Global Talent for SMEs

What is an SME?

Micro: 1-4 employees
Small: 5-49 employees
Medium: 50-499 employees

Micro: 1-4 employees
Small: 5-99 employees
Medium: 100-499 employees

Global Talent for Small and Medium Enterprises: Finding Solutions

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have enormous potential as employers of skilled immigrants. At the same time, they can benefit from the skills, experience and innovation that skilled immigrants can bring to their organizations. Our research looks at programs and policies that can engage and influence the human resource practices of SMEs.

Cover of new ALLIES report
Global Talent for SMEs: Building Bridges and Making Connections

Global Talent for SMEs highlights findings of a year-long study of new, innovative and promising initiatives that can help connect SMEs with the skilled immigrant labour pool. The findings draw on the input of nearly 300 SMEs from five Canadian cities, individual interviews, and an online survey conducted by the Conference Board of Canada. Earlier findings resulting from a review of policies and programs aimed at SMEs, and interviews with more than 50 stakeholders Canada-wide, were summarized in an October 2011 interim report (English (5MB) | French (5MB).

Among others, the report recommends:

  • New ways of communicating to SMEs – for example, to deliver or market programs through individuals and organizations that SMEs trust, such as accountants, industry and professional associations, and peers;
  • That government and others provide more services to SMEs that facilitate workplace integration – all while making sure that their interactions with small business are simple, straightforward and fast; and
  • A public awareness and media campaign with national and local mainstream media to promote the benefits of hiring skilled immigrants in Canada.

Why SMEs?

Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of Canada’s economy. In Canada, SMEs:

  • Employ 64% of private sector workers – that’s 6.7 million jobs;
  • Account for 54% of Canada’s GDP;
  • Outperformed large businesses during the recent economic downturn (2009); and
  • Adapt to changing conditions more quickly than large businesses.

SMEs in Our Cities

Review a statistical snapshot of a local labour market and the skilled immigrant demographic in these fact sheets (PDF):

Fast Facts | Calgary | Halifax | Montreal | Toronto | Vancouver

More Resources


We would like to thank the many people and organizations that participated in, supported and contributed to this study. Your experience, insight and expertise are invaluable. In particular, we are indebted to:

Citizenship and Immigration Canada for providing funding for this project.

The following immigrant employment councils for organizing and hosting focus groups with SMEs and for providing input into the structure and content of the focus groups:

The Conference Board of Canada for generously sharing the results of their online survey, and for featuring our interim report at their Leaders’ Roundtable on Immigration event in October 2011.

The small and medium businesses that volunteered their time to share their views with us.