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Local job market

  • The City of Ottawa, in collaboration with business and labour partners, has identified nine key economic sectors that are influential for the city’s future development and prosperity:
    • Public Administration
    • Healthcare and Social Assistance
    • Information, communications & Technology
    • Education
    • Finance
    • Tourism
    • Manufacturing
    • Construction

A woman looking through binoculars for specialty to study.

  • A number of unique characteristics distinguish Ottawa’s labour market from other cities in Ontario.
    • The labour force is highly educated and the city has the highest level of employment in “creative” or knowledge-based occupations in Canada (e.g., science, engineering, computer science, arts, design, media, as well as professionals working in health care, law, education, business and finance). 
    • The unemployment rate in Ottawa is usually less than that for Canada overall.  In 2012, Ottawa’s unemployment rate was 6.2 percent, compared to 7.2 percent for Canada.
  • The federal government is an anchor in Ottawa’s labour force, but as a newcomer there may be challenges associated with working for the federal government, both directly and indirectly. To become a federal government employee, most jobs require individuals to be a Canadian citizen or at least a permanent resident. In addition, a very large proportion of federal jobs require individuals to be actively bilingual (English and French). Many jobs also require a security clearance, which often requires residency in Canada for several years.
  • The City of Ottawa is one of the largest employers in Ottawa. For the third consecutive year, the City of Ottawa has been named as one of the Top 100 Employers in Canada based on a rigorous annual survey conducted for The Globe and Mail newspaper. View more information about City jobs.
  • To work in Ottawa employees should be able to communicate effectively in English. In addition, many jobs in Ottawa often require employees to communicate in both of Canada’s official languages (English and French). 

Job search and career planning help

Finding work in Ottawa, like anywhere else, takes time, determination, energy, confidence, knowledge and skills. There is a great deal to know before beginning a job search, in part because the culture of work is different in Canada. A number of organizations in Ottawa provide newcomers with help to carry out a successful job search and prepare for interviews.

  • Employment Ontario, an agency of the provincial government of Ontario, provides assistance to Ontario residents who are searching for employment or seeking to upgrade their skills and education. Newcomers to Ontario are especially encouraged to take advantage of services designed to facilitate entry into the job market.
  • The City of Ottawa operates an Employment Ontario site as well as four Community and Social Supports Centres where individuals can obtain assistance in searching for employment.  At the Centres, individuals can access job lists, fax machines, computers and Internet service. The City also offers workshops about job-search strategies, résumé and cover letter writing, and interviewing techniques, as well as education and training support services, and paid and unpaid job placements to gain Canadian experience.
  • La Cité collégiale: La Cité collégiale is a post-secondary institution that in addition to academic programs provides a number of employment services to newcomers. Individuals do not have to be registered in courses at the college in order to use these services. La Cité’s immigrant services assist francophone immigrants to gain access to the workplace. Bridging programs include résumé preparation, mock (practice) interviews, job placements, mentoring and job shadowing.  While some of the programs are general in nature, others are sector-specific (such as Construction, Information Technology and Telecommunications, and Health and Tourism).   These programs also offer sector specific knowledge and credential top-up courses.
  • Algonquin College: Algonquin College is a post-secondary institution that offers academic programs and a number of settlement and employment services to newcomers. Individuals do not have to be registered in courses at the college in order to use these services. Algonquin College offers employment services to newcomers that range from occupational specific language training to bridge training programs that help internationally educated individuals find jobs in their field of training.
  • LASI World Skills provides job search workshops that cover topics ranging from personal job search coaching to personalized action plans.
    • LASI World Skills helps newcomers who are trained professionals or skilled trades people connect with employers who are looking to fill gaps in their labour force.
    • LASI World Skill’s Employment Resource Centre provides newcomers conducting an employment search with computers equipped with high speed internet access and basic word processing capabilities, a fax machine for local use, a photocopier, and a laser printer.
  • Hire Immigrants Ottawa: This initiative brings together employers and immigrant serving agencies to promote the skills of newcomers to prospective employers. Hire Immigrants Ottawa offers several programs to familiarize newcomers with the Canadian workplace, including bridging and internship programs for medical doctors, civil engineers, and trades people in the construction industry (e.g., electricians, plumbers, and bricklayers).
  • In-TAC:  The International Talent Acquisition Centre helps new immigrants find jobs in the IT, finance and accounting sectors. With a pool of over 400 employer partners, In-TAC offers new immigrants industry specific training, employment counselling, mentorship, internship and job referrals in Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver. In-TAC’s mission is to help small and medium-sized businesses fill their expertise gaps and help newcomers find jobs in their field.
  • YMCA-YWCA Employment Access Centre offers a number of workshops on topics that are crucial for a successful employment search: résumé and cover letter writing, job search strategies, interviewing, Canadian workplace culture, and professional networking.
  • Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) offers a career mentoring program for newcomers that covers topics such as employment research strategies, professional network development, employer engagement strategies, and résumé, cover letter and interview preparation.
  • Conseil Économique et Social d’Ottawa-Carleton (CESOC) provides a number of programs and services to French-speaking immigrants. The program Emploi-CESOC assists newcomers in their employment search by providing personal assistance with résumé development, interviewing skills, networking, and skills and experience transfer.
  • Immigrant Women Services Ottawa (IWSO) offers a number of services to assist immigrant women in finding employment in Ottawa. In addition to personal assessment with an employment counsellor, IWSO provides résumé and cover-letter writing, networking, and interviewing skills workshops. IWSO also has fully computerized facilities that enable women to conduct effective job searches.
  • Ottawa Chinese Community Services Centre (OCCSC) offers a four-day job search workshop that covers topics ranging from résumé writing to an analysis of the local job market.  OCCSC also offers several unique programs such as Enhanced language Training for Accounting Professionals, which targets internationally educated accounting professionals, and Navigating the Canadian IT Workplace, a program that helps professionals transition to Canadian workplace culture and business practices. The latter program deliberately seeks to unite internationally-trained IT professionals with employers in Ottawa.
  • Jewish Family Services (JFS) provides assistance to newcomers in English, French, Russian, Somali, Hebrew and Arabic, and offers job search workshops.

Useful websites for job opportunities

A great many jobs in Canada are never advertised, and finding out about employment opportunities often means developing contacts within a professional network. Several organizations, such as the Ottawa Chinese Community Services Centre, YMCA-YWCA Employment Access Centre, and LASI World Skills provide workshops on how to make such connections and ultimately find a job. A number of resources provide up-to-date job listings for the Ottawa-Gatineau metropolitan region.

  • The “Working in Canada” tool provides information about job postings currently available in Ottawa.

Recognition of foreign credentials

Some newcomers run into difficulties in having employers properly evaluate their educational qualifications and skills. In part, this is because it is almost impossible for employers to understand fully the qualities and characteristics of educational systems and apprenticeship programs that vary significantly from one country to another. A number of organizations, however, do specialize in evaluating foreign credentials and translating them into Canadian equivalents.

  • World Education Services: WES-Canada converts foreign secondary and post-secondary educational qualifications into their Ontario equivalents. Document-by-document, course-by-course customized reports are available for educational, immigration, licensing or employment purposes.
  • Comparative Education Service (CES): Located at the University of Toronto, CES provides assessments of international academic qualifications and compares them to those offered in Canada, which helps employers to better understand its clients' credentials.
  • International Credential Assessment Service of Canada (ICAS): Evaluates all educational documents from any level or program, and provides an equivalency evaluation that can be used for employment, educational or career needs. General, detailed and customized reports are available to meet all needs.
  • Citizenship and Immigration Canada has established a Foreign Credential Referral Office that provides information, path-finding and referral services on foreign credential recognition.  
  • Employment Ontario has an extensive site with information about trades that require certification in Ontario. The site also lists a larger number of trades for which certification is voluntary.
    • Employment Ontario also provides a guide specially designed for foreign-trained tradespeople to obtain certification in their trade.

There are 22 trades in Ontario for which certification is mandatory. To work in these trades you must obtain a Certificate of Qualification and this usually involves passing a provincial examination and demonstration of work experience.

  • The Ontario government also provides key information regarding assessment of credentials for internationally-trained professionals. In addition to providing links to private firms that evaluate credentials, the site also lists regulated professions in Ontario and basic information about the process associated with becoming certified in a health and non-health regulated professions.
  • There are thirty-nine non-health and health-related regulated professions in Ontario and each has a different process for obtaining certification. 
  • Regulated Non-Health Professions:
    • Global Experience Ontario (GEO) helps internationally trained and educated individuals in regulated non-health professions find out how to qualify for professional practice in Ontario.
    • Read more at: http://www.ontarioimmigration.ca/en/geo/index.htm
  • Regulated Health Professions:
    • HealthForceOntario: The Access Centre helps internationally-trained health care professionals navigate the licensing, certification and regulatory process for all of Ontario’s regulated health professions.
    • Read more at: http://www.healthforceontario.ca/en/M4/Access_Centre
  • Ontario Network for International Professionals (ONIP): This organization provides information about licensing requirements and employment opportunities for internationally-trained health care professionals, engineers, accountants, and teachers.
  • The Ottawa Community Loan Fund (OCLF) provides training loans for newcomers to Ottawa. Training loans can be used to cover a variety of expenses, such as professional licensing exams, credential's recognition or professional training courses.

Training and apprenticeship opportunities

  • An apprentice is someone who learns a skilled trade on the job and under the supervision of an experienced worker. Apprenticeship programs often include classroom instruction but the majority of learning happens “on the job”. Becoming an apprentice is the first-step toward building a career, and apprentices are usually paid while they learn and build experience. The apprenticeship section of the Employment Ontario website offers concise information about regulated trades and the processes associated with becoming an apprentice in Ontario. It also provides information about apprenticeship opportunities across Ontario, including Ottawa.
  • Introduction to trades manual: This guide was created for internationally-trained tradespeople and new/potential immigrants interested in pursuing a career in Ottawa’s skilled trades sectors. Whether you intend to further your career as an experienced tradesperson or are seeking an exciting new occupation in the trades, this guide will provide you with the information and resources to prepare you for the realities of working as a tradesperson in Ottawa. Introduction to trades manual [ PDF - 1.1 MB ]
  • Starting a trades business handbook: The Starting a Trades Business Handbook is a self-help guide that is designed to provide those interested in starting their own business with an overview of the information they require and the issues that need to be considered. It also includes helpful information for those in the early stages of growing their businesses. Starting a trades business handbook [ PDF - 1.3 MB 
  • List of apprenticeable trades - Ontario College of Trades (2014): A detailed list of all trades in Construction, Motive Power, Industrial and Service sectors.

  • Red Seal Program: Learn more about apprenticeships, regulated and unregulated trades and professions, and whether certification is compulsory or voluntary for a particular trade:
    • The Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program: Education and training is a provincial responsibility in Canada, which means that each jurisdiction can designate occupations for apprenticeship and set different standards. The Red Seal program enables apprentices who have completed their training and become certified journeypersons to obtain a Red Seal endorsement on their provincial or territorial Certificates of Qualification and Apprenticeship after successfully completing an interprovincial Red Seal examination. The Red Seal program ensures recognition of certification throughout Canada without need for further examination when a worker moves to a new province.  
    • Read more about the Red Seal Program and examinations.
  • IN-TAC - Navigating the Canadian IT:  This is a unique bridge-to-work program for internationally educated Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) professionals. Twelve weeks (240 hours) of classroom training improves participants’ workplace communication skills and understanding of the local labour market. A subsequent professional practicum exposes participants to the local Canadian workplace culture, business practices and professional ethics. This project also connects internationally educated ICT professionals with local ICT and user industry.
  •  IN-TAC - Navigating the Canadian Accounting: This is one-of-a-kind bridge-to-work program for internationally educated Accounting / Finance professionals. Twelve weeks of training and a professional practicum equips the participating IEPs with Canadian accounting software skills and basics in taxation, as well as exposure to the local Canadian workplace culture, business practices and professional ethics. The program also connects internationally educated accounting professionals with local employers.
  •  EcoEquitable: This is a bridging and training program for immigrant women that teaches sewing skills for either self-employment or working for a business. In addition to sewing training, the “Sowing for Jobs” program provides women with financial literacy training, hands-on experience and individual mentoring with the intent of securing long-term employment.

Regulated professions and recognized trades

In the coming years, it is anticipated that there will be a very strong demand in Ottawa for individuals with qualifications in trades and a number of professions.  The City of Ottawa has created a guide that explains various aspects of working in regulated and recognized trades in Ontario, including re-certification and apprenticeship opportunities. The Training and Apprenticeship Opportunities section also provides links to information about professions and professional certification in Ontario.

One of the best ways to learn about opportunities in the trades, as well as entrepreneurship opportunities in the trades, is through the experiences of others. The following section provides you with a number of videos where people discuss their certification and employment experiences in the trades, as well as what it is like to work in Ottawa.

Immigrating as an internationally-trained tradesperson
Rafael Bosch, International Trained Electrician

City of opportunity for trades
Samir Mahmud - Owner, Air Mechanics

Tips from a successful entrepreneur
Luis Dominguez - Owner, Domingil Construction

Examples of apprenticeship pathways: Restoration Masonry and Truck & Coach Technician
Bob Watt, Owner, RJW Stonemasons
Dwight McMillan, General Manager, Malmberg Truck and Trailer

Trades regulation & legislation in Ontario
Jane Pedlar, Employment & Training Consultant
Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities (MTCU)

Employer point of view - Tool & die maker
Bodo Gospodnetic
CEO, Dominis Engineering Ltd.

Employer point of view - Hairstylist
Michael Angelo Vespa
Owner, Vespa Hair Design

Employer point view - Motive Power sector
Martyn Webber
Service Manager, Surgenor Truck Centre

Pre-apprenticeship program - Glazier
Marc-Andre LeClair

Glazier, Ontario Industrial Finishing Skills Centre

Unions: What they are and how they work
Sean McKenny
President, Ottawa & District Labour Council

Overcoming challenges to employment

Finding employment can be challenging. Language, lack of recognition of educational qualifications and experience gained outside of Canada, and lack of understanding the local labour market are some of the challenges. There are also a number of cultural and social practices associated with working in Canada that must be learned. A number of the organizations named above provide mentorship programs and other assistance  with understanding the “softer” skills needed to successfully overcome barriers to employment.

Your rights as an employee

In Ontario, all workers have the right to fairness and safe working conditions. Two laws in Ontario, the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, set out the employment and safety requirements that all employers must follow.

It is important to know about your rights as an employee. Visit the Ontario government site to find out more about payment of wages, hours of work, overtime, employment termination, and severance pay.

Settlement.org provides an easy to read description of employee rights in Ontario based on the Employment Standards Act. It also outlines actions that an employee can take if she/he experiences discrimination in the workplace.

Settlement.org also provides information on health and safety rights as outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act. As an employee you have the right to know about all dangerous materials and equipment in the workplace, and to refuse to perform work that is unsafe.

The Ontario Human Rights Code specifies that employers cannot discriminate against workers for any of the following reasons: race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, family status or marital status, and disability. If you experience discrimination, you have the right to seek help to ensure that it stops. View a formal guide to the role and powers of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

View a good description of discrimination and what you can do to address it.

Volunteering and networking

Many employers regard volunteer work as the equivalent to Canadian work experience. Volunteer positions involve unpaid work and can provide you with an opportunity to develop knowledge about the Canadian workplace, practice your English or French, get job leads, and find individuals who can provide you with Canadian references. 

Many of the organizations in the “Job Search and Career Planning Help” section of this site can link newcomers with volunteering opportunities in the community. Many of these organizations also actively seek volunteers. In addition, the mandate of Volunteer Ottawa is to match the interests of volunteers with opportunities in the community.

In many cases, individuals in Canada find out about jobs through networking and contacts that they have made while working in their profession. It is a very good idea to build a network of contacts in Ottawa in order to find a job that matches your interests and experience. Several of the following organizations in Ottawa organize training, programs or events to help newcomers develop networks: LASI World Skills, Hire Immigrants Ottawa, the YMCA-YWCA Employment Access Centre, IN-TAC, Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO), Ottawa Chinese Community Services Centre and Conseil Économique et Social d’Ottawa-Carleton (CESOC).

Starting A Business

Ottawa is the place to be

Ottawa has a dynamic and growing business environment and many assets that distinguish it from other cities in North America and enable businesses to establish quickly and grow:

  • Compared to most Canadian cities, a very high proportion of university graduates live in Ottawa.
  • A strong research community: five post-secondary institutions, hundreds of government and academic research centres.
  • Ottawa leads the rest of Canada in terms of Research & Development spending per capita.  An estimated $3 billion in total public and private research and development funding is spent in Ottawa every year.
  • At 43 percent of the labour force, Ottawa has the highest level of employment in “creative” or knowledge-based occupations in Canada (e.g., science, engineering, computer science, arts, design, media, as well as professionals working in health care, law, education, business and finance). The city is extremely well positioned to lead a knowledge-based economy.
  • A workforce with international experience and training. Recent immigrants from every world region and almost every country settle in Ottawa, creating a rich tapestry of diversity, experience, and languages. Among recent immigrants (1991-2006) in the labour force, 51% hold a university diploma or degree (2006 data). In other major Canadian cities, less than 40% of recent immigrants are as highly educated.
  • International trade and investment linkages cultivated through embassies and consulates located in Canada’s capital.
  • A diversity of industries. Knowledge-based sectors of the economy alone employ over 75,000 employees in 1,922 companies.
  • The City of Ottawa has committed to encouraging growth in six key sectors that have demonstrated the greatest potential for growth in the coming years: Wireless, Photonics, Defence and Security, Cleantech, Life Sciences, and Film, Digital Media and Television Production.

Ottawa is the place to come:

  • If you have a great idea and would like to see it grow into a thriving business;
  • Are seeking to draw on the highly educated and dynamic business environment that exists here in order to grow a business that you are relocating; or
  • Would like to buy an existing business and develop it to new levels of success.

Ottawa's economic climate

Ottawa is Canada’s fourth largest metropolitan area in population size, but this city is much more important in terms of the quality of its labour force, economic stability, and business diversification. As Canada’s capital, the public service is the anchor point of the economy with over 110,000 individuals employed directly by the federal government. But Ottawa is far more than just a government town. In recent years, the City of Ottawa has taken decisive steps to diversify the city’s economy and open up new opportunities for economic growth.

Ottawa’s economic climate has many attractive elements:

  • A Low unemployment rate.
  • A highly educated workforce. 
  • Strong entrepreneurial investment. The total amount of venture capital invested in Ottawa technology companies over the last decade amounted to over $4.3 billion.
  • Growing commitment to economic development.
  • Ottawa has the second largest concentration of science and engineering employment in North America.
  • A top location for Research and Development.
  • A connected city. No other city in Canada has the breadth and depth of fibre optic connectivity of Ottawa.

Business opportunities and investing

The City of Ottawa's economic development program is focused on key industrial sectors that have been identified as having the greatest potential for growth. Building on existing strengths in research, development, production and services, six key sectors are particularly promising for growth in the years to come:

Wireless 

For the last three decades, businesses in Ottawa have been at the forefront of the wireless revolution.

Photonics 

Almost one hundred small to medium-size businesses are building expertise in the commercial application of light – from fibre optics to imaging – with especially strong linkages to life sciences industries. Read more about the photonics sector in Ottawa.

Life sciences

With strong expertise in biotechnology, Ottawa’s life sciences sector is building a global reputation for discovery, development and commercialization of health products and technologies.

Defence and security

Building on strong Research and Development infrastructure, Ottawa is a leader in aerospace, defence and security technologies. Over 165 companies employing more than 10,000 people make Ottawa a strategic investment location.

Clean technologies

Ottawa boasts one of Canada’s largest concentrations of clean energy researchers and companies. Innovations coming out of this cluster of industries and researchers in Ottawa are providing environmentally responsible solutions in a number of areas.

Film, TV, and Digital media

With over 500 film shooting days each year, the city of Ottawa is becoming an important destination for movies and TV production, as well as development in Digital Media.

Success stories

The City of Ottawa has made a commitment to concentrate investment attraction activities in these six sectors. Investment capital for local firms, as well as encouraging companies not yet present in Ottawa to open a local facility, constitute the backbone of the City’s investment attraction strategy. 

The City of Ottawa is equally committed to identifying high-potential companies in each sector that are currently located in Ottawa, and to provide support that assists with their long-term viability and growth. In addition to assisting with growth and site selection plans in Ottawa, the City helps companies capitalize on growth and export opportunities at national and international scales.

The real “proof” of Ottawa’s business opportunities and possibilities is best found in the experiences of business leaders and entrepreneurs who have made the deliberate decision to make Ottawa their home. These short testimonials speak to the range of businesses located in the city and what makes Ottawa a great place to develop and/or build a company.

Business associations and resources

In Ottawa there are a number of associations that bring business people together for formal events, seminars and meetings, as well as information get-togethers and networking opportunities.

Business options

There are a vast array of businesses in Canada offering a wide range of services and goods to the public, as well as to other businesses and organizations.  Businesses, however, do differ in their legal status and structure. It is worthwhile to learn about the legal costs, tax options, and liabilities associated with different business structures under Canadian law.

  • Self-employment: In 2010, about 16% of workers nationally were self-employed in their main job. Self-employed workers are individuals who work for themselves (including owners of incorporated or unincorporated businesses) or work without pay for family members.
  • Unincorporated business: This type of business has one sole proprietor – usually the entrepreneur – and the owner essentially is the business.  It is equivalent to having a separate bank account that is used for the transactions of your business. All you have to do is come up with a business name (or simply use your personal name) and register it with your local government (to get tax numbers and any necessary business licenses). It is the simplest and least expensive format of business. As the owner, the entrepreneur receives all the profits and assumes and accepts all the risks personally.
  • Incorporated business: This type of business is, in essence, a corporation.  When incorporating a business a new legal entity – the corporation – is created with its own tax liabilities. The principal reasons that people choose to incorporate a business is to protect the personal assets of owners or investors in the company. Incorporation also can be efficient if there are multiple investors in a company. In the case of a lawsuit against the business, an owner’s assets (e.g., car, house) cannot be seized.
  • Partnerships: A partnership is an extension of the sole proprietorship business structure in which more than one person is involved.  In this case, a partnership agreement specifies the sharing of rewards (profits) and risks (losses) among the individuals involved in the partnership. Profits and losses, as well as liabilities, are attributed to the people named in a partnership agreement. 
  • Co-operative business: A cooperative is a business organization legally incorporated under either a provincial or federal legislation. A co-operative is an enterprise that is jointly owned by the members who use its services. All members of a co-op are equal decision makers in the enterprise, using a democratic system of one-member, one-vote. In turn, all members share the benefits of co-operation, based on how much they use the co-operative’s service (Canadian Co-operative Association).
  • Social enterprises: Social enterprises operate like any business in that they produce goods and services for the market and seek to make a profit. These businesses seek to generate revenue for the blended purpose of generating income and achieving social, cultural and/or environmental goals. Social enterprises include non-profits that use business models to generate revenue, as well as for-profit companies whose primary purpose is to promote social action and healthy communities.

How to start a business

A man doing a check list to start own business.

Deciding to launch a new business, whether it is in the trades, services or high technology is a big step. Luckily, there are numerous organizations and resources available in Ottawa to help you get started.

The Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation

The Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation provides entrepreneurs with information and consulting services about the processes involved in starting a business and, once it takes off, growing the business.

If you are starting a business, Service Ontario's One Source for Business provides entrepreneurs with information on topics that range from developing a business plan to registering a business to obtaining financing, licenses, and permits.

In addition to information, one-on-one consulting help is available. The Ministry Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation runs Small Business Enterprise Centres that assist new entrepreneurs in starting a business and provide support for the first five years.  The Centres provide entrepreneurs with access to business consulting services, and resources that cover topics ranging from management to financing.

When your business is up and running, you can easily find information about how to operate it efficiently.  Topics covered include marketing and selling, legal services, and taxation requirements.

The Ontario government also provides Business Advisory Services to entrepreneurs running small- and medium-sized businesses who would like to grow their businesses in Ontario and abroad. An office is located in Ottawa at:

180 Elgin Street, Suite 810
Ottawa, ON - K2P 2K3
1 (800) 267-6592
Tel: (613) 241-3841, Ext. 224
Fax: (613) 241-2545

Starting a trades business

Major construction projects, including the Light Rail System, the redevelopment of Lansdowne Park, and number of major private residential and commercial projects, are expected to create strong demand for tradespeople in Ottawa over the next 10 to 20 years. You may well feel that this is the right time to begin your own business in the trades. The City of Ottawa, in partnership with Invest Ottawa, has created a self-help handbook about starting a trades business that outlines questions to be considered at every stage – from launching your business and to encouraging and planning for its growth. It also provides start-up and marketing information for particular trades: carpentry, electrical, plumbing, masonry, and construction. 

Read the Starting a trades business handbook

For more about entrepreneurship experiences, certification and regulations with respect to trades see the "Training and apprenticeships opportunities" section.

Start a not-for-profit organization

The Government of Ontario has launched a new online resource for not-for-profits in Ontario. The new site features information about funding opportunities, advice on how to start and manage a not-for-profit organization, a section on relevant laws, research, government supports, and much more.

Self-employment and entrepreneurship

Self-employment is an important, and growing, component of Ottawa’s labour force.  People who are self-employed work in a wide range of occupations – from trades to business services to professions such as accounting. Working for yourself has a number of benefits including employment about which you are passionate, flexible work hours, and being able to take an idea and see it mature into a strong business. 

There is strong recognition in Ottawa that start-ups, rather than existing firms, are responsible for most job creation. They are the drivers of job growth. As a consequence, the City of Ottawa is keen to encourage and support entrepreneurs.

Even though you may be the only employee, being successfully self-employed does require some planning and preparation. There are a number of resources in Ottawa that are specifically geared toward the needs of self-employed entrepreneurs. 

Winners of the 2013 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards

Winners of the 2013 Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards

Resources for getting started

The Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation provides entrepreneurs with information and consulting services about the processes involved in starting a business and, once it takes off, growing the business.

If you are starting a business, Service Ontario's One Source for Business provides entrepreneurs with considerable information on topics that range from developing a business plan to registering a business to obtaining financing, licenses, and permits.

In addition to information, one-on-one consulting help is available. The Ministry runs Small Business Enterprise Centres that assist new entrepreneurs in starting a business and provide support for the first five years.  The Centres provide entrepreneurs with access to business consulting services, and resources that cover topics ranging from management to financing.

  • Ottawa’s Small Business Enterprise Centre is located at Invest Ottawa 

Tel: (613) 828-6274
Fax: (613) 828-6274
E-mail: www.investottawa.ca

  • Invest Ottawa (the City of Ottawa’s economic development initiative) offers a number of services to people who are thinking about self-employment or who are interested in growing their business. In addition to seminars and networking opportunities, Invest Ottawa offers advice on starting a business and mentorship from people who have experienced the opportunities and challenges of self-employment.
  • Ottawa Public Library, Business Services section offers new entrepreneurs a range of information from marketing to how-to start a business. Business librarians offer one-on-one consultation to entrepreneurs who are looking to expand their business, as well as to newcomers who are looking to understand the Ottawa market or how to launch a business in Ottawa. 
  • The National Capital Region YMCA-YWCA Employment, Enterprise and Newcomer Services Centres offer a number of employment assistance services to newcomers. People who would like to pursue self-employment opportunities should consider the Ontario Self-Employment Benefit Program (OSEB). The program provides entrepreneurs who meet eligibility criteria with income and entrepreneurial support for up to 42 weeks while they develop and start a business. Services include self-employment training, business counseling and support services.
  • If you are ready to pursue your dream and open a new business, it is important to make sure that you have the necessary licenses and permits. BizPaL is an online service that provides permit and license information for all levels of government—federal, provincial, and municipal

Entrepreneurship resources – information, networking and loans

The City of Ottawa promotes economic development through Invest Ottawa, which supports entrepreneurship through business consultations, strategic mentorship, and seminars and expertise on growing a business.

Apart from the City, a number of other organizations in Ottawa provide support to entrepreneurs.

  • Exploriem provides its not-for-profit and for-profit member organizations  with a large number of activities such as networking events and mentorship, as well as access to legal and accounting services, and sales and marketing expertise. Exploriem also provides early stage funding and office/incubator space to entrepreneurs.
  • The Ottawa Community Loan Fund (OCLF) provides business loans for newcomers to Ottawa. Business loans can be used for starting, buying or expanding a business. The Newcomer Training and Business Loans range from $500 to $15,000, and larger business loans are available under other OCLF programs. OCLF also organizes free “Credit in Canada” workshops, which will help the newcomers to take control of their finances.
  • Lead to Win: With a focus on building growth-oriented businesses in Ottawa, Lead to Win is an intensive six-day boot-camp training experience for entrepreneurs. With strong mentorship, participants in the program learn how to operationalize their ideas and identify customers. The goal of the program is that each business should generate a minimum of six jobs in the three years following participation in Lead to Win.

Useful publications and reports

  • Ottawa’s Integrated Local Labour Market Plan: This document outlines Ottawa’s labour market objectives with an emphasis on how employers and workers of all kinds will be attracted to the city. A strategic framework for building and diversifying Ottawa’s labour market and priority areas are reviewed.

Buying a Business

Locate Ottawa

Locate Ottawa is a web tool that enables users to identify available commercial property in the Ottawa area. This tool makes it  possible to identify businesses and commercial properties that are for sale or lease by geographic location in the city.  It is also possible to generate demographic and business reports for specific wards or the city as a whole.  Maps showing property locations and data about each property can be downloaded.

Service Ontario’s One-Source for Business

Service Ontario’s One-Source for Business provides timely information about businesses that are available for sale or franchise opportunities by location, as well as information about advantages and challenges associated with purchasing a business. The Select Ontario search engine allows entrepreneurs to find business properties for sale or lease in Ontario.

Read more at ontario.ca, Click on Services for businesses and on Online Services to access ONe-Source for Business.

Business brokers

Many entrepreneurs opt to purchase an existing business and turn to a business broker to help them identify opportunities and eventually negotiate and complete a purchase.  Several business brokerage firms are located in Ottawa and provide a range of services:

  • Contact information for a local brokerages
  • Many small businesses are also listed for sale on the buybusiness.com website. It is important to remember that this site simply lists businesses that are on the market and it is not a brokerage service.

Successful business men and women shaking hands in meeting.

What Worked For Me

We asked immigrants in Ottawa to share how they started their professional journey as an employee or entrepreneur. Below are some of the answers.

Attending training/workshops/events


Hand writing on a white board “Helpful tips!” “I have been attending numerous events organised by LASI World Skills, Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization(OCISO), Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and so on, to meet people and create a little network. I was applying to job postings every day. I got help for my resume. I prepared myself very well for interviews and took each one as a learning experience. I took the first job that came up (in a call centre) and in spite of my 25 years of experience in banking, so that I could acquire Canadian experience. I also took the Investment Funds in Canada course which is a basic requirement for entry level jobs in commercial banks.” – Caroline, Ivory Coast

“Talking to companies personally; participating in public events before approaching companies personally and participating in the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization programme (OCISO).” – Anja, Germany

“Participating in multiple workshops, events, training sessions for newcomers related to job search and Canadian culture /  I also volunteered to gain Canadian work experience.

Having a friend who guided me through many of the things that other newcomers have to figure out themselves.

Embracing the new culture with an utmost optimistic and positive attitude, believing in myself and always looking ahead with my eyes wide open and full of hope.” – Ledianis, Cuba

Acquiring Canadian experience

“Start from the most available position, like security guard or Tim Horton’s worker, to get initial Canadian experience. Then try to switch to your professional field, getting local licences or other credentials if necessary.” - Andrei, Republic of Belarus

“If you have good qualifications and experience, make your resume perfect and apply for jobs. Do not be lazy; customize it for every job description. It works! Take any job and work hard, make friends and get excellent references; continue to look for a better job.

If you do not have the right qualifications and good communication skills, do not waste your time – go and study. Make wise choices about your future profession, do a lot of research, ask around.” – Natalia, Ukraine

Volunteering/networking

“Volunteering and going back to school!” – Cristina, Romania

“Getting involved by volunteering and training.” – Magued, Egypt

“Volunteering of course and LASI World Skills on Argyle street.” – Yomna, Egypt

“Participation with LASI World Skills was most important in my professional journey. Networking is the key to success so participation in community activities and attending functions where you can meet professional colleagues is very important.” – Fitzgerald, USA 

“I started volunteering, parallel with learning the language. I began working in the profession, close to my background 3 month after my arrival to Canada. I heard about the position while volunteering. One year later I went back to school and obtained a Canadian Diploma. Three (3) years later my resume displayed the fact that I have Canadian work experience combined with a Canadian Diploma. After 1 month of obtaining my diploma, I landed employment in my field, and I was extremely happy and proud of my achievements.” – Livia, Slovakia

“Network with people in key positions as effectively as you can. Create a powerful resume and cover letter. Learn or improve your French.” – Nina, Germany

“Get involved by volunteering as much as you can. Then you will find which kind of work is exactly suited to you.

Look for a part time job, to get the working experience in Canada.” – Weyii, China 

Improving language skills 

“Getting help to improve your language and the accent is the key to success in your new life in Canada.

Get volunteering as soon as you can, however it’s difficult in the technical fields.” - Hashm, Iraq

“Improve English and get familiar with Canada and people’s culture it is better to get involved by volunteering especially if you can find one related to the job you like to continue.

Do good research and try to identify the skills that is in need for many years to come.

It is very good to start a business on your own. But in the beginning you have to find a job in that area in one of the companies in that field to get familiar with business culture and rules, taxation, licenses required etc.” – Siamak, Iran 

“Find and attend Library program such as newcomer English or French conversation program.” – Mari, Japan

“Polish your English and your French (written and spoken) as much as you can to open job opportunities.” – Maria, Columbia