Press release: Canadian roofing manufacturer travels to Lima for pioneering recruitment event for tradespeople living as refugees, hiring 35 candidates displaced from Venezuela

 TalentLift candidates interviewed by IKO Industries at the recruitment event site in Lima, Peru, in April 2024. Photo by: Miguel Arreategui

May 13, 2024 – Toronto, Canada

The Canadian branch of roofing manufacturer IKO Industries met with 38 people living as refugees from Venezuela in Lima, Peru, in early April. The team made 35 conditional offers by the end of the event. This is a remarkable hiring rate, reflecting the immense talent within refugee populations that is open to Canadian hiring teams.

“We’ve had our first round of interviews this morning, and I was absolutely amazed with the skilled talent and passion of the people so far who we’ve interviewed,” said Brian Ketcheson, Vice President HR and Safety at IKO North America, speaking from Lima in early April.

Over the three-day event in Lima, three members from the IKO team interviewed candidates who have training and work experience as electricians, mechanics, mechanical engineers, or electrical engineers. The candidates wrote a technical test followed by an interview. Successful candidates received job offers as Production Operators and, from this starting role, those who qualify will be supported to advance towards their Red Seal trade certification after arrival in Canada.

The trades skills these candidates will bring to Canada are in extremely high demand, and the shortage is set to worsen with nearly 20% of Canadian workers in this sector expected to retire by 2030, according to Employment and Social Development Canada. As recently reported, the shortage makes living costs higher for all Canadians. Fewer trades workers also makes it harder and slower to build the homes needed across the country.

IKO Industries undertook this innovative, large-scale recruitment initiative in partnership with TalentLift, a Canadian non-profit international recruitment agency supporting employers to recruit and relocate talent from refugee populations as a solution to skills shortages and displacement. TalentLift had the support of two refugee-serving NGOs in Peru, HIAS and Unión Venezolana en Perú. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) partly funded the event, in line with a Canadian commitment to see more people living displaced in the Americas access safe, regular immigration pathways.

IKO Industries is among a growing group of leading employers globally who are recognizing this immense talent pool, and providing people with a chance to put their skills to use and reach their full potential in a safe new home.

“It’s brilliant to see the IKO team so seamlessly expand their international recruitment efforts to include displaced talent,” said Dana Wagner, co-founder and Managing Director with TalentLift. “IKO sees the gains for Canada and the major impact for individuals, when talented folks in displacement are given an opportunity.”

There are more than 35 million people living as refugees globally (UNHCR). This is a record level of displacement and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has called for new solutions – like hiring power – to respond. One in six people living displaced worldwide were living in the Latin America and Caribbean region in mid-2022 (UNHCR). The greatest number are from Venezuela, where they have left repression or violence as well as poverty. More than 6.5 million Venezuelans are now living in countries in this region according to 2023 data. The majority live in Peru and Colombia and many of them are “facing poverty and struggling to survive” (UNHCR).

The visa pathway that unlocks this recruitment initiative is Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP), which enables hiring teams to recruit displaced talent by overcoming some of the barriers that have kept those in refugee situations from accessing economic immigration such as holding expired documents or needing Canadian work experience to apply. The EMPP is separate from and complementary to Canada’s refugee resettlement program. It is a skills-based and relatively swift, permanent residence pathway to Canada, opening up a promising talent pool for employers that are facing skilled shortages and hoping to make an impact with their hiring power. 

The impact is significant. Some countries in Latin America where displaced Venezuelans and others seek refuge have welcoming policies, but resources and services are inadequate to meet demand – especially as countries like Peru face rising costs of living and high local unemployment. The UNHCR has reported that half of the displaced population in the region can’t afford three meals each day (UNHCR). They face eviction, exploitation, debt, and xenophobia across daily life. Many make dangerous onward journeys.

Job and relocation opportunities to Canada are an important new solution.

“It’s a huge step for my career. For my family, our future,” said one candidate, speaking in Spanish at the recruitment event in Lima in early April.

Another candidate explained, “it feels great and is very rewarding, after many years of effort, to have the possibility of accessing an interview.”

Both candidates received job offers from the IKO team. They are among the 35 others now preparing visas to Canada for themselves and their families.

“There are many thousands of people living as refugees who have the skills needed in our communities,” said Wagner. “We see IKO Industries as the catalyst of a new talent pipeline from the displaced talent pool in Latin America, and beyond, to Canadian manufacturers.”

For more information, please contact: 

Dana Wagner

Co-Founder & Managing Director


Derek Fee

Manager – Corporate Communications


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