PEI

'We didn't hire for diversity': Skilled immigrants fill needs of P.E.I. employers

When Doug Coles is looking for someone to fill a job, a potential employee's qualifications are more important than where they're from.

Island businesses are gaining skilled employees and cultural diversity

Doug Coles and Mursulin Abul look over drawings at Coles Associates in Charlottetown. (Karen Mair/CBC)

When Doug Coles is looking for someone to fill a job, qualifications are at the top of his list.

The vice president of architecture and engineering firm Coles Associates says what a potential employee can do for the company is more important than where they're from.

"The person who filled the need we were looking for was a gentleman we deemed to be very adept at process engineering," said Coles.

"The fact that he was a recent immigrant to P.E.I. was a bonus ... We didn't hire for diversity, we hired to fill a need."

'They need skilled people'

He's talking about Mursulin Abul, originally from Bangladesh. He moved to Canada in 2012.

When you're dealing with detailed tax information, we want to make sure they have a good understanding in their own language.-  Doug  Ezeard

His decision had nothing to do with conditions in his home country — he wanted to further his education. Once Abul completed his masters in engineering at Memorial University in Newfoundland, he was ready to work.

"In this province, they need skilled people, one of the skills is engineering for the economic development of P.E.I., " Abul said.

"If you give me the opportunity I will put some efforts in the economic development of P.E.I."  

Serving clientele

A few blocks away, the offices of chartered accountants Arsenault Best Cameron Ellis are buzzing with activity.

The firm has been involved with Chinese immigrants here through the Provincial Nominee Program for seven years.  

Doug Ezeard, human resources partner for the firm, said he's hired three Mandarin-speaking staff in recent years.

I have a lot of conversations with my colleagues and I also learn from them so we help each other to serve our clients.- Nathan Ding

They all arrived by different paths and the company has supported them in pursuing higher education.

"We don't have a diversity hiring policy," he said.

Ezeard said for a company that has hundreds of Chinese clients, having employees that speak Mandarin and English was crucial.

"A lot of them [clients] aren't competent in their English and especially when you're dealing with detailed tax information, we want to make sure they have a good understanding in their own language." 

Amie Song and Nathan Ding are two of the Mandarin-speaking employees at accounting firm Arsenault Best Cameron Ellis. (Karen Mair/CBC)

Nathan Ding has been on P.E.I. for seven years, and lived in China and Hong Kong before arriving in Canada. He finds working in a diverse office a positive.

"I have a lot of conversations with my colleagues and I also learn from them so we help each other to serve our clients," he said. 

'I've learned so much'

Amie Song is another Mandarin-speaking employee at Arsenault Best Cameron Ellis. She moved to P.E.I. from Beijing in 2011 and loves it in Canada.

Song was hired upon graduation from the bachelor of business administration program at UPEI.

We never actively took part in Christmas decoration and Halloween, but my son is very excited about this.- Mursulin   Abul

"This is my first professional job and I've learned so much," she said. 

"I do a bit of everything and love trying so many jobs."  

'Very excited about this'

Abul said socializing with colleagues and getting help from them makes him feel at home on the Island. 

His wife works at a grocery store and his son is in first grade.

"Previously we never actively took part in Christmas decoration and Halloween, but my son is very excited about this," he said. 

"We took him to Halloween peek-a-boo. My colleagues helped to decorate a Christmas tree and we like to take part in festivals." 

About the Author

Karen Mair is an award-winning journalist and an 'Islander by choice.' Since 1986 she's worked as a host, producer, reporter and social media presenter. These days, you'll find Karen reporting for digital and radio.

now