The construction season was looking grim for Wes Omichinski, owner of Bonneville Transport, a heavy construction firm in Reston, Manitoba. Recruitment of labourers was proving very difficult.
Then his town economic development officer suggested he consider hiring a Ukrainian refugee and put him in touch with the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council.
Last week, Dmytro Zaitsev joined Bonneville as a labourer, and is training to be an equipment operator. Zaitsev, who had temporary lodgings in a Winnipeg hotel, has moved to Reston and – from all appearances – is happy to be part of the Bonneville team.
“He’s willing to learn,” Omichinski said about his new hire.
Safety training is a going concern and Zaitsev’s English is rudimentary; he and Omichinski are working side by side so far, to ensure his introduction and training to the work gives due regard to safety and health. When English fails, the two are using a translation app on their cell phones.
“There’s always that (safety) concern and, basically, you just have to work with him and be patient,” Omichinski stresses.
That means there’s a lot of time and effort to onboard a new employee, but Omichinski said it is paying off, especially since he was short of workers – the undesirable option of closing shop and retiring was staring him in the face.
He encourages other employers, especially those smaller companies that are struggling to recruit, to follow suit and take the effort to train Ukrainian refugees.
Zaitsev is cheerful, enthusiastic and appears to be grateful for the chance to start a new life. He worked as a blacksmith in Poland prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when he felt he needed to leave Ukraine.
“Give them the opportunity and they will surprise you.”