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Diversity and inclusion

Giving our foreign workers a warm welcome

May 25, 2022

The Immigration Support Centre helps make the arrival process easier for new Desjardins employees

Antoine Phung always dreamed about coming to North America. Originally from Vietnam, he arrived in France at the age of 18 to study at university. In 2019, he participated in Journées Québec, an event organized in Paris that helps Quebec companies  recruit foreign workers. The event gave the computer and electronics engineering graduate an opportunity to meet with several employers, and he ultimately accepted a position as a programmer analyst with Desjardins Technology Group. "The financial sector appealed to me, as did Desjardins's reputation," he explains, crediting those 2 reasons for his decision to move to Quebec with his spouse.

Given the labour shortage, more and more companies are starting to recruit foreign workers as a way of filling the labour gap, and Desjardins is no exception. Roughly 650 immigrants from 15 different countries have joined the organization in the past year, bringing the number of foreign workers to almost 2,000. And many of them will later obtain their permanent residence.

Having participated in international recruiting missions for several years already, Desjardins decided to take the experience one step further by opening the Immigration Support Centre in August 2021. Its mission is to facilitate the immigration process for foreign workers and their families.

Peace of mind

"Making the decision to go live and work in another country isn't always easy." It's a life-changing event that often represents a new start for a person, sometimes even a whole family. It's important to be able to support these new employees right at the start of their immigration journey so their arrival is smoother," explains Aïcha Moussa Ismaël, manager of the Immigration Support Centre.

Aïcha Moussa Ismaël, manager of the Immigration Support Centre

"This was a big help to us, especially in terms of completing the work permit forms. It gave us peace of mind and allowed us to focus on all the other aspects of preparing to move to another country," adds Phung.

The Immigration Support Centre, which is overseen by the Desjardins Talent Acquisition team, offers various types of support, including helping new foreign workers fill out their work permit forms or renew them. All the new employees need to do is provide the necessary information and the Centre's team, made up of 11 seasoned lawyers and immigration specialists, take care of the rest. The Centre also set up a system that informs managers and employees 6 months in advance that their work permit is going to expire and needs to be renewed.

"There are some employees who could lose their foreign worker status simply because they forgot to renew their permit. As a result, they could lose their job and we would lose some employees," remarks Moussa Ismaël.

Comprehensive support

The Centre's team also supports the families of the new foreign employees, not only by helping them obtain a student or work permit, but also by offering spouses a job at Desjardins when possible.

This support goes so far as to help them find a place to live, a school or even daycare. "We collaborate with external firms that specialize in relocation. They help us make sure we welcome our new foreign employees and their families as best as possible," says Moussa Ismaël.

The Centre's manager also hopes, in the near future, to supplement the integration process for these new Canadians by offering various initiatives to introduce them to Quebec culture. She also has plans to set up a buddy program, pairing up foreign workers who have been with Desjardins for a while with new immigrant colleagues to share their experiences.

During these times of labour shortages, the Immigration Support Centre is an invaluable resource that enables Desjardins not only to, "recruit new foreign workers, but to also build their loyalty so they'll contribute to the success of the organization," concludes Moussa Ismaël.

Diana Nino Pimiento

Diana Nino Pimiento has been working at Desjardins since 2019 as a scrum master with Desjardins Technology Group Inc., after arriving in Quebec in 2018 with her husband, who had been recruited by another Quebec company. In the fall of 2021, a member the Immigration Support Centre team contacted her to tell her she needed to renew her work permit, which was expiring at the end of the year. The young woman from Colombia, who had recently begun the process for herself and her husband, sent this person her documents that she'd already completed. The Centre employee spotted some errors and quickly corrected them.

Diana Nino Pimiento, scrum master with Desjardins Technology Group Inc.

"The rules and processes change so frequently, and I didn't realize that I had requested a visa for my husband instead of a work permit," explains Nino Pimiento. There could have been disastrous consequences, because their work permit requests would have been refused, the couple would have lost their foreign worker status.

The Centre also took the opportunity to request an open permit for her husband. His previous permit was closed, meaning he could only work for the company that recruited him, but now he was eligible for an open one. The Centre also helped the couple request a study permit for their young daughter and obtain reimbursement for the fees they paid to get their permits, which they didn't have to pay.

Antoine Phung

December 2019. Antoine Phung finally arrived in Montreal to start his career as a programmer analyst with Desjardins ... right in the middle of a full-blown snowstorm! "I was shocked," remembers Phung, who was pleasantly surprised to be greeted at the airport by someone from a partner organization of Desjardins's Immigration Support Centre.

"I wasn't expecting anyone to be there. It was greatly appreciated," he says, adding that, within a few days of his arrival, he also received help finding an apartment, buying food and getting to know the city.

Antoine Phung, programmer analyst with Desjardins

When he was recruited a few months earlier in France, he also received assistance from the Immigration Support Centre with filling out the various forms he needed to obtain a work permit for himself and his spouse. "I'm originally from Vietnam, so I was an immigrant in France as well. I often found completing the forms quite complicated. But this time, it was a lot easier, thanks to the Immigration Support Centre," he says.

The efficient services of the Immigration Support Centre came to his rescue again, 2 years later. In the midst of renewing their work permit, the couple had to make an urgent trip back to France to be close to his spouse's sister, who had cancer. The Centre helped them submit an urgent request to get their work permits faster so they would be allowed back in Quebec. "We were able to be there for her and take care of her 2-year-old daughter," proclaims Phung happily, adding that his sister-in-law is doing much better now.

Read more: 
Building a world where everyone has a place