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New Programs and Initiatives: Not in Canada, Eh?


by Sherry Sellers

Are you:


  • Working with unemployed highly trained Immigrant professionals?
  • Tired of hearing, “But they don’t have Canadian Experience”?
  •  Interested in hearing about a strategy that has proven to get them in the door and employed?


Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services (ISIS), Halifax, launched a new initiative in November 2009, the ISIS Wage Subsidy Program. The concept, although not new, offers employers an incentive to hire unemployed immigrants (who are not eligible for other subsidy programs) whom they would not normally hire in the absence of a subsidy. The program assists immigrants in obtaining Canadian experience and on-the-job training in their field, the lack of which is preventing them from becoming employed.
Here is how it works.

Program Description

Everything starts with the Employment Specialist, and as career practitioners you all share similar job descriptions. In working with immigrants, the added challenge is getting qualifications recognized. Historically this has been a barrier to employment, which is why so many immigrants who are professionals are driving taxi or cleaning buildings.
For a client to be referred to the WS program they must complete at least one of the pre-employment programs offered at ISIS. The options include such programs as New Beginnings (Job Search, Interview Skills, Working in Canada), Mentoring, Specific Language, and/or Work Placement. Details on all these programs can be found on our website at
Once a client and an employer are identified, the assessment and negotiations begin.  The perimeters for the ISIS Wage Subsidy program are similar to government programs but the profile of the client is not. WS clients include Engineers, Marketing Directors, IT, Health Care, and Consultants. Many employers would not consider these individuals because their experience is not Canadian.
Additionally, if there are language gaps identified then ISIS has other programs, such as English in the Workplace.

Success Indicators

In the first six months, 30 contracts have been signed. Of these, four participants were hired at the end of their program period, 18 are currently active (with all indications that they will be hired), three were hired by another employer, and five others left WS employers for various reasons but all received excellent reference letters.
Yesterday, I signed a wage subsidy agreement with an employer that four years ago would not look at hiring an immigrant – “Tried that once and it didn’t work out” and “We don’t have the time to train” were the comments. The client completed a six-week unpaid work placement and transitioned into a wage subsidy with the employer who is now willing to provide the in-house training.
Here are a few examples of feedback from employers at the mid-point of WS contracts:

Client: CNC Production Operator
“Client has an excellent work ethic and technical skills, with a positive attitude and desire to learn”

Client: IT Applications and Development Support Manager
“I can honestly say that all of her work is top quality and if there is something that she missed then she jumps on it and will work late to get the issue resolved. She is very determined to do good job.”

Client: Engineer
“Excellent program. With the incentive we provided in-house training to capitalize on his experience and expertise. He is learning the Canadian way of doing things very quickly and is very professional with others and can work independently.”

Dr. David Redekopp, specializing in Career Development, recently said,

Employers in all sectors are grappling with employee engagement. They know that engaged employees, who want to do the work and feel integral to the workplace, are more productive and dependable than disengaged employees. Moreover, engaged employees are less likely than disengaged employees to leave the organization, saving employers recruitment, selection and training costs.*

A short-term investment like the Wage Subsidy Program can pay huge dividends in the long-run.

Sherry Seller is the Coordinator of the Wage Subsidy Program for Immigrant Settlement and Integration Services, Halifax.


* From the keynote speech by Dr. Redekopp at the Nova Scotia Career Development Association Conference on May 25, 2010.

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