of staff for the organization. As the partnership grew, BDC began looking for ways to work more closely with ACCES Employment. In early 2012, ACCES Employment and the Business Development Bank of Canada began to explore the possibility of a program that would help new Canadians with starting a business in Canada. BDC was interested in the opportunity to contribute their consultants expertise to the development of a program. In early 2013, BDC and ACCES Employment launched Entrepreneurship Connections, a program that helps prepare new Canadians to start their business in Canada. BDC supported both the development and design of the program, and its eventual delivery to 15 clients in the pilot session. Their consultants contribute and deliver an integral part of the curriculum and all training is delivered in-kind. BDC was also highly supportive of an application to secure funding for the program from Citizenship and Immigration Canada following the pilot in Speaking about the Entrepreneurship Connections program, Ellen Austin, HR Business Partner at BDC said: Conclusion It is always a privilege to work with entrepreneurs. ACCES s Entrepreneurship Connections program gives the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) an opportunity to work with new Canadian entrepreneurs. Participants of the Entrepreneurship Connections program bring a passion and enthusiasm to the program which is contagious and BDC employees are equally passionate about assisting participants in realizing their dreams. The collaboration is impactful and a true reflection of Canadian entrepreneurial spirit. BDC is proud to support this important initiative. New Canadians face higher rates of unemployment as well as various barriers to entering the workforce. Many of them rely on our organization for their first

12 introduction to Canadian employers as well as their first job opportunity. ACCES Employment s employer engagement strategy creates opportunities for employers to work closely with us to better prepare candidates for their respective workplaces. Our approach also builds strong connections and engagement activities that contribute to our organizational understanding of employer needs, future trends and sector-specific approaches. ACCES Employment s success lies in our ability to build real and mutually beneficial connections between employers and job seekers. We do this by: Fully understanding employer s expectations to establish credibility and repeat business Involving employers in program design and delivery Facilitating mentoring opportunities Establishing and utilizing our knowledge of workplaces to put measures in place to enhance retention and career mobility Leveraging relationships and success to establish new employer connections and generate ongoing job leads For more information about ACCES Employment, please visit: Or contact: Allison Pond Executive Director ACCES Employment P: ACCES Employment is funded by the Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, City of Toronto, United Way Toronto as well as generous corporate sponsors and donors.

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