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Businesses Respond to the Global Refugee Crisis: A new model to think global and build local through welcoming workplaces

HIRES is a pilot initiative that resettles refugee youth who currently live in Kenya through a unique private sponsorship pathway that partners with Canadian businesses. This pathway involves vocational training and an employment placement upon arrival. Both, responding to persistent barriers to economic inclusion facing refugee populations and supporting Canadian employers to meet labour market needs by integrating trained employees in their workplace. The private sector can spur positive social change in their communities and around the world. Through HIRES, businesses encourage employee engagement, foster global citizenship, and create greater inclusivity in the workplace. All this while also responding to the global refugee crisis. It is a win-win for business and the community.  

HIRES is a workplace-led initiative that will spark employee engagement through refugee sponsorship groups and employment mentorship. It is funded by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and is being delivered in partnership with Camosun College.

Kenya continues to be one of the top refugee hosting countries in Africa Roughly ½ million of the 26 million refugees globally are in Kenya.

The humanitarian solution (resettlement to a safe country), like Canada, reaches less than one percent of eligible refugees.

UNHCR, 2020

Goals of HIRES:

  • Economic opportunities and durable solutions for refugees are increased.
  • Resettled refugees are gainfully employed and better integrated into the Canadian economy​.
  • Canadian workplaces are more welcoming and inclusive of newcomers.
  • The number of Canadians engaged in refugee sponsorship is greatly expanded.
  • New program models that support refugee integration (e.g. pre-arrival and post-arrival training developed by Camosun College) are tested.

Building Alternative Pathways

Refugees have the skills, ability, and drive to work. HIRES expands resettlement opportunities by linking private refugee sponsorship with access to economic opportunities and Canadian labour market integration support.

The Canadian economy relies on immigration to increase output and consumption, and offset Canada’s ageing population. According to Sparc BC, beyond the demographic need for immigration, “culturally competent workplaces that welcome immigrants also benefit in terms of productivity, innovation, creativity, agility and sustainability,” and in delivering good service to a diverse market.

Canada welcomes roughly 300,000 new immigrants annually. The majority of these people are selected through Canada’s economic immigrant stream, which is designed for applicants with specific skills and experiences that meet the needs of Canada’s labour market.

Refugees are typically excluded from accessing this skilled economic immigration pathway due to numerous system barriers, such as lack of documentation, rather than lack of skills or aptitude. On average, it takes refugees just 12 – 15 years to achieve comparable employment rates and incomes relative to Canadian-born residents. Creating similar economic pathways for refugees could help foster more welcoming workplaces while also responding to the growing global refugee crisis.

COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the important contributions of new Canadians working on the front lines. Despite these challenging times, we have an opportunity to build a stronger tomorrow where we continue to recognize the ways that new Canadians help our communities and our economies. HIRES partners do just that, by recognizing the skills and talents of refugee youth typically excluded from participation in economic immigration.


“Instead of thinking of refugees as people who just want resettlement and people who are passive recipients of aid, how about re-imagining refugees as people who have assets to contribute, who have talents and skills that we need in Canada?”

Ahmed Hussen, former Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

An Employee Engagement Challenge for Business Leaders

In a time when communities are fractured by socio-economic hardship, WUSC invites business leaders in Canada to consider the benefits of engaging your employees in HIRES.

Nurturing stronger and more inclusive workplaces and a sense of community through volunteerism fuels resilience, collective energy, ideas, and teamwork, all of which are essential to rebuilding efforts post-pandemic.

Employee engagement is an important approach to the HIRES pilot. Involvement could build team morale, foster a sense of pride in the workplace, grow workplace visibility in the community, address labour needs, and enhance understanding and relationships within the workplace.

Learning and making a commitment to supporting one another in an inclusive workplace can be done a thousand ways. The HIRES opportunity is one that bridges local values and growth with a global community.

Think Global, Build Local!

Explore the following links to discover the impact business leaders are making through similar initiatives:

  • Meet the Canadian CEO sponsoring and hiring refugees [Watch]
  • Glen Haven Manor receives national employer award [Read]
  • Refugee Sponsorship called a ‘win-win” [Read]
  • Talent Beyond Boundaries works globally to build pathways for skilled refugees within the economic immigration streams: [Listen]

Looking for more information?

Download our HIRES Information pamphlet to learn how you can get involved.

About WUSC

WUSC is a world leader in furthering access to refugee resettlement through post-secondary education. Its flagship Student Refugee Program (SRP) began in 1978. WUSC now brings 40+ years of experience, supporting a network of 95+ post-secondary education institutional partners across Canada to deliver this one-of-a-kind program.

The new HIRES initiative, which builds on the SRP model, looks to further expand access to economic opportunities for refugee youth and facilitate their stronger economic integration into the Canadian labour market.

In partnership with:

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