HR Director brings Personal Immigration Experience to Lead with Purpose at VHA
If you ask Ernesto Sequera, Director, Human Resources, Talent Acquisition and Development, about one of the happiest moments of his life, he might tell you about a call he received in 2019. The call was from a Canadian government representative to tell him that he had been granted Permanent Residence in Canada. Then in 2022, Ernesto received his Canadian citizenship, too.
Ernesto’s path is one that millions living in Canada walk every year, and that number is only growing. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada over 5.2 million applications were processed in 2022, setting a new record at double the applications processed during in 2021.
The uncertainty of the immigration process can be stressful and scary, says Ernesto, recalling that his first few years in Canada after moving from Venezuela in 2014 were some of the hardest periods of his life.
“I didn’t speak very much English, and I worked almost every day so I could create a new life and support my family back home,” shares Ernesto.
Ernesto knew he wanted to pursue a career in the healthcare sector, so he built up his Canadian education and work experience by starting as an intern at VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) in 2017. Since then, he has continued to lead and excel as part of the Human Resources (HR) team, first becoming a coordinator, then being promoted to supervisor, manager, and ultimately to his current role as director.
VHA has long been home to a vibrant and diverse workforce of healthcare workers like Ernesto who have come from all over the world to be part of its specialized home care community. VHA’s 2022 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion survey indicates that 33% of respondents from across VHA’s team are internationally educated healthcare workers. Ernesto’s lived experience as an immigrant brings another layer of understanding and meaningful leadership to his role and the entire VHA team.
“I’m incredibly proud of the emphasis that VHA places on supporting internationally educated team members. The unfortunate reality is that during hiring, many Canadian employers disregard international education and years of experience. At VHA, it is quite the opposite. We value the diverse perspectives and expertise across the organization,” says Ernesto.
One example of this leadership in action has been a pilot project through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), a federal program that allows employers to hire skilled foreign workers to fill specific positions in Canada.
Under Ernesto’s leadership, this program was put into place by involving VHA’s existing workforce, many of whom have family living internationally. Ernesto received hundreds of applications from frontline staff eager to help family members abroad join VHA. Since then, the organization has connected with individuals around the world to support them in their journey to become Personal Support Workers in Canada.
In addition to offering employment, the LMIA program lessens barriers for new immigrants with employers covering the cost of airfare and offering a two-year contract, which gives individuals an opportunity to apply for permanent residency in Canada with the support of their employer. Addressing the need for more trained health care professionals in Canada is a huge benefit of the LMIA program for VHA, but Ernesto says the most rewarding elements have been reconnecting candidates with their families and giving them opportunities for career growth and to build lasting bonds with their clients and community at VHA. Ernesto has become a mentor and subject matter expert to many team members going through the immigration process and has been able to teach the HR team a lot along the way.
“It feels great to know I’ve made a difference,” says Ernesto. I will continue to be a voice for those who are not born in Canada.”
Nearly 10 years after his move, Ernesto, who is now married and has a one-year old daughter, has built an incredibly successful and rewarding life here in Canada. He would love to see others looking to settle in Canada find the same happiness he has. His advice to them: “Reliable resources and expert opinions make a huge difference.”