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Mentoring program helps new immigrants adapt

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November 25, 2009

Ron Fanfair

Nearly 7,000 newcomers arrive in Toronto each month in search of new opportunities.

Karen Brown

Karen Brown

Karen Brown is one of them. She came here from Jamaica in  October 2008 armed with a university degree and vast experience in the financial services sector.

As a business class immigrant, she was led to a social service agency kiosk at the airport where she received a package containing, among other things, lists of most of the immigrant-serving organizations in the Greater Toronto Area and information flyers on job search workshop programs.

She leafed through the material in her first week in Canada, attended a three-day workshop and maintained contact with the facilitators who pointed her to ACCES Employment that assists job seekers from diverse backgrounds to integrate into the Canadian job market.

As an internationally trained finance professional, Brown was eligible to enter ACCES’ Financial Services Connections three-month program where she learned how to integrate into the workplace culture and effectively communicate with colleagues and clients. She also received practical tips on how to enhance her job search and had access to a mentor, Jasmine Tehara of TD Financial Group.

TD is one of several participants in the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) mentoring partnership program that help job-ready skilled immigrants build their professional networks in Canada and better leverage their experience and skills in the local labour market.

The program brings together recently arrived skilled immigrants and established professionals in occupation-specific mentoring relationships. Mentors give at least 24 hours of their time over a four-month period to help mentees navigate the job search process by sharing their knowledge, experience and professional networks.

“I have had the opportunity to be a TRIEC mentor since 2005 and I have never met anyone of Karen’s caliber,” said Tehara who successfully nominated Brown for the TRIEC Mentee of the Year award which was presented last week.

Tehara developed a three-tiered approach to Brown’s job search that included seizing every opportunity for an information interview, job shadowing and volunteering to secure Canadian experience. The strategy worked and Brown landed a job three months ago as a Business Analyst with TD Wealth Management.

“This package I received at the airport was vital and it enabled me to hit the ground running the first week I arrived here,” recalled Brown. “It led me in the directions I needed to go and to Jasmine who was simply great.”

Brown, who was born and raised in Manchester, graduated from the University of the West Indies (Mona campus) with a management studies degree in 1994. She worked for several years as an administrator with the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance before joining the Financial Services Commission as a securities analyst from 2001 to 2008.

“I enjoyed my time in Jamaica but I was looking to broaden my horizon,” she said. “I had a good support base in the Greater Toronto Area and I thought the time was right to come here. The one thing that I was concerned about when I was leaving was that the financial services sector was not doing well and it might have been difficult getting a job quickly in this field in Canada. However, with hard work and the help of Jasmine and the TRIEC program, things have really worked out well for me.”

For the first time since the award program started four years ago, TRIEC presented two Mentee of the Year awards.

Kenneth Chiguvare

Kenneth Chiguvare

Kenneth Chiguvare attended university and worked as a business analyst in Zimbabwe before heading to England to pursue a Masters degree in business management. He came to Canada earlier this year to join his wife who has been here for the past six years.

Chiguvare is currently employed as a customer service specialist with Wal-Mart Canada.

“Kenny believes the past does not equal the future,” said his mentor, Alan Keith. “He has an unrelenting thirst for self-improvement.”

With the support of over 50 corporate and 12 community partners, nearly 5,000 skilled newcomers have been linked with the TRIEC mentorship partnership in the past five years.

“Mentoring has numerous benefits for our employees and our business,” said Monique Bateman, TD Bank Financial Group senior vice-president, Human Resources. “Mentoring helps educate our employees about different cultures and about new immigrants as a key source of talent. As Canadian demographics change, cross cultural understanding and skills are increasingly essential to our business and play an important role in creating an inclusive workplace.”

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