Since July 2009, the Halifax Connector Program has helped 118 immigrants and newcomers to Halifax and of these, 40 have found gainful and appropriate employment. This program is considered so successful that it has been recognized as a best practice by the Conference Board of Canada and four entities have duplicated it: the Montreal Board of Trade, North Bay’s Mayor’s Office on Economic Development, Niagra Immigrant Employment Council, and the Waterloo Greater Chamber of Commerce.
But it’s impossible to do anything well without help from the right people in the right places offering their expertise and – no surprise – their own networks, too.
Two other organizations in addition to the Partnership play key roles in the Connector Program’s success. One is the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration (NSOI), which provides funding and has an agreement with the federal office of immigration to ‘fast-track’ nominations for permanent residency here, and the second is Immigration Settlement and Integration Services (ISIS).
“ISIS is a well-rounded service agency that offers immigrants a menu of programs,” said Emilie Coyle, a consultant with ISIS and its mentorship program. “We look at the immigrant’s experience, skills for work and determine if there are gaps in their expertise to meet Canadian requirements.” ISIS also offers an in-depth mentorship opportunity, “matching immigrants with people established in the same profession.” Sound similar to the Connector Program?
“Yes,” said Emilie, “with one key difference: the mentorship program needs a mentor who can commit to an immigrant over a longer period of time.” Connectors, on the other hand, are only asked to donate 30 minutes of their time, and offer an immigrant at least three qualified leads in their field of expertise.
“I would love for everyone to be a mentor,” said Emilie, “and I also see the value of people opening up their professional networks, especially since so many immigrants have everything they need to succeed – except contacts in their fields.”
ISIS is the Partnership’s key source for labour-qualified immigrants, ready to enter the workforce – if they could just reach the right people.
“I discovered that a large percent of the available jobs in Halifax are not advertised – even in the local business community. It’s all done by referral and word-of-mouth,” said Michael Johnson, Director, Programs and Corporate Initiatives, NSOI. “That’s why we like the Connector Program so much. It gets immigrants inside the loop and it helps us reach our strategic goal to retain talent once it’s here. We need to be very proactive about keeping people here for our economic growth and to shore up our declining population.”
NSOI is one of the Connector Program’s critical sources of funding, along with partners The Maytree and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundations. The Toronto based foundations jointly fund ALLIES (Assisting Local Leaders with Immigrant Employment Strategies).
As Connector Jamie Welsh of Deloitte said, ““It hard to put into words, but helping immigrants find meaningful work in Halifax is hugely rewarding. It’s a little thing for us, to connect a person to a few others in our network. But it means the world to them.”
The network support of ISIS and NSOI means a world to the Partnership, too.