Establishing an Immigrant Employment Council Toolkit

With aging demographics, low birth rate and an increasingly global marketplace, many cities across Canada are recognizing how important it is that the immigrants choosing to settle in their communities find employment commensurate with their education and experience.

Immigrant Employment Councils are forming in cities across Canada to address the many challenges of integrating skilled immigrants into the labour market including:

  • Lack of professional networks for new Canadians
  • Lack of opportunities to gain Canadian work experience
  • Recognition of international qualifications (work experience and education)
  • Lack of access to workplace language training
  • Lack of coordination between government support, programs and services
  • Lack of awareness on the part of employers on the benefits of hiring immigrants

Since the inception of TRIEC (the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council) in 2003, eight other cities have created their own Immigrant Employment Council (IEC). With the help of Maytree and McConnell Foundation’s ALLIES Program (Assisting Local Leaders with Immigrant Employment Strategies), cities have a national network to support the development of their IEC.

No two IECs are alike.

We’ll make that point again and again in this tool kit, but it can’t be emphasized enough. The local political, economic, leadership and organizational climate in your city will determine what model of IEC is right for you. There is no rulebook for how to establish an IEC. The process needs to be organic and true to your community. Each community will carve its own way. You will need a clear understanding of the environment in which you work, as well as some muscle from key stakeholders, to get an IEC off the ground.

Setting up an Immigrant Employment Council takes time. You’ll have to make a lot of decisions along the way and there are consequences for every choice you make. This tool kit provides you with some tips and successful options to enable you to choose the processes right for your community.

Alan Broadbent on Building a Successful Immigrant Employment Council

The Purpose of this Toolkit

The aim of this toolkit is to present you, the reader, with highlights of practices that may lead to successfully establishing an Immigrant Employment Council (IEC). This description of a successful process and model includes best practices, discussion points and options related to implementation gathered from IECs all across Canada.

Topics included in this toolkit include:

  • How to make the case to employers, government, civic leaders and community organizations;
  • How to get started;
  • What the components of a successful IEC look like; and
  • How to grow your IEC.

How to Work with this Toolkit

You may use this toolkit in different ways, depending on your needs and experience.

Never heard of an immigrant employment council?
Consider reading through the whole toolbox following the table of contents.

Wondering how to start an immigrant employment council?
The following sections of this toolkit may be the most useful for you:

You have an immigrant employment council but are experiencing challenges? Not so sure about what’s next?

The following sections of this toolkit may be the most useful for you:

Want more detail about the process in a particular city?

Several IECs have developed detailed case studies outlining their journey:

Role of an IEC

IECs are forming in centres across Canada to bring together local stakeholders in order to develop their own practical solutions to help skilled immigrants find suitable employment.

IECs connect skilled immigrants to local employers with the support of other community, educational and government organizations. IECs complement rather than compete with these existing immigrant programs and services.
IECs are most often employer lead councils. From this unique position, they typically convene multi-stakeholder working groups including employers, community organizations, post-secondary institutions, assessment service providers, labour, immigrant professional associations, and all three levels of government to address immigrant employment issues.

IECs may serve the primary role as:

  • Catalyst or provider of immigrant employment programs and services

IECs may also serve one or more of these secondary roles:

  • Information clearinghouse & referral services
  • Communication and awareness on the benefits of hiring immigrants
  • Strengthening relations between government ministries, industry groups, and the private-public-nonprofit sectors

Are We Ready?

Depending on the model you choose, creating an IEC can be a major undertaking. As you assess your community’s level of readiness ask yourself the following questions in each of these categories:

Key messages

  • Does the current and forecast labour market in your region provide a compelling case for starting an immigrant employment council?
  • Is the economic climate conducive to hiring immigrants?
  • Are you currently experiencing an economic boom or recession and how does this impact immigrants seeking work?
  • Have you built a common fact base that will help inform your messages for each group of key stakeholders?
  • Do your key stakeholders agree on the common fact base and that immigrants form a significant part of the solution?
  • Have you created a graphic identity and a few simple collateral pieces so that you can begin to converse with potential stakeholders?


  • Have you identified a leader or consider yourself to be the leader of this initiative?
  • Have you engaged a community leader as your spokesperson that shares your vision and your passion?
  • Have you identified and/or engaged a circle of champions from a cross section of stakeholder groups that can carry your message?
  • Is there an organization that is willing to host or provide a home for your IEC?

Focus on Action

  • Have you researched promising practices in other IECS across Canada?
  • Have you connected with ALLIES to inform them of your interest?
  • Have you considered your preferred option for governance and structure?
  • Have you identified prospective funders and started to forge relationships with them?
  • Have you considered the scope of your programs and services?
  • Have you identified an initial action idea that can serve as a quick win?