Innovation Nation In the cutthroat race for talent humanitarian hiring offers an

Canada has a rich history of innovation, but in the next few decades, powerful technological forces will transform the global economy. Large multinational companies have jumped out to a headstart in the race to succeed, and Canada runs the risk of falling behind. At stake is nothing less than our prosperity and economic well-being. The Financial Post set out explore what is needed for businesses to flourish and grow. You can find all of our coverage here.Bonfire Interactive, a procurement software company in Kitchener, Ont., often has openings for web developers. But finding suitable candidates can be difficult. So for a recent hire, the company expanded its search globally. The job was posted online, a promising prospect was interviewed via Skype, and a few weeks ago Bonfire’s newest software engineer arrived for work.Far-flung recruitment has become business as usual for many Canadian tech startups: According to the Information and Communications Technology Council, the sector will face a shortage of 220,000 workers by 2020. What’s different is where Bonfire found their new employee — from a pool of refugees displaced by conflict. Innovation Nation: Why has the government put a cap on innovation success? With Canadian tech firms starving for talent, should Quebec be subsidizing Ubisoft’s labour costs? Canadian tech companies are attracting more overseas talent, but brain drain to U.S. continues In the 50 years since Canada signed the UN Convention on Refugees, the world has undergone seismic change. In a digital economy, skills are more transferable than ever before and technology gives employers access to a global workforce. But refugees are still selected for admission to this country solely through humanitarian immigration pathways such as government resettlement and private sponsorship. It is time to build an addition, 21st-century, solution for these refugees through labour mobility.There are immensely talented people among the world’s 25 million refugees. Many have higher education as well as professional, skilled-trade or entrepreneurial experience Canada and other advanced economies desperately need to grow. But current economic immigration streams present unintended barriers for those escaping their home countries. Requirements such as valid passports, settlement funds and recent work experience unintentionally exclude refugees from participation and inclusion in economic immigration. Meanwhile, humanitarian pathways are oversubscribed and the number of resettlement spots globally is regrettably falling.Talent Beyond Boundaries, a non-profit based in Washington, offers one promising approach by connecting employers in Canada and Australia with over 10,000 refugees living in Jordan and Lebanon who are registered in an online Talent Catalog. Businesses unable to find citizens or permanent residents to fill positions can connect with TBB to set up interviews with eligible candidates via video conferencing technology. If a job offer in Canada results, our firm has partnered with TBB to prepare these immigration applications pro bono. The federal government is documenting outcomes of this pilot under the Economic Mobility Pathways Project, launched last April.Earlier this month, the first participant in the pilot (that software developer hired by Bonfire) met his new colleagues at the airport. His happiness was palpable. He no longer fears for his future, he can work in his profession and he’s making a meaningful contribution to the Canadian economy. To make this a truly national success story, though, we need more employers to sign on with TBB to hire refugee talent — and further innovation in our approach to immigration.Canadian business leaders have already made calls for higher federal immigration targets to address the talent shortages that come with both a changing economy and an aging workforce. Last year, ManpowerGroup reported that 41 per cent of Canadian employers have difficulty filling jobs, a figure that represents a ten-year high. Targeted talent programs like TBB can help address these gaps — and affirm Canada’s half-century commitment to humanitarian objectives.Heather Segal is the managing partner of Segal Immigration Law in Toronto, which provides pro bono legal work for Talent Beyond Boundaries. Veronica Wilson is an associate at the firm spearheading this work.

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