A new work program in Ontario is hoping to match underemployed francophone immigrants to a labour shortage in bilingual positions.

Called Opportunities For All, it’s run by Réseau de développement économique et d'employabilité de l'Ontario and will also help newcomers to set up their own businesses.

RDEE project manager Karine Morin says Ontario has a wealth of immigrants fluent in French and English, coming from 40 French-speaking countries such as Cameroon, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Haiti and France, and the province is recruiting more francophone newcomers.


Meanwhile Ontario has a shortage of French-fluent workers, especially in education, finances and customer service. “It’s a win-win-win opportunity,” Morin says.

The newcomers have been underemployed in part because of cultural differences. Many immigrants are likely to craft a resume focusing on marital status, degrees and a chronological list of positions, whereas Canadian employers expect practical experience to be front and centre.

Opportunities For All will work with newcomers to tailor resumes to the Ontario market. It will also work with employers so they realize, for example, that what may seem an impenetrably thick accent at the job interview will fade as the newcomer emerges herself in the local take on the language.

“It’s trying to make the right match,” Morin says. “It’s also to train the small business to have a better understanding of their recruitment needs in order to be able to tap into that pool of talent.”

RDEE will also help immigrants start up a new business with market research, business plans and connecting them to start-up cash.

The first-year target is to train 275 new immigrants and help start 150 businesses. It has one year of funding and hopes that will be renewed.

Jennifer Trimmer, recruitment and diversity officer for TD Canada Trust, says the bank is keen to tap into the program’s talent pool. Recruiting bilingual staff for the Toronto call centre and other positions can be difficult.

In the past, francophone newcomers may not have applied to TD positions because they thought all posts would require a financial background, which is not the case for many customer-service jobs, she says.

“A great thing about the program is it’s recognizing the diversity and international experience that our candidates come with,” Trimmer says. “Our customers are as varied as our candidates. It’s part of being a multi-cultural society.”

Learn more at rdee-ont.ca.

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