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Getting connected

When Jorge Mora moved to Halifax four years ago he found a job, but not one that fulfilled him. A trained accountant, Mora lived in Toronto and then Saint John, New Brunswick, before coming to Halifax. Boredom with his career left him unable to feel settled anywhere.

Then he attended a welcome event for new residents at Pier 21, where he learned about the Halifax Partnership’s Connector Program. “You feel isolated when you come here, you don’t really know anyone in Halifax,” Mora says. “Through the Connector Program you get to know people and don’t feel so isolated. It gives you a different perspective on this place.”

The program pairs recent graduates and immigrants with connectors, who are executives in their professional field. It offers connectees an opportunity to learn about the local job market, talk about their goals, and ask advice for their job searches. At the end of the first meeting, connectors pass on the contact information for three people in their network who they think can help the connectee in her job search and contact information for three other contacts.

“[Connector] is a great opportunity for business owners and hiring managers to tap into talent they might not otherwise bump into,” says Robyn Webb. “When you’re meeting with someone face to face, one on one, you get to learn more than what a resume shows.” Plus, says Webb, it gives small- and mid-sized-business owners in the city access to international experience they might otherwise miss out on.

The Halifax Partnership administers the program. The Partnership is Halifax’s economic development organization, and recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary. It works to attract, retain, and grow talent, business, and investment within the municipality. HRM, the province of Nova Scotia, and 125 private businesses fund the Partnership.

“We want to raise the bar [for businesses] to export beyond Nova Scotia and Canada,” says Ron Hanlon, Halifax Partnership president and CEO.

“The international skills and abilities that people bring with them can really help that. Understanding another culture is as important as having a good product when you’re exporting. There are nuances in every culture that must be understood.”

From the connectee side, the program offers those new to the local job market an opportunity to glean interview tips, improve their resumes, and learn the ins and outs of finding a job here. The Halifax Partnership estimates that 80 per cent of jobs in the municipality are never posted, but instead filled through word of mouth.

Webb says the program gives connectees access they couldn’t find on their own.

“We know that finding a job is one of the most important pieces of settling,” she says. “By speeding that up we know we are improving our chances of retention especially in Halifax.”

Mora didn’t find a job through his contacts in the program, but he has no doubt that it was key to his success. His Connector meetings helped him better understand what local hiring managers expected from him and his connections helped him polish his application package. Today he’s an accountant with Nautel, a Hacketts Cove-based developer and manufacturer of high power solid-state radio transmitters and RF amplifiers. He’s also a connector.

“Now I’m on the other side, which is a great feeling by the way,” says Mora. One of his connectees recently found a job through a connection Mora introduced him to. “Not everyone will find a job like this, but they will find advice that will help them in their job search. Every person you meet has a different perspective to offer.”

Since it started in 2009, the Connector Program has worked with 763 connectors and 1,345 connectees, of which 65 per cent are immigrants or recent international students. Over 550 connectees found jobs directly through the program.

The program has been so successful since its start in 2008 that 26 communities across Canada and four international communities now offer similar programs. In 2013, the Partnership started the National Connector program, funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, to help other economic development organizations create their own Connector programs.

In 2015 the National Connector program started a pilot project called the Pre-Arrival Program, funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. It pairs economic class immigrants, selected based on their ability to become economically established in Canada, who have permanent resident status and are in the final stages of immigration with a Connector before they leave their home countries como es la pastilla de viagra.

“We know that finding a job is one of the most important pieces of settling,” says Webb. “By speeding that up we know we are improving our chances of retention, especially in Halifax.”

Through the Pre-Arrival Program, immigrants connect with their initial connector through Skype four to six weeks before arrival. The connector provides the connectee with three contacts in his field to meet with face-to-face upon arrival. Webb says a number of participants found jobs within weeks of landing.

The Halifax Partnership doesn’t just help employers connect with immigrants, it also practices what it preaches.

Last year, it ran a program with Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) to help newcomers who weren’t yet ready for the Connecter program gain Canadian work experience by working at the Halifax Partnership’s front desk.

Participants could continue to participate in their preparation classes while working, and meet with the Connecter team frequently to prepare for other job interviews. The program’s success marked its end, because the front desk workers met with many business owners on a daily basis while working at the Partnership that they all found jobs quickly.

“[Participants] gained Canadian work experience in a very busy office, and a great chance to network and meet people,” says Webb. “We had a sign up outlining what we were doing and a lot of businesses owners who didn’t know about that program or ISANS would ask questions about it.”

Plus, two members of Connector staff are recent immigrants: two project coordinators, Isaac Mbaziira from Uganda and Christine Qin Yang from China. “They open doors we haven’t been able to open before,” says Webb of the team’s ability to connect with recent immigrants based on their shared experiences.

The Halifax Partnership also educates employers on the benefits of working with immigrants. “Small businesses often don’t have a large team, so how helpful would it be to hire someone who has a global perspective,” she says. “It’s improving our economy that way.”

“Our business population is aging,” says Webb. “Immigrants can come in and take over those companies, instead of seeing them close their doors.” The Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimates that 97.4 per cent of businesses in Nova Scotia are small or medium-sized, and employ nearly 29 per cent of all workers in the province.

“One of the fundamental goals of the Halifax Partnership is we’re connecting people to the right things,” says Hanlon. “Whether it’s a provincial program, whether it’s a sector executive to find someone a job, or whether it’s a business that’s trying to meet its goals, we’re in the middle of that trying to get them to the right door, the right room, the right place so they can find what they need. That’s really the fundamental goal.”

About Kim Hart Macneill

Kim Hart Macneill
Kim Hart Macneill is a writer/contributor for My Halifax Experience and My East Coast Experience

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