Paramount Fine Foods begins refugee hiring campaign
'The problem will be getting these people back to their normal life,' says CEO
First, Canada welcomes thousands of refugees from Syria during one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Second, the refugees settle in Canada, including moving into permanent residence and getting a job.
That last part is easier said than done. But Paramount Fine Foods, a Middle Eastern restaurant chain, is trying to help, hiring up to 100 Syrian newcomers to work in one of more than 20 franchises across Ontario.
Mohamad Fakih, who runs Paramount Fine Foods, thinks the Syrians coming into Canada should be an asset to the country's economy and not a liability. He said they are largely educated and a "hands on" people.
He's not only hiring newcomers to his own restaurant, but is also hiring an employment counsellor from Ryerson University to help other Syrians find work outside his restaurants. He's partnered with Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge (RULSC) and Magnet, a job-finding service, to make that happen.
"The problem will be getting these people back to their normal life," he said. "Finding a job, after finding a home, is the priority."
Fakih knows first-hand how hard it is to find work as a new Canadian. Now a CEO, he came here from Lebanon in 2000 and struggled to find any work at all.
"It wasn't easy at all," he said. Most employers looked for Canadian experience, something that a tiny fraction of Middle Eastern immigrants will have. "I wasn't prepared on how to write my resume," he said.
Part of his initiative is getting new Canadians ready for the job market. He hopes the employment specialist can get Syrians job-ready.
The idea came to Fakih during a recent trip to Lebanon with the organization Islamic Relief. In addition to his initiative, he is calling on other entrepreneurs to hire qualified newcomers.
"There is a lot that needs to be done here and I will be encouraging other fellow entrepreneurs to get involved because there is much more to do," he said.
Fakih said the Syrians arriving on Canadian shores have varied backgrounds and work experiences that will be of help to owners of Paramount restaurants and Canadian businesspeople in general.
"I'm not telling my franchisees to hire them regardless of their experience in the position," he said. "I'm saying, 'Give them the chance, the opportunity.'"