ALLIES: Assisting Local Leaders with Immigrant Employment Strategies

Supports local efforts in Canadian cities to successfully adapt and implement programs that further the suitable employment of skilled immigrants.


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Toronto, Ontario
CA Canada


About the project Edit

Through a series of multi-stakeholder initiatives, ALLIES and local partners contribute to building a stronger Canada by using the talents, connections and experience of skilled immigrants who have made Canada their new home. It is a joint program of the McConnell and Maytree Foundations, working with government, private and community sector partners.

Key Lessons

• Shared Challenges: Many previous projects concerning immigrant employment started from the premise that immigrants have deficits (in language, credentials, workplace culture, etc.). These “deficits” then needed to be remediated through programs such as training in language and culture, and upgrading credentials, an approach which had only limited success. We learned that both immigrants and employers have challenges. Employers sometimes perceive a high risk in hiring immigrants, are uncomfortable with difference, are weary of unfamiliar credentials, etc. As such, the job of remediation of deficits is one best shared between immigrants and employers.

• Singular Focus: During the early stages of the project, there was pressure to address many immigration issues and injustices. We learned that, in order to be successful, we had to focus on one issue: the attachment of immigrants to the labour market. While employers have an interest in programs to recruit and hire immigrants, it would be more difficult to engage employers if social justice, equity and racism issues were also being addressed.

• Real Employers: Having the involvement of actual employers, rather than employer associations such as chambers of commerce or boards of trade, was essential. Companies, especially large employers, were necessary participants. Further, government was recognized to be first of all, a large employer, rather than a policy maker or funder.

• Leaders: Community leaders, rather than organizations with similar mandates, were found to be more effective collaborators.

• Concrete Projects: We learned that initiatives progressed much faster and effectively when concrete, actionable projects were introduced and implemented early.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Delivering Your Programs

You have access to a wide range of toolkits and coaches to implement effective employment solutions for skilled immigrants.

The toolkits, online “how-to guides,” are based on models of successful programs. Coaches are available to provide you with support in developing your programs.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

ALLIES provides resources to immigrant employment councils and networks to bring together local stakeholders and to develop their own practical solutions to help skilled immigrants find suitable employment. These employer led councils also include community organizations, post-secondary institutions, assessment service providers, labour, immigrant professional associations and all three levels of government.

National Mentoring Initiative

Mentoring facilitates a connection between a skilled immigrant and an established Canadian professional in the same or related occupation.

Why mentoring?

Mentoring is a way to overcome some of the barriers skilled immigrants encounter when trying to find employment in their area of expertise. The three biggest barriers are:

• Lack of an effective professional network: newcomers don’t have access to the hidden job market, including job openings that are not advertised;
• Lack of understanding of the Canadian workplace culture and employer expectations; and
• Lack of recognition of international qualifications and experience, which makes it difficult for skilled immigrants to talk about their transferable skills.

Mentoring is more than just matchmaking. Mentoring is a deliberate and sustained strategy to create and facilitate new networks for recent skilled immigrants in their fields of expertise. It is a process that starts with the right occupation-specific match, builds a relationship over time, and leads to gainful employment.

Mentoring is also a two-way street. It’s not just the newcomer who benefits. At the core of successful mentoring programs is a weave of mutually beneficial relationships – between the mentor and the mentee, between employers and their employees and between frontline organizations and their clients. Mentoring fuels these relationships and produces results from end to end.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit


What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Many Canadian employers are currently facing the challenge of a diminishing labour pool. No doubt, more will do so in the future.

By identifying future skill requirements and planning for the new face of work, employers will be better able to source, screen, select, and invest in the skilled immigrants who will make up the labour shortfall.

Global Talent for Small and Medium Enterprises: Finding Solutions

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have enormous potential as employers of skilled immigrants. At the same time, they can benefit from the skills, experience and innovation that skilled immigrants can bring to their organizations. Our research looks at programs and policies that can engage and influence the human resource practices of SMEs.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

Our national partners include among others: CIBC, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Fraser, Milner, Casgrain, KPMG, Pitney Bowes, RBC, TD Bank Group


The objective of the ALLIES funding program is to advance the appropriate employment of skilled immigrants through:

• the seeding of local immigrant employment councils
• strengthening the capacity of existing and viable local immigrant employment councils
• finding new and creative solutions and partners to meet our mission

ALLIES provides three kinds of funding support. They are:

1. Start-Up Grants – to create or set up an immigrant employment council where none exists in large urban centres in Canada
2. Resource Grants – to build capacity, expand programs, engage in employer outreach or advance policy perspectives in existing immigrant employment councils/networks
3. Innovation Grants – to test new, innovative and strategic immigrant employment solutions with other stakeholders


Applicants should submit a letter of interest (no more than 3 pages). This letter must include:

• objectives of the proposed program or initiative
• planned activities, deliverables and intended impact
• budget for the project and funding request to ALLIES (note budget can be submitted as a separate document)
• capacity of the collaborative/organization to undertake the project

If the application fits within the scope of eligible activities, we will request a full proposal.
All requests for funding are subject to a formal review and assessment by the ALLIES Steering Committee. All funding decisions are final.

Please send your letter of interest and or questions about ALLIES funding to Peter Paul at

1. Start-Up Grants

Eligibility for funding:

Funding proposals must come from, or be sponsored by, a registered charity with the objective of creating a collaborative of city leaders, agencies and local employers dedicated to conceptualizing and implementing local immigrant employment solutions. Funding preference will be given to those applications where there is evidence of interest/participation of essential partners. An eligible community is one that is:

• experiencing labour market growth and demand and are home to a community of skilled but underemployed immigrants; OR
• experiencing labour market growth and need to attract and retain skilled immigrants to strengthen and grow their economy.

Eligible activities include:

• establish a multi-stakeholder council to address challenges that skilled immigrants face and develop a plan for engagement. The proposed council will include significant local employers, all three levels of government, community agencies, immigrant leaders educational institutions, labour and regulatory bodies
• develop and implement a tangible project that advances immigrant employment in the community that has the buy-in of all stakeholders, and in particular local employers.

Grant amount:

One-time grants of up to $60,000 will be awarded to organizations to establish an immigrant employment council and implement an action-oriented project.

2. Resource Grants

Eligibility for funding:

These funds will be granted to immigrant employment councils or networks. In all cases, ALLIES will have a pre-established relationship with these councils or networks.

Eligible activities include:

• building and expanding local programs aimed at ensuring that skilled immigrants are attached to suitable employment
• advancing policy and program perspectives (convening policy tables and producing policy briefs or position papers which provide concrete recommendations and solutions grounded in the local context)
• undertaking various forms of employer outreach to connect local employers to skilled immigrants

Grant amount:
One-time grants ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 will be awarded.

3. Innovation Grants

Eligibility for funding:

These funds will be granted to any registered charity that creates a new, innovative and strategic solution that helps skilled immigrants overcome the systemic barriers they face when seeking employment

Eligible activities include:

• new ways of connecting skilled immigrants to employers
• new ways of engaging small and medium-sized businesses
• new ways of using communications and media for building public education and awareness around immigrant employment
• new ways of engaging Canada’s mainstream institutions (health, education, law, media, regulatory and licensing bodies etc.) in immigrant employment solutions
• other ideas

Of particular interest to ALLIES are partnerships with organizations/stakeholders that are not currently involved in our efforts, who have national reach and/or whose ideas can have impact on the national context.

Grant amount:
One-time grants of up to $100,000 will be awarded.

Please send your letter of interest and or questions about ALLIES funding to Peter Paul at

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