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FMC leads the way in immigrant mentoring program

Law Times
December 29, 2008

Robert Todd

Some Toronto-area immigrants will find it easier to gain a foothold in the local workforce thanks to the generous work of employees at a prominent law firm.

The Toronto Regional Immigrant Employment Council recently announced a partnership with Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP in which more than 20 of the firm’s employees will work as mentors in a program that aims to help skilled professionals land good jobs in the local economy.

FMC, which also is working pro bono on TRIEC’s incorporation, is the first law firm to act as a corporate partner on the program.

“I always feel that, as lawyers, we’re in a particularly privileged situation and I think we have a duty and an obligation to give back to the community,” says FMC partner Michael Schafler, who is participating in the program.

Schafler learned of the program from a friend and says he was immediately interested in getting his firm involved. He notes that the program meshes both with FMC’s interest in mentorship and its diversity initiative.

While four lawyers at the firm have been matched up through the program, Schafler notes that other FMC employees such as IT staffers, legal assistants, and others also are donating their time and expertise.

“It builds on our diversity platform, it allows individual people to give back, and it builds on our mentoring culture at the firm,” says Schafler in summing up FMC’s motivation for getting involved with TRIEC.

TRIEC’s four-month mentorship partnership, which works with new immigrants in Toronto and the regions of Halton, Peel, and York, began in 2004 and has been used by more than 3,700 skilled immigrants. About 80 per cent of those who participate in the program subsequently find work, with 85 per cent of those landing a job in their own field.

Through the program, mentors and their subjects meet individually for a total of 24 hours of interaction over four months, with the focus on establishing networking opportunities and guiding the newcomer through the ins and outs of the local job market during their job search.

“When immigrants come to Canada, most of them don’t have the social capital, the networks, and connection that help make job opportunities happen,” says TRIEC executive director Elizabeth McIsaac.

“What this does is it plugs them into some of the existing networks in their profession here in Toronto,” she says. “We know that it works. We know that who you know and good advice, and sound advice from someone in your field, is the best way to make connections.”

FMC also has partnered with TRIEC, Osgoode Hall Law School, and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law on an internship program. That initiative is just being rolled out, with a call for applications recently announced.

While the firm has worked with the organization quite extensively already, Schafler says the relationship continues to grow.

“We’ve taken it to this level, and I’m sure we’re keen to take it to an even higher level if we can,” he says.

McIsaac credited FMC’s hard work — especially on the internship program initiative, which she says was established much quicker than she had anticipated.

“I’m absolutely blown away by the leadership,” she says. “They’ve been really terrific corporate partners and corporate stakeholders.”

Reference:  Law Times