Canada Funding Opportunity: Employer Practices

We are looking to identify and fund promising solutions that can improve employer practices in Canada and engage employers in the economic integration of immigrants and refugees.


Immigrants and refugees are key to Canada’s economic health today and to its future growth. Fully activating their economic potential has many benefits, both for individual lives and the Canadian economy as a whole.

Canadian employers, who have consistently reported labour shortages across a range of occupations, have a critical role to play in building more inclusive economies and supporting the success of immigrant and refugee workers.  

Immigrants and refugees face significant challenges in gaining access to the labour market, especially at levels commensurate with their skills. Many are overrepresented in low-paying occupations and sectors with poor working conditions and limited opportunities for economic mobility. There is a clear need to engage employers in the labour market integration of immigrants and refugees. 

To successfully match immigrant workers with jobs aligned with their skills, experience, and aspirations, and to help employers close labour shortages with qualified candidates, workforce development programs need to both center workers’ perspectives, as well as actively engage employers in their design and implementation. 

The Opportunity

We are currently accepting letters of intent (LOIs) for this funding opportunity through our application portal by June 30, 2021. Following the review of LOIs, selected organizations will be invited to submit a full proposal. Awardees will receive grants that are up to two years in length and range from CAD150,000 to CAD200,000. After this funding round, a second round of this opportunity will open for organizations to apply for grants in 2022.

In addition to the funding provided, selected applicants will become grantee partners of the WES Mariam Assefa Fund. As part of the Fund’s partner community, they will have access to peer-learning, capacity building, and other programming.

To submit an LOI form, create an account in SurveyMonkey Apply. You can also access a Word document of the form here. Please be sure to read through the full details about the opportunity here and in our FAQs.


The WES Mariam Assefa Fund is looking to fund ideas from organizations that directly engage employers to do one or more of the following:

  • Shift internal talent practices to reduce bias in recruitment and hiring, create more inclusive workplaces, and support the advancement of immigrant talent.
  • Design and pilot demand-driven training and employment programs that connect immigrant and refugee jobseekers to quality jobs and help employers meet their talent needs, particularly in high-growth sectors.
  • Analyze the issues faced by immigrant, racialized, and temporary workers in low-wage jobs and collaboratively improve labour practices that can lead to quality jobs.
  • Pilot worker-centered approaches, working with employers to ensure the voices of jobseekers and employees are reflected in workplace culture, talent practices, and business practices.
  • Build coalitions within or across sectors to advance commitments and action among employers.
  • Facilitate knowledge sharing and collective action among employers to advance successful immigrant integration and demand-led employment strategies.
  • Assess the impact of existing employer initiatives focused on immigrant and refugee workers to identify the path forward for those solutions.

Want to learn more about this funding opportunity and best practices for engaging employers in the economic integration of immigrants and refugees? Join us for a webinar on June 15, 12-1 pm EDT. 

Register here.

2021 Key Dates

June 30
Letter of Intent (LOI) forms due
July - August
LOIs reviewed by staff and external reviewers
Late August
Application notifications: declination or invitation to submit full proposal
Late September
Full proposals due (if invited to submit)
Late October
Final notifications
Anticipated grant start dates


Beyond the WES Mariam Assefa Fund team, a group of external reviewers will review LOIs and select applicants to move to the full proposal stage. We’re thrilled to be working with the following leaders who will share their perspectives and experiences to help with the selection process.

Evaluation Criteria

Applications will be reviewed using the following seven criteria areas:


Does the initiative put forth a compelling vision for the advancement of immigrants and refugees?

Informed by Workers and Employers

To what extent is the initiative informed by and responsive to the needs of immigrant and refugee workers, as well as employers?


What impact is the initiative it striving to achieve and how timely is it? To what extent could this initiative contribute to systemic change?

Potential for Learning

Would the initiative result in learnings useful for the field, including models for replicability and scale? 

Partnership Orientation

Does the team leading the initiative authentically and intelligently collaborate with partners, when appropriate, to increase the initiative’s capacity, reach, or impact?


Do the initiative’s leaders understand the key considerations and resources required to successfully execute the envisioned work?


Does the initiative propose a new or improved approach to addressing the challenge identified?