Online system helps connect skilled Ukrainians fleeing war with Manitoba employers

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In 20 days, Olha Fedorova went from living in a country at war to walking around her new architecture office in Winnipeg.

“There is a huge library of materials, and she is very excited to work with them,” said her daughter, Yuliia Fedorova, translating from her mother’s Russian.

The Ukrainian interior designer and engineer will start next week at Architecture49, a Winnipeg-based firm that has worked on projects like the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

She left behind her husband in kyiv, who is helping in the war effort against Russia. Meanwhile, Olha Fedorova is setting up a new home here with their twin daughters, who are studying at the University of Manitoba.

“Our family decided that it was better for mom to leave and work here to live with me and my sister. Then we hope that later our father will join us here,” Yuliia translated.

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24, more than 5 million refugees have fled the country, according to the UN refugee agency.

Fedorova’s quick move is thanks in part to Manitoba economic groups.

Before the war, Economic Development Winnipeg and its sub-organization, Yes Winnipeg, had a job portal that connected Manitoba businesses with skilled employees.

Now they’ve adapted it so Ukrainians fleeing war can easily upload their profiles, and Manitoba businesses can post temporary and permanent jobs just for them.

“We have labor shortages in various sectors,” said Nick Krawetz, a volunteer with the Manitoba Chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress who helped create the portal.

“For example, in aerospace, manufacturing, transportation – these are all industries where Ukrainians are highly skilled,” meaning they can quickly get jobs and help fill labor shortages work, he said.

Krawetz expects the portal to bring a wave of Ukrainians to Manitoba, and said he hopes that kind of focused effort will continue if another country faces challenges in the future.

At least 70 Ukrainians have already used a welcome desk that was set up at Winnipeg’s Richardson International Airport last week to help people fleeing Ukraine settle in Manitoba, according to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Once a person is connected with a potential employer through the portal, the hiring process is accelerated. The portal is linked to the Manitoba and Winnipeg Chambers of Commerce, as well as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. Now that Ottawa has special visas for Ukrainians fleeing war, the hiring process can go by quickly.

Architecture49 interviewed and hired Fedorova within 15 days. Normally the process takes two months.

“You watch all this on TV and on the internet and you say to yourself, what can you do?” said Lee McCormick, the company’s chief executive. He said he was also Ukrainian on his mother’s side and wanted to help.

“We saw it as a win-win because we needed someone. We’re looking to hire someone, and it hasn’t been filled for many months. Now here’s someone who meets the criteria position and who can come to Canada and build a new life.”

Lee McCormick, CEO of Architecture49, encourages other Manitoba companies to hire Ukrainians who want to come to Manitoba to escape the war. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Although Fedorova is fluent in Russian and Ukrainian, her spoken English can be a bit difficult, she said, although she can read and write it well.

McCormick said he and other employers can work around language barriers because most people work remotely and rely on written communication.

So far, nearly 440 Ukrainians who are abroad have created profiles, looking for jobs here, and 29 Manitoba companies are offering temporary or permanent jobs, according to Economic Development Winnipeg. The organization said that once a Ukrainian arrives here, they are also linked to immigration and settlement groups like Leaving Manitoba.

For Fedorova, the quick move brings her family closer. His daughters moved to Winnipeg three years ago to pursue their dream of becoming doctors. Now she can be there for them and create her own Canadian career.

“Before Canada, we were together all the time,” she said through her daughter. “We were more like friends, not like a mother and her daughters. We missed each other a lot.”

Connecting skilled Ukrainians fleeing war with Manitoba employers

A handful of Manitoba business groups help connect skilled Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion with local employers. 2:38

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