Located 100 kilometres west of Toronto, the city of nearly 132,000 people had an unemployment rate of just 2.2 per cent last month — the lowest in Canada, according to a monthly labour market report card compiled by BMO Capital Markets.
The average unemployment rate for the 33 Canadian cities listed was 5.3 per cent.
To get a better sense of the type of job prospects immigrants to the city might find, CIC News spoke with Sohrab Rahmaty, employment coordinator with Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington, a local organization that works with newcomers to the city and surrounding county.
Rahmaty said there is a “huge need” for labour in Guelph’s manufacturing sector. Two companies in particular — the auto parts maker Linamar and Danby Appliances — regularly hire immigrants.
“General labour, blue-collar jobs — machine operators and such — immigrants do well getting those jobs,” Rahmaty said.
Last October, Danby Appliance President and CEO Jim Estill told an immigration-focused conference that there is “an unlimited number of blue collar jobs in Guelph” — enough for both Canadian-born workers and immigrants.
Rahmaty said this fact has helped draw many immigrants to the Guelph region who had initially settled in other parts of Canada.
“They hear through family, friends or contacts, or their own research, that we have a lower unemployment rate and strong manufacturing sector,” he said. “That’s a pull factor for a lot of newcomers.”
Local companies are “very open” to newcomers, he added, and a number have developed language courses and buddy programs to assist newcomers adjust.
The need for labour is such, Rahmaty said, that companies are now competing for workers, which is having an impact on salaries.
“When you’re losing X amount of dollars a day because you’re short-staffed, there’s an incentive there to pay a little more, to provide pathways to skill upgrades — and we’re going to see more of that,” he said.
Work for skilled professionals
The high demand for blue-collar workers in Guelph does not mean there aren’t opportunities for skilled professionals, Rahmaty said.
The city is a hub for agricultural research and is home to Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, “so you see a lot of people with veterinary backgrounds and biotech backgrounds coming and settling in Guelph,” he noted.
The University of Guelph is another source of potential employment for professionals, notably academics and researchers.
The university placed fourth among Canada’s comprehensive universities in last year’s university rankings by Maclean’s Magazine. Comprehensive universities are defined as those that conduct some graduate-level research and offer a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs.
With a growing number of skilled workers coming through Canada’s Express Entry system, Immigrant Services Guelph-Wellington is developing a “connectors program” that Rahmaty said will connect internationally trained professionals with a professional currently working in their field locally with the goal of linking them to three other professionals.
Rahmaty said professional newcomers coming to Guelph need to keep an open mind when it comes to work and be willing to work outside of their profession or in entry-level jobs “to get Canadian experience and sustain themselves financially.”
Professional newcomers who immigrated through Canada’s Express Entry system are typically well-equipped with excellent communication skills, education and work experience, all of which can help them to find employment quickly and work their way up into more senior positions.
It also helps to identify professional skills that may be transferable to Guelph’s employment market, Rahmaty added.
“Even Canadian-born, Canadian-educated students rarely go into a job that is exactly what they studied,” he said. “You’re utilizing those transferable skills.”
“You may have been in the auto industry in India or in the finance industry in Dubai, but how do you take your transferable skills and put them to use here in Guelph?”
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