WINNIPEG—There’s work to do, but Winnipeg business leaders say they are preparing to look at job opportunities for Syrian refugees.
The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce held an event on Monday to explore the role of businesses in the resettlement process.
Premier Greg Selinger told the audience Manitoba will welcome as many as 3,000 refugees this year.
Chamber president Dave Angus said Manitoba needs skilled tradespeople, construction workers and the first step is understanding refugees and learning their stories.
He said getting them to learn enough English to be job-ready will be the biggest challenge.
But he said employers should be excited about the potential the refugees will have to offer.
Bayan Almaslamani, 18, arrived in Winnipeg with her mother two weeks ago and said she is eager to get a job so she can go to medical school.
Khalid, an electrician, arrived in Canada from Syria in December.
Speaking through a translator, he told business people in attendance “how beautiful is it for mankind to help” as Syrians flee civil war and terrorism in their home country and seek a new start in places like Canada.
Some companies have already stepped up, offering training for Syrians who want to start their own businesses in Manitoba.
Rafiq Punjani, owner of AccuRoot Financial Solutions, originally from Pakistan, is donating 1,000 professional hours to the Chamber of Commerce to help refugees learn business skills.
“We thought that we could help some of the new immigrants and Syrian refugees if they have prior experience,” Punjani told reporters. “Rather than them going and looking for a job we could help set up their own business if they’re looking for that.”
Punjani said AccuRoot helps clients with their business plans and introduces entrepreneurs to other business owners in the community.
“They are new in the community and in the business world it’s about networking, networking, networking and if you don’t know the right people it’s challenging,” said Punjani. “We thought that if we could help them in that particular front it will make a meaningful difference in their lives.”