Kadija’s journey to provide elder care in Newfoundland and Labrador

Kadija, a nurse from Somalia living as a refugee in Ethiopia, will be relocating to work at a long-term care home in St. John’s.

Kadija always knew she wanted to be a nurse, ever since she was a young girl in Somalia taking care of her grandmother, but she never knew her dream could take her across the ocean.

“We didn’t have family members with medical education, so becoming a nurse was a big aspiration for me,” she says, made even more complicated by the violence of the civil war in Somalia.

In 2008, Kadija and her aunt left their home and claimed refugee status in Ethiopia. Despite the difficult conditions in the camp, Kadija continued to work hard at her dream, excelling at school and earning a scholarship to university to study nursing. Things were not easy – Kadija notes that the university had electricity 24 hours a day, which was a luxury compared to the rest of the camp where she lived.

Despite the difficulties, Kadija stood out among her peers for her passion and hard work. “The professors knew I was a refugee, and they supported and encouraged me even more,” she says. She thrived in her nursing program, ultimately receiving top grades in pediatrics and obstetrics. But her lifelong passion, for providing dignified and expert care for elderly patients, is what made her profile attractive to recruiters in Newfoundland and Labrador.

After being in contact with TalentLift Canada, and facilitated by a UNHCR staff member, Kadija was shortly thereafter connected to the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services. The province, which has a labour shortage, is in need of talented and passionate medical staff like Kadija to care for their aging population. The partnership between TalentLift and the provincial health authority has been a natural fit – matching educated and skilled people in refugee situations with the hospitals and care homes in the province, and has so far resulted in 46 matches, including Kadija.

Kadija will move to Canada in the coming months, and will begin work as a Personal Care Attendant at a care home in Mount Pearl, a community outside St. John’s. She is also planning on picking up her studies again, to further her medical skillset and knowledge, particularly in the area of gynaecology and women’s health. While she is nervous about leaving her aunt, she says she’s most looking forward to getting to work, to showing her new patients the high level of care she’s passionate about and has developed a knack for over the years. “I like taking patients for walks and helping with their medication and nutrition – it’s their time to receive the love and care our mothers gave us,” she says.

While her working life in Mount Pearl will be a continuation of the high quality of nursing she’s been doing for years, there’s one significant and new experience she’s looking forward to: “I’ve never been to the ocean. I can’t wait to see it.”

Join a community of pioneering hiring teams across Canada. Start hiring with TalentLift.


Candidates living in refugee circumstances and seeking a job in Canada can join TalentLift. Employers seeking global talent while engaging their team in something transformative can start hiring.

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



Further resources:

Use the hiring solution within your power, says Rema Jamous Imseis, UNHCR Canada Representative

It’s tough to look at the picture of global displacement and find optimism. But Rema Jamous Imseis, the UNHCR Canada Representative, encourages us to see it in our hiring power.

At the end of 2022, there were more than 108 million people forcibly displaced in different parts of the world. This figure has likely grown because of conflicts and natural disasters, many linked to climate change. In just the last year, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) responded to 35 new emergencies. “We’re going to continue seeing people moving to seek safety,” Rema said. Resources to respond, whether to improve conditions or support immigration solutions, are not keeping pace. In one stark example, less than 1% of those in need of humanitarian resettlement are able to access this solution each year.

While emergencies unfold, seeking safety across a border is becoming harder. New border restrictions and rules in many countries make it more difficult for people to cross a border, and easier to force people back somewhere dangerous when they have made it through.

Rema joined a recent meeting of the Tech Talent Welcome Council to share these key facts on global displacement, and insights on what individuals here in Canada can do about it. Members of the Tech Talent Welcome Council are a community of peers hiring tech talent from within refugee populations. They include folks from Thinkific, ApplyBoard, Scotiabank, TalentLift (as an employer), and beyond. 

Available to us all is Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP), a unique Canadian visa program that unlocks our hiring power as a response to global displacement. The EMPP lets Canadian employers offer a job and relocation opportunity to someone talented who’s in a refugee situation. Whether we’re motivated by the overall scale of need, or by ties to a community, like those from Afghanistan, Palestine, or Sudan, we have the ability to respond.

Our hiring power opens up a pathway that wouldn’t be there otherwise, Rema said. Hiring teams can make a significant impact in individual lives, and collectively, by pioneering a skills-based solution that can scale across Canada – and globally, as other countries seek to replicate what works for their peers.

“Anything we can do to offer additional pathways is going to have an impact.”

Key facts about the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP)

The EMPP is an exciting opportunity, and has many competitive advantages compared to other visa pathways. In brief, the EMPP:

  • Is open to any job position (at any skill level), in any location outside Quebec
  • Is a simple, one-stage visa application to the federal government
  • Does not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or other job-posting period
  • Takes 6 months to process

Employers can work with a partner like TalentLift, which partners with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and NGOs in different parts of the world, to find talented candidates. See our latest talent snapshot for a glimpse of the immense talent within refugee populations. 

Candidates must be living in refugee or displaced circumstances outside Canada and outside their home country.

A Canadian innovation

The EMPP is the first of its kind globally, and has already helped to grow similar pilots in Australia, the United Kingdom, and a handful of countries in Europe. This means the community of hiring employers is now growing in Canada and globally.

This is an innovation to take pride in, and to scale.

“We’re very sheltered from the realities that a lot of people face. It’s essential to this country to continue welcoming people,” Rema said. She asked, “what kind of world do you hope for? What kind of workplace do you want to foster?”

By hiring displaced talent, we’ll be building that more inclusive, equitable world and workplace, where opportunity is available to talent living anywhere. And it’s absolutely “win-win.” It’s pragmatic. “You get something incredibly powerful and rewarding.”

What can every hiring manager in Canada do next?

If you haven’t yet, reach out to TalentLift to get started.

You can also set a hiring target. A target helps get this initiative off the ground, past the realm of ideas, until it’s a proven part of your team’s talent pipeline.

It’s rare to have the power to make such an impact, through something so regular and ongoing like hiring. That’s cause for optimism. 

Join a community of pioneering hiring teams across Canada. Start hiring with TalentLift.

Josh reflects on his journey from Cuba to New Brunswick

Josh, right, with his family exploring the coast of New Brunswick.

Every day in Canada, Josh Mesa says, is like “heaven.”

After years of coping with uncertainty and struggling to make ends meet for his family as a refugee and labourer in Trinidad and Tobago, Josh, a successful TalentLift candidate now working for Area52 in New Brunswick, says he can’t stop counting his blessings.

Originally from Cuba, Josh and his wife Amy worked for many years as accountants before deciding that the economic crisis in Cuba would never allow their family to thrive, let alone be conducive to a minimum standard of living.

They made the decision to flee Cuba in 2018 and became refugees in Trinidad and Tobago, where they could not find work other than casual labour, stocking shelves, and picking fruit. It took Josh and Amy two years to save enough wages to purchase a laptop, after which he promptly began enrolling in programming and coding courses so that he could apply for better work and possibly immigrate. “I wanted a better life for my family, and especially my daughter,” he says.

However, even with their hard work in Trinidad and Tobago and Josh’s in-demand technology skills, finding a pathway to a better life proved incredibly difficult. The couple tried for many years to seek out different forms of migration. On December 2, 2021, after grueling years of working casual, physical jobs without formal refugee status, they felt they had run out of options and booked plane tickets to Central America, with the intention of walking to the US or Canada and claiming asylum.

Fortunately, fate intervened. The very next day, on December 3 (a date Josh says he’ll never forget), the Canadian government announced another phase of an economic mobility pathway program that Josh and Amy qualified for, despite their lack of official status. In the months after, Josh connected with Area52, an innovative New Brunswick-based company that helps seafood processing companies automate their workflow. After conducting interviews, they were impressed with Josh’s technical and programming expertise, and his bright, warm personality, but unclear on how to facilitate a move to Canada.

After connecting with TalentLift staff, who provided guidance and support on the paperwork, Area52 felt confident enough in the sponsorship process to offer Josh employment and make his move to Canada happen, along with his wife and daughter.

Three years after they first found out Canada could be an option for them, the family is now thriving. At first, Josh was concerned his daughter, who is in grade seven, would struggle to fit in because of her lack of English. But now he says, almost a year after their move, she chats fluently with her new friends and is learning guitar on an instrument given by one of Josh’s coworkers as a ‘Welcome to Canada’ gift. Amy began to study and became licensed in financial planning. She’s working with an insurance company while studying for further qualifications in the field.

When asked to reflect on how much their life has turned around in the past ten months, after years of struggle in Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago, Josh says it’s difficult to express the entirety of his emotions. “TalentLift was a blessing for us; they reached us at the moment when we most needed it.”

He hopes more Canadian employers will connect with TalentLift to learn how they can take on more employees from refugee situations. “When TalentLift takes on a candidate, they will do anything for them. The team is so humble, kind and confident. I feel like they’re family, and they treat us likewise.”

Join a community of pioneering hiring teams across Canada. Start hiring with TalentLift.

This international women’s day, meet some remarkable women advancing their careers after leaving displacement behind

Amy, Enas, and Samar are living in communities across Canada, in New Brunswick, British Columbia, and Ontario. All arrived on skilled visas from refugee situations.

On International Women’s Day, we’re spotlighting the talent, courage and strength of three remarkable women within our TalentLift community: Amy, Enas and Samar. All three left refugee situations after they or their partner received a job opportunity and pursued a skilled visa to Canada under the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot.

We’re grateful to them for sharing a glimpse of their experiences here.

“Never give up, there is a great future waiting for those who are ready to work for it.” – Amy

Amy recently completed her studies as an independent broker and views her career as an opportunity to empower others, by helping them to better understand their financial situations. Her journey through displacement and relocation to Canada involved many challenges and took a lot of perseverance. Amy is originally from Cuba and was living displaced in Trinidad and Tobago before relocating to Canada with her family. “But the point is not giving up,” she advises. Amy attributes her strength to her faith and family. They’ve helped her follow her own aspirations; she dreams of making a positive impact in her new career and community by assisting others find economic security. She encourages others to think of the wealth of opportunity in Canada and the possibility of gaining, with hard work, and also giving back. “Canada is a country with a lot of opportunities, so take advantage of it, help build up this society to be much better than what it already is.”

“On a day like today, where some women enjoy great rights while others suffer, for all the women and especially survivors, resistance and persistence are the only hope.” – Enas

Enas said she dreamed about her current life and all that she has now when she was little. She added, “I’m grateful for all the experiences that have brought me here. It’s been a journey with many stops, and I believe this isn’t my final destination.” Enas is from Syria and was living in Lebanon in a refugee situation when she interviewed with a Canadian employer and obtained a job offer in British Columbia.  Enas is a social work professional and has experienced great advances and growth in her career. She thinks she has left a positive impact in the communities where she has served too, including here in Canada. Not everything has been easy for her of course. Balancing the stress and emotions that come with being a newcomer alongside work and other demands is challenging. However, “the significant changes in my life have fueled my perseverance.” Next, Enas hopes to pursue drama therapy in continuing education, to build her career in a direction where she can keep working closely with people while nurturing her artistic side. She is creative, empathetic and warm. It’s easy to see how she’ll continue lifting up those around her.

“Don’t despair. We need patience. And to walk step by step. Good work will be seen by everyone.” – Samar

Samar, meanwhile, has ventured into entrepreneurship with her crochet business, alongside her dedication to teaching Arabic. Struggling with English proficiency, she enrolled in Sheridan College to enhance her language, recognizing its crucial role in navigating life in Canada. Despite this challenge, Samar didn’t let it deter her; instead, she seized opportunities by starting her own crochet business and teaching Arabic language classes via Zoom.

Samar is Palestinian has lived in Syria and then Lebanon in a refugee situation. There were significant challenges across her family’s journey. Here in Canada, maybe the hardest one is language. But that’s part of starting somewhere new, she knows.  Samar draws inspiration and support from her husband, and emphasizes the importance of staying positive and securing a stable income to provide a good life for their children. All of this takes hard work, but she’s sure hard work gets recognized. “Always, develop yourselves,” she encourages others. This beautiful philosophy is alive in her dream to open a private school for children, to help them develop and thrive too.

These are some incredible women. And there are many other talented folks like them, across all skill sets, in need of opportunity. Start hiring with us and meet them.

Join a community of pioneering hiring teams across Canada. Start hiring with TalentLift.

With the support of the Scotiabank ScotiaRISE initiative, TalentLift has built a talent platform for displaced job seekers to self-register, develop job-readiness, and connect to transformative job and relocation opportunities to Canada. Learn more.

Partners in our mission make great products: TalentLift’s learning path powered by Thinkific

Nasser and the Thinkific team. Nasser is a Software Engineer with Thinkific, based in Vancouver.

At TalentLift, our mission is about opening doors to skilled employment opportunities for people living as refugees, and providing a holistic support system that empowers displaced talents throughout their journeys to thrive in their new environments. We believe that leveraging the right tools is key to our mission’s success. That’s where Thinkific comes into play.

Thinkific is an all-in-one online course platform that lets individuals and organizations create and deliver courses on their branded websites. TalentLift has adopted this innovative software to create courses for candidates, and further our mission in several impactful ways:

  • Job market readiness: Preparation to put your best foot forward to employers is about equipping candidates with the cultural fluency and professional norms expected within the Canadian workforce. Our job market readiness course on the Thinkific platform focuses on topics like employment expectations, resume writing, interview techniques, workplace communication and culture, and networking. Supported by these modules, our candidates can step into the Canadian job market, interviews, and eventually the workplace with confidence, ready to contribute and thrive.
  • Immigration process: For those who have successfully secured a job offer, the journey is just beginning. It’s crucial for our candidates to be empowered to navigate the immigration process alongside us. This is important for a swift visa submission and to ensure a smooth transition to life in Canada. One of our Thinkific courses is dedicated to onboarding candidates to the immigration legal framework that TalentLift follows, providing a roadmap through the visa process (program steps, document requirements, timelines, and available support), as well as the rights and responsibilities that form the backbone of their new careers and lives in Canada.

As we mark two months since embarking on this collaboration with Thinkific, we’re already seeing the empowering impact of this user-friendly platform for our candidates. 

Thinkific supports our mission in more than one inspiring way. Nasser Alkhellow is a Software Engineer on the Thinkific team who is also a TalentLift alumni supported to relocate from a refugee situation in Türkiye for work in his new home in Vancouver. This unique connection underscores how pioneering leaders like Thinkific innovate across all elements of their business, from software to impactful hiring. And, attracting superstars like Nasser helps to power product excellence.

Greg Smith, the CEO of Thinkific, and his talented team have been instrumental in this new chapter of supporting TalentLift offers to candidates. We are grateful for Thinkific’s leadership and partnership in unlocking many more journeys ahead. 

We are excited to continue to expand the scope and reach of our training programs to further advance our mission. Our focus will be on creating learning journeys for candidates that are accessible, cost-free, and centred on practical guidance.

We envision empowering many more people to leverage their skills – and this learning – to relocate alongside their families from displacement to new careers and homes in Canada.

Hala Alkhellow is a Data Engineer with TalentLift who developed an interest in technical programming despite her background in Communication Engineering from Aleppo University. Driven to deepen her skills, Hala embarked on a journey of self-study, immersing herself in various programming languages and frameworks. Through online resources and mentorship from experienced software engineers, she honed her front-end development, back-end development, and data engineering expertise. Hala firmly believes that continuous learning is the key to keeping up with the ever-evolving technology field.

Candidates living in refugee circumstances and seeking a job in Canada can join TalentLift. Employers seeking global talent while engaging their team in something transformative can start hiring.

Hey non-profits! Relocate your next employee from a refugee situation

Explore a new, impactful hiring strategy for the non-profit and charitable sector under Canada’s Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP)

Your hiring power has the potential to move talented new team members from displacement to a secure future in Canada.

There are more than 110 million people living displaced around the world. This figure has risen in the last several decades to an historic high, driven by conflict or civil instability in Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and South Sudan, among other regions. Many displaced people are living in countries where they have limited access to work rights and other basic services. And yet, many have the skills and talent needed by teams and communities across Canada.

The non-profit and charitable sector has an opportunity to get involved, and put their own team values of inclusion and community impact into practice through a new hiring strategy: Sourcing your hard-to-fill roles from the international talent pool of people living in refugee situations.

Do you need a Software Developer? A Data Analyst? A Project Manager? A Sales Lead? A Graphic Designer? A Bookkeeper? A lot of the critical skill sets needed by non-profit teams are also really difficult to find in Canada. But the right candidate doesn’t need to be here in Canada. Your next great hire might be in a refugee situation, eager for a job and relocation opportunity.

The Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP)

Many teams in the non-profit sector may be new to international recruitment using skilled visas. That’s okay. Not having past experience with immigration shouldn’t be a barrier to starting out. Canada has a unique immigration program called the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP), which aims to help hiring teams across Canada to recruit and relocate talent from within refugee populations.

Canada is continuously improving the pilot, and it has never been easier or faster for Canadian hiring teams to participate.

A few important things for organizations to know about recruitment under the EMPP: 

  • Your team and the location of the job can be anywhere in Canada outside Quebec
  • You need to offer a full-time job
  • You should offer the prevailing (median) wage for the role and location 
  • You can work with TalentLift to learn more and find a shortlist of talented candidates living in displacement for your open roles
  • You should be ready to pay the costs of visas and relocation, and provide basic arrival support (i.e. airport pick-up) to your new employee and their family (and don’t stress – we help you plan and execute each step!)
  • You can expect a visa processing timeline of about 6 months, which is quite reasonable when seeking in-demand skills.

Importantly, supporting a candidate from displacement through the EMPP is not the same as private sponsorship through Canada’s refugee resettlement program. The EMPP falls under the economic stream and is intended to be a complementary solution, and therefore the number of people moving under this program is additional to Canada’s resettlement commitment. The costs and commitments required of hiring teams are also very different from those provided by private sponsors.

Who’s hiring?

Some pioneering non-profit teams are already showing what’s possible – including us. TalentLift hired a star Data Engineer who’s now a core part of our team, who will be relocating from a refugee situation in Türkiye. Other non-profit partners of TalentLift that are recruiting from the displaced talent pool include a church in Edmonton, a volunteer and giving platform in Vancouver, and a provider of home, long-term and primary healthcare with locations across Canada.

Why hire?

If you have open roles on your team that are difficult to fill, and your organization is mission-driven, this impactful hiring solution might be right for you. 

In summary, your team can: 

  • Access an underleveraged talent pool (candidates living in refugee situations) with in-demand skills and high potential. 
  • Gain knowledge and experience of different cultures, regions and socio-economic circumstances that will expand diversity of thought on the team. 
  • Gain creative, agile problem-solvers who have remarkable perseverance and determination. 
  • Engage in a transformative change, and in enriching community-building, when your new employee relocates alongside their family from displacement.
  • Put your values of inclusion and community impact into practice through your hiring power.  

How to get started

Get in touch! We’ll set up a discovery call to learn more about your roles and explain how it works. 

And … 

In discussion with candidates living displaced in Ecuador, the TalentLift team asked what they wished Canadian employers knew about them. “People are very resilient, hard-working and very strong,” said one candidate. Another added, “they have an adaptability. They can do different things, not only what they’re trained for,” and “they take adversity as a chance to grow.”

The Canadian charitable sector counts some 86,000 organizations, plus many other non-profits across the country. Imagine the opportunities we can offer to candidates like these to grow.

Join a community of pioneering hiring teams across Canada. Start hiring with TalentLift.

Recommendations to a Senate of Canada committee exploring solutions to global displacement

The Senate of Canada’s Human Rights Committee invited TalentLift to join the committee as a witness on a study that focuses on innovative solutions to global displacement. Our Dana Wagner joined fellow panelists Abdulla Daoud of The Refugee Centre and Kathy Sherrell of the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia.

Dana spoke on the promise of the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot (EMPP) to unlock more solutions for people living as refugees globally. She focused on three issue areas and recommendations to address them, that would provide talented candidates in displacement with broader and more equitable access to Canadian job and skilled visa opportunities. 

Her remarks are below and can also be viewed by video.

Opening statement at the Senate of Canada Human Rights Committee

My name is Dana Wagner and I’m the Co-Founder and Managing Director with TalentLift. 

We support employers to recruit internationally from within refugee populations, using skilled visas, as a solution to skills shortages in Canada and displacement worldwide. The Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot or the EMPP is the policy framework that makes this work possible. My remarks are about how to improve it. 

I will preface by pointing to the dissonance created by Canada’s will to lead on solutions to global displacement, and unwillingness to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. We have lost more than 7,000 Palestinian children and more than 30 Israeli children, we have 80% of Gaza displaced, and we need an immediate ceasefire.


Now, The EMPP is unlocking remarkable opportunities: A manufacturer recently set a hiring target of 100 skilled workers for facilities in Guelph. In October, the Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services hired 49 nurses living in Ethiopia as refugees. These are nurses who don’t have full rights including work rights, or a pathway to permanence where they’re living.

Recent innovations including a new federal EMPP pathway launched in June, hold promise to scale this impact.

But as always in Canada, we can do better. 

Issue number one: The EMPP is still too narrow. 

How do we measure its success? The best reference point is the whole economic stream, of permanent and temporary pathways. Until the EMPP framework and flexibility encompasses the whole economic stream available to everyone else, we don’t have full access or equity for displaced talent. 

More than 604,000 people arrived on work permits last year, in 2022, but the EMPP flexibility doesn’t apply to those programs. It also doesn’t apply to the Express Entry programs and others like the Self-Employed Persons Program.

Recommendation: Our recommendation to close this gap is to mainstream access across the economic stream, including permanent and temporary pathways. One way to begin is to conduct (following the example of a gender-based analysis) what our team calls a displacement-based analysis of the economic stream.

Issue number two: Language levels and testing are too inflexible 

The new federal EMPP pathway has language levels that are proving prohibitive to many otherwise qualified candidates. We know this because we often have employers that require lower language than the visa pathway. 

Now, onto language testing. Currently, if you apply for a skilled visa with an English language requirement outside Canada, you must take the British Council IELTS test, and you must write the exam in-person. That means that right now – candidates from Afghanistan who are living in Pakistan are risking deportation to leave home and take their IELTS exam. 

Other barriers encountered by our candidates are: testing site availability (none in some countries, or outside major cities); inconsistent access for candidates with non-traditional documents; high cost; restrictive payment methods; and – last but not least – a difficult test that does not accurately reflect working knowledge of English.


To address the too-high language level, we recommend removing the minimum English/French level in higher-skilled jobs (TEER 3-0) (and there are precedents for this in some provincial nominee programs, in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador), potentially replaced with an affidavit from the employer that the candidate has the language needed to safely perform the job. 

To address too-restrictive English testing, we recommend accepting an online version of the British Council IELTS test; and accepting an online test by a second provider, like Duolingo.

Issue number three: Risk of uneven access across diversity dimensions

I noted that Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services hired 49 nurses living as refugees in Ethiopia. Some are living in the capital Addis Ababa, some are living in camps spread out around the country. 

Currently, a medical exam is required during EMPP visa processing before approval. Those in Addis can take one nearby. Those in most camps in Ethiopia need to take a flight to get to the nearest medical exam facility. 

Friction like this means it takes more time, and costs more money, for camp-based candidates to access the same opportunity – ultimately, that could be a competitive disadvantage.

Recommendation: We recommend investing in equitable access within talent pools, with a focus on improving access by women, those living in refugee camps or other remote areas, and those who are LGBTQ. This investment can be in funding and in targeted policy solutions. 


In closing, underlying these recommendations is the idea that people with talent and potential who live in refugee situations should have the same access to opportunities as talented people of any other background. If we build that world, then many more of the 35+ million people living as refugees can use their skills to leave situations of limbo and reduced rights, and use regular routes to reach safe new homes.

Candidates living in refugee circumstances and seeking a job in Canada can join TalentLift. Employers seeking global talent while engaging their team in something transformative can start hiring.

Empowering interviews with the TalentLift companion app: A case study for launching large-scale virtual recruitment events

In an increasingly interconnected world, opportunities are no longer confined by borders. Newfoundland and Labrador Health Services (NLHS) partnered with TalentLift to extend their reach and create a unique opportunity for talented healthcare professionals living in refugee circumstances in Ethiopia. 

Explore more details regarding this recruitment event in another blog post that we have shared.

To support the large-scale virtual recruitment event, our tech team at TalentLift developed a companion application, streamlining the interview process for the event. 

TalentLift’s companion app was designed to empower interviewers during the NLHS recruitment event and to enhance their efficiency as they conducted over 70 interviews over a three-day period. With features tailored to the specific needs of this pioneering undertaking, the app became an indispensable tool for the interview teams and a great demonstration of fit-to-purpose development.

Let’s explore how it simplified the process and improved the overall experience for both candidates and interviewers.

  1. Candidate profiles and CVs: Our app allows interviewers to log in and access comprehensive candidate profiles, including their essential details and CVs. This feature not only saves time but also ensures that interviewers have all the necessary information at their fingertips. A quick glance at a candidate’s qualifications and experiences helps interviewers gain a well-rounded understanding of each candidate’s background before the interview even begins.
  1. Private and secure feedback: After each interview, interviewers can conveniently note their feedback within the app, ensuring that their observations and thoughts are securely stored. This feature facilitates easy collaboration among the interviewing teams, allowing for efficient decision-making processes.
  1. Decision making: One of the best features of the app is the ability for interviewers to individually note their decision regarding the candidate. Whether to continue, decline, or recommend further assessment, interviewers can make their decisions right in the app at the time of the interview and before conferring with other colleagues. This streamlines the decision-making process and can help see that every candidate is treated fairly and equitably.
  1. Interview guides and job descriptions: To further assist interviewers, the app provides easy access to an interview guide created by our team, with key context on refugee circumstances and tips for an inclusive approach to hiring. Additionally, interviewers can review the job description of the position they are interviewing for, ensuring they have a clear understanding of the role’s requirements and expectations.
  1. Zoom integration and technical support: Given that all interviews were conducted on the Zoom platform, the app also provided a seamless link to the Zoom meetings. And, our team ensured that candidates were well-prepared and equipped for the interviews, ensuring a smooth and seamless experience for over 70 candidates during the three-day event.

The success of the companion app for the NLHS recruitment event goes beyond just this single occasion. We understand that such an application can have broad application for future events as well. By centralizing all interview-related information and facilitating secure communication, future recruitment events can be conducted with utmost efficiency and professionalism.

The TalentLift companion app supports recruiters in ensuring that talented individuals living in refugee circumstances have an equal opportunity to shine and contribute their skills to a safe new home. As skilled visa pathways to Canada continue to open, and the TalentLift companion app continues to evolve and adapt, we hope it will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of global recruitment, making the world a more inclusive and diverse place where talent knows no boundaries.

Hala Alkhellow is a Data Engineer with TalentLift who developed an interest in technical programming despite her background in Communication Engineering from Aleppo University. Driven to deepen her skills, Hala embarked on a journey of self-study, immersing herself in various programming languages and frameworks. Through online resources and mentorship from experienced software engineers, she honed her front-end development, back-end development, and data engineering expertise. Hala firmly believes that continuous learning is the key to keeping up with the ever-evolving technology field.

Candidates living in refugee circumstances and seeking a job in Canada can join TalentLift. Employers seeking global talent while engaging their team in something transformative can start hiring.

Newfoundland and Labrador builds hiring pipeline to displaced healthcare talent in Ethiopia

A provincial health service is extending opportunities to talented candidates living in refugee circumstances as part of the solution to a critical shortage of healthcare skills in Canada. 

Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) Health Services partnered with TalentLift to find talented healthcare professionals who are living as refugees in Ethiopia, in a pioneering initiative alongside our partners at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). 

Under this initiative, we partnered to convene a 3-day virtual recruitment event in October, powered by our in-house hiring platform. We are thrilled to share these early results: 

  • 49 candidates moving forward
  • 70+ interviews with talented healthcare professionals 
  • Interviews held in 5 refugee camps – Jijiga, Assosa, Gambella, Melkadida, and Semera – as well as in the capital city Addis Ababa
  • The start of a talent pipeline between the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and displaced healthcare professionals in Ethiopia, making it possible for many more employment opportunities to follow

NL Health Services is among a growing group of leading employers globally who are recognizing the immense talent within refugee populations, and providing people with a chance to put their skills to use and reach their full potential in a safe new home. 

NL Health Services is also showcasing a new form of win-win global recruitment in healthcare by recruiting from within a population that has only insecure and temporary status in their host country. A job opportunity in Canada – while filling critical healthcare roles – provides a pathway to continued careers and secure futures.

“NL Health Services continues to actively recruit talented health-care workers here at home, and abroad in an effort to meet all the needs of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Debbie Molloy, Vice President Human Resources, NL Health Services. “NL Health Services is a great place to work and an ideal place where health-care professionals from anywhere in the world can grow their careers. As such, we encourage communities throughout the province to continue to provide a warm welcome to the health-care professionals joining us from around the world so that health-care workers can have the best possible experience living and working in our province. Our hope is that Newfoundland and Labrador may become their permanent new home.”

There are thousands of healthcare professionals who are living in refugee circumstances globally who are talented, resilient and keen to contribute their skills in a safe new home. TalentLift is grateful to employers like NL Health Services that are recognizing their skills and extending opportunities to talent living anywhere. 

Read more about this pioneering initiative in an NL Health Services press release

Listen to our Dana Wagner and Debbie Molloy of NL Health Services speak about this initiative with CBC On the Go

Candidates living in refugee circumstances and seeking a job in Canada can join TalentLift. Employers seeking global talent while engaging their team in something transformative can start hiring.