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UPDATE: Winnipeg’s business community comes together to find jobs for Syrian refugees

Hundreds of people in attendance at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Walther Bernal / Global News

WINNIPEG — As hundreds of Syrian refugees settle into their new lives here in Winnipeg, the Chamber of Commerce is hosting a ‘Welcome to Winnipeg’ luncheon to help identify potential employment opportunities for newcomers.

The event, hosted at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, is bringing together a number of organizations and members of the business community to find areas of work that could use some help.

RELATED: Refugees out-earn millionaire ‘business class’ immigrants years after arriving in Canada

“Community collaboration has been key in making this event happen,” said David Angus, president and CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. “We have such a diverse economy and diverse need of skill sets. There are some very high level people coming. The English language is the issue in terms of making them ready but I think the employment community should be very enthusiastic.”

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The luncheon also featured newcomers and local support agencies to help provide perspectives on the settlement process.

RELATED: Syrian refugees connect with Syrians living in Manitoba

Nearly 300 business leaders and settlement agents joined Monday’s gathering to find out how they can help.

Mohammad Almaleki and his development group has already helped find hundreds of refugees transitional housing. Almaleki and his family moved to Winnipeg 15 years ago and said finding housing was difficult.

“It was tremendously difficult because when we came we didn’t know the language, we didn’t have the support systems in place,” he said. “We didn’t have a decent place to live.”

But once the refugees have a place to live they are going to need to find jobs to start over. A task this group of community members hope they will be able to help with.

“They have come here with skills and they want to work and contriubute to making Manitoba a better place. To grow our economy, to grow our society and make it a much better place to live,” said Almaleki. “This is why its important to have the business community here to see the opportunities that are present.”

The luncheon will also include information about workforce opportunities and local service provider booths.

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Rafiq Punjani immigrated to Canada three years ago. While he owns his own accounting company now, he said he needed a lot of help in the beginning.

“When we came here I didn’t know how to fill my gas (tank) let alone start a business,” said Punjani. “So Canadians and Winnipeggers have been extremely kind with us and I think this is our time to give back.”

Punjani is the Managing Director at AccuRoot Financial Solutions. The group is donating 1,000 hours of the next two years to help train and integrate Syrian refugees into the business community by teaching them basic business, computer and accounting skills.

“They don’t know how (to get a business) license or a real estate permit or website done,” said Punjani. “We help them do all of that. Now these people if they want to set up an elecrician shop or a sewing shop… all these things we can help them out.”

The province said roughly 150 refugees are arriving in Manitoba every two weeks.

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