MRO Magazine

Skilled immigrants critical to innovation; GTA electronics manufacturer awarded


April 3, 2013
By PEM Magazine

Canada is facing a serious labour shortage. Our population is aging, the birth rate is slowing and there are fewer people with the requisite skills to fill vacant jobs. Skilled immigrants are a key source for new talent with Statistics Canada predicting that by 2031, one in three workers will be born outside the country. Toronto is currently one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities and leading GTA businesses already recognize the critical opportunity this provides for their growth and innovation.

“With our rich diversity, Toronto area business and organizations have a wonderful opportunity to become even more innovative. Our annual Immigrant Success Awards prove that great things can happen when immigrants and businesses come together,” says Margaret Eaton, executive director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC). “Yet, the competition for skilled immigrant talent is increasing and other companies need to follow these winners’ leads in order to attract the best and the brightest to our region before it is too late.”

The risk is real. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) recently released 2012 immigration statistics and the number of immigrants settling in Toronto is on the decline. In 2012, almost 10,000 fewer immigrants made Toronto their home compared to 2008. However, top employers already recognize the advantages when immigrants choose to settle here and are leading the way in attracting and integrating skilled immigrant talent into the Greater Toronto Region labour market.

TRIEC and RBC are recognizing these employers at the 7th Annual Immigrant Success Awards. The winners demonstrate how skilled immigrants have a direct impact on innovation and success within each organization; these organizations serve as examples for others to follow. “TRIEC’s IS Awards showcase the potential that businesses in Toronto and the entire Greater Toronto Region stand to gain if skilled immigrants are fully integrated into the labour market,” says Zabeen Hirji, chief human resources officer at RBC.


Among the winner was SMTC Corp., winner of the CBC Toronto Immigrant Advantage Award. Founded in 1985, SMTC is a Markham-based manufacturer specializing in electronics. Truly a diverse culture, SMTC employs individuals from over 20 countries and across five continents. On the production floor, 95 per cent of employees are immigrants and one-third of the manufacturer’s senior management team are skilled immigrants. With business thriving and the necessary skilled employees in place, SMTC is transforming its Markham manufacturing plant into an intelligence centre—good for business globally and great for home-grown innovation here in the GTA.

Over the past seven years, TRIEC has recognized more than 25 employers for their leadership in recruiting and retaining skilled immigrants. Each organization is different, but each recognizes the value of a diverse workforce for both the individual employer and the larger economy:

1. Diversity breeds innovation: skilled immigrants bring diverse thinking and problem-solving skills that advance innovation
2. Language skills and cultural know-how are key: a workforce that reflects the community it serves allows a business to more effectively engage with its customers and access networks locally and overseas that might otherwise go untapped
3. Access to greater talent: the Toronto and GTA offers a major talent pool of potential employees who are often highly educated and possess unique skills and can help address skills shortages