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Awards honours mentors and new Canadians

Mentoring program includes 50 corporate partners, 3,400 mentors

December 14, 2009
Canadian HR Reporter

Shannon Klie

The recession has made it even harder for new, skilled immigrants to find jobs in their field. No one knows this better than Kenneth Chiguvare, an experienced business analyst with a master’s degree from the United Kingdom.

Determined to make a life for himself and his family in Canada, Chiguvare signed up with the Mentoring Partnership, a Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) program. With the help of his mentor, Chiguvare mastered the art of the cold call to land a night job in customer service..

“The biggest challenge I have faced is lack of Canadian experience and I have learned a lot from my mentor Alan Keith (of 20/20 Assessment) on how to answer such questions from employers,” said Chiguvare.

Through mock interviews with Keith, Chiguvare learned to push back and ask employers what skills are required to perform the job and then could talk about the skills he would bring to the table and how they match an employers’ needs. He also learned how to follow up with potential employers.

Even though his four-month mentorship is over, he still starts everyday looking for a job in his field, using the skills he learned from Keith.

It’s that perseverance that helped Chiguvare win one of the Mentoring Partnership’s Mentee of the Year awards.

“A great mentee is one who is resourceful, who is willing to take risks and try out, act on, the advice that’s been given to them by their mentor and really leverage the opportunity that’s been presented to them,” said Elizabeth McIsaac, director of TRIEC.

Perhaps the most valuable skill Chiguvare learned was how to build a professional network.

“You might have all the degrees in the world, you might have all the skills in the world, but one thing I found important in Canada is networking – knowing people, getting referred by someone,” he said.

The Mentoring Partnership, which began in 2004, matches established professionals with job-ready, skilled immigrants in the same field. The mentors help the new Canadians build their networks and leverage their experience and skills to find appropriate jobs in Canada.

The program has grown to include 12 community partners, more than 50 corporate partners and more than 3,500 mentors. The program has also made more than 5,000 matches in the Toronto area since its inception, said McIsaac.

“A great mentor is one who is able to motivate their mentee, to keep them going, to inspire them, to get them to think about what’s ahead and what the opportunities might be,” she said.

“A great mentor also opens doors. They connect their mentee to their networks and they create opportunities for their mentees – really building their social capital.”

HR director wins Mentor of the Year

One of those great mentors, John Phelan, director of human resource services for the Regional Municipality of Halton, Ont.,was given a Mentor of the Year award at a ceremony held in November.

Phelan has become a champion of the Mentoring Partnership and was the driving force behind Halton Region becoming one of the program’s corporate partners.

“One of the hardest things with any mentorship arrangement is finding mentors,” he said. “Eventually, it’s changing the culture within the region of Halton to understand the value that those senior managers and experienced professionals have to offer.”

Law firm Fraser Milner Casgrain (FMC), which has six offices across Canada, has begun to recognize the value of mentoring as well, thanks in large part to Michael Schafler, one of the firm’s Toronto-based partners.

After five months of working with the Mentoring Partnership, Schafler – who won the program’s Special Achievement award – convinced FMC to sign on as the first law firm to join the program as a corporate partner. He is now working to expand mentoring to FMC’s other offices in Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

“(Mentoring) allows us to meet people of the highest calibre. We’re constantly looking for fresh blood in the firm,” said Schafler. “You expand your network, you expand your mentees’ network. And as far as we’re concerned, that’s a good thing.”

Ria Madan, the mentee who nominated Schafler for the award, is grateful to him for the help he gave her in understanding the Canadian legal profession as well as other work-related norms such as jargon and culture. But she is especially grateful for his bringing FMC into the program.

“He played a big part in bringing a law firm into the mentorship program, which I found was really incredible because I knew lawyers who had come here before me who didn’t have a chance to meet so many lawyers as I did,” said Madan, who now works at Rogers in Toronto.

Mentoring is about sharing the valuable knowledge a professional has amassed over the years, and might take for granted, to help someone new to Canada, said Phelan.

“You’ve got valuable information, you’ve gone through all of that experience, you’ve learned a lot about your industry, about your profession, about how to survive and develop a career,” said Phelan.

But the relationship is a two-way street. Phelan’s last mentee, who came from Eastern Europe, always came to their meetings prepared with questions about her job search and the Canadian labour market, he said.

“I just found that absolutely fascinating. She really worked hard at being mentored,” said Phelan. “To have a receptive mentee makes a difference.”

Besides benefiting the mentee, the program makes a difference in the lives of the mentors as well.

“The more you give, the more you get,” said Carrie Samuels, managing partner of consulting firm The Align Group and recipient of a Mentor of the Year award. “Mentoring teaches you some very good skills. It also teaches you about diversity.”

Winners of fourth annual Mentoring Partnership awards

Special Achievement award: Michael Schafler, partner, Fraser Milner Casgrain

Mentor of the Year award: John Phelan, director of human resource services, Regional Municipality of Halton

Mentee of the Year award: Kenneth Chiguvare

Mentee of the Year award: Karen Brown

Mentor of the Year award: Carrie Samuels, managing partner, The Align Group


© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, by permission of Carswell, Toronto, Ontario, 1-800-387-5164.

Reference: Canadian HR Reporter