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Multicultural society seeking mentors

North Shore News
January 28, 2009

Sarah Ripplinger

The North Shore Multicultural Society is looking for mentors in the District of North Vancouver — specifically municipal employees.

The society asked council Jan. 19 to support its initiative to pair newcomers to the community with members of district staff in the interest of getting them ready for the job market.

“I think it’s a terrific idea,” said Coun. Alan Nixon, who wants to see the district get its wheels in motion and promote the program.

The Working Connections Employment Mentoring Program for Skilled Immigrants, which operates under the aegis of the multiculturalism society, matches 21 skilled immigrants with businesses throughout the North Shore.

The society went before council to request its support in recruiting four to five mentors per year from within the district staff ranks to participate in the program.

Executive director Elizabeth Jones said newcomers are often looking for guidance on how to enter the Canadian job market, from locating application forms to gaining experience and skills working with local businesses that will help them along the road to securing permanent employment.

“Often what newcomers really lack is an understanding of how their profession works within the community context,” she said, “and so it’s gaining the knowledge of the Canadian workplace, how that profession functions and how you become accredited within your field.”

And demand for the program is high.

“People are already here, right, but they’re underemployed,” said Rosy Janze, community bridging co-ordinator with the society. “Meanwhile we have a need for people in different professions,” especially nurses, accountants and physiotherapists.

Janze said that there are presently 40 individuals on a wait list for the program.

Many skilled immigrants on the North Shore have a hard time landing positions in their respective fields, according to Jones. Instead, they end up working in survival jobs that do not make use of their training and qualifications.

“We had a physiotherapist who, it took her two years to get her accreditation, and made lots of mistakes along the way,” Jones said.

“She’s mentoring other physiotherapists right now and can really help them streamline what they need to do, you know, where to go, how to get their applications in for accreditation, even helping them in study groups sometimes.”

Council supported the employment mentoring program for skilled immigrants, calling for it to be brought into fruition as soon as possible.

“I imagine the challenges faced by somebody who’s new to the language and culture can be immense, so I think the program is very much needed,” said Mayor Richard Walton.

“Our country depends so much on immigration in order to sustain its health and its programs . . . and the more we can offer, I think, the more successful our immigrants will be and the more successful we’ll be as a country.”

Reference:  North Shore News