In October 2003, the London, Ontario community issued “Voices for Change: Making Use of Immigrant Skills to Strengthen the City of London.”
That call for action was later echoed through London’s Creative Cities Task Force in its final report (pdf) released in April 2005.
In response to these calls for action, the City of London and United Way of London and Middlesex formed a Welcoming Cultural Diversity Committee and brought together community stakeholders to move London closer to becoming a welcoming and inclusive community for newcomers. A Celebrating Cultural Diversity Conference was held in November 2006. The Welcoming Cultural Diversity Action Plan was issued in the Spring of 2006.
Through the “Income” priority area of its action plan, the Welcoming Cultural Diversity Committee approached the Employment Sector Council London-Middlesex (“ESCLM”) to implement a regional employer-driven, multi-stakeholder initiative, loosely modeled after the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.
The ESCLM acted upon this recommendation and successfully secured funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, along with additional support from the City of London and London Economic Development Corporation, to form a regional Task Force and develop a made-in-London employer-driven approach to recruiting and retaining international talent.
WILL Employment was included in a volunteer Advisory Committee with representation from the City of London, Employment Sector Council London-Middlesex, London Economic Development Corporation to facilitate the initial formation of what was then called the London-Middlesex Immigrant Employment Task Force (LMIETF), that later grew to London Middlesex Immigrant Employment Council and ultimately transformed into WILL Immploy.
At the time, the formation of the LMIETF was one piece of a significant chain of action already undertaken at the community level identifying immigrant attraction and retention as a vital issue for London-Middlesex.
With an aging workforce and a declining birthrate, Canada’s entire net labour growth will come from immigration and some economists have noted that the “demographic tipping point” has already arrived. Regional employers are in increasing competition with other businesses throughout the province, across the nation and around the globe for this emerging international talent. To proactively address this issue, London Region employers and stakeholders recognized the importance of coming to the table and directly identifying strategies to recruit and retain the immigrant talent essential to sustaining our regional economy. The initiative first focused on London-Middlesex only, but since its original formation has grown to include partners and services that are offered in Southwestern Ontario.
Beyond supporting employer efforts to source local immigrant talent, WILL Immploy benefits all job seekers. WILL Immploy strengthens a diversified regional economy by helping employers meet current workforce demands in industry sectors that experience skill shortages. When businesses are able to find individuals with the skill sets they need to grow their company – all job seekers benefit from the market expansion.
Through this business-led initiative, employers are also becoming more aware of the wealth of resources available through this region’s employment and training sector. By tapping into these resources, employers will experience greater success in reaching the hidden labour market as a whole.
WILL Immploy, LMIEC and LMIETF all refer to the same initiative and reflect its growth and progression over the last ten years. Today’s WILL Immploy started initially as small London Middlesex Immigrant Employment Task Force (LMIETF) of employers in 2006. As that Task Force grew, it evolved to a London Middlesex Immigrant Employment Council (LMIEC) in 2008. A strategic planning process resulted in the launch of the new Immploy brand in May 2017, and following in 2022 rebranded to WILL Immploy. A new brand better reflects regional growth and value proposition for business leaders, WILL Immploy is well positioned to advance its mission of connecting employers with immigrant talent to foster economic prosperity.
A core group of London Region business leaders held its first meeting in February 2007. Gus Kotsiomitis, RBC Royal Bank and Phyllis Retty, 3M Canada Company stepped forward as Chairpersons early on in the process to move the initiative forward through their leadership. They were joined at the table by a group of regional executives that spoke to the unique demands of their particular sectors and how to better bridge those demands with the supply of international talent in our region.
Through the LMIETF Action Plan development phase in 2007-2008, more than 40 stakeholder institutions came together to develop employer-driven strategies designed to reduce barriers immigrants face when trying to connect with the local labour market.
Employers found that many local tools are in place for companies of all sized to cost-effectively connect with international talent. Business leaders recommended that employers themselves take an active role in sharing information on the business case as well as the range of regional recruitment and retention resources available. On January 25, 2008, employer champions called business colleagues into action at the LMIEC launch event.
Building on these recommendations, the then LMIEC launched its Employer Leadership Strategy in 2008 with funding support from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration. LMIEC Employer Leaders reached out to colleagues in their companies, business networks, industry sectors and small to medium sized enterprise client base to share the business case for hiring immigrant talent, market recruitment and retention resources and identify emerging labour market opportunities.
A Task Force of 14 employers evolved to a Council of over 180 Employer Leaders through the Employer Leadership Strategy delivered from 2008-2010. While the Employer Leadership Strategy has formally concluded at this point in time, business-to-business engagement remains a key focus of our work. Our pool of committed champions has continued to grow with well over 250 Employer Leaders reaching over 1,500 business representatives through events and speaking engagements to-date.
WILL Immploy has undergone tremendous growth with program expansion including a suite of recruitment, mentorship, educational training and retention services.
The efforts of the MLIEC and its partners were recognized in 2012 by the Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO) with Top Honour in the category of Workplace Development.
From 2016-2021, the WILL Immploy Leadership Council actively implemented its strategic plan to achieve the following four objectives:
Today’s successful business leaders know that tapping into immigrant talent is essential not only to sustaining but also to growing their company’s and communities economic prosperity. Many business leaders who have benefited from the services WILL Immploy offers continue to participate and support our initiatives to share successes, identify challenges, and most importantly, shape the next solutions. There are many ways to get involved.
Take action today.
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