Halifax Partnership Connector Program helps international students, immigrants network and find jobs in a new city.
Daniel Arantes arrived in Halifax from Brazil on Dec. 31, 2017. He was heading to Saint Mary’s University to study for a Master of Science in Computing & Data Analytics.
Arantes says he enjoys Halifax because it reminds him of his hometown of Vitoria, which is about 600 kilometres north of Rio De Janeiro, because of its size, coastline, bridges, and ports.
“I have everything I want here,” Arantes says.
Before he arrived in Halifax, Arantes says he did considerable research on the city and job market.
“As much as you can find on the Internet, it’s still very limited,” Arantes says. A few weeks after he arrived in the city, he went to a presentation about the Connector Program at the Halifax Partnership.
Joe McGuire and Nathan Laird were giving the presentation.
“That’s what was most important to me,” Arantes says. “I know there was a group of people that were good at helping people.”
He reconnected with the Connector Program at the Halifax Partnership a few months before he graduated.
Arantes had a few meetings, first with Laird at the Halifax Partnership, and then with recruiters. One of those recruiters would eventually help him land his current job as a data scientist with Global Spatial Technology Solutions. During his search, the Halifax Partnership also invited him to workshops and conferences where he made more connections. He says those events gave him insights into what is happening in the city.
“You go to places you possibly wouldn’t go to,” Arantes says.
The Connector Program started in 2009 after the Halifax Partnership decided it would find a way to use its own connections with businesses, whose executives said one of their own challenges was finding the right talent.
“At the same time, we found newcomers weren’t finding the right opportunities,” says Robyn Webb, director of labour market development at the Halifax Partnership.
Through the programs, connectees, including international students and newcomers to Halifax, are matched with industry appropriate connectors who they meet with for 30 minutes to discuss everything from industry background to hidden job opportunities. After that meeting, the connector suggests three more connectors for the connectee to meet. Through a number of meetings, the connectee creates a huge network in the city.
“It’s not a mentorship program,” Webb says. “It’s not the pressure of an interview and there’s no pressure to hire.”
The first year, the program signed on 50 businesses and 50 newcomers, but they already had a waiting list of potential connectors. This past year, there were 549 participants in the program and 234 of those found jobs.
Webb says the program gained significant attention from other cities that approached the Halifax Partnership about how they could create a similar program. The Connector Program also inspired the National Connector Program, which is run by the Halifax Partnership and has connector programs in 35 communities across Canada and around the world.
“I think that’s a testament to what business is getting out of this program,” Webb says. “I think the connector program has changed the hiring process of many small and medium businesses.”
Webb says the connectees not only gain a network, but confidence as they see that businesses are not only interested in their skills, but what they bring as international students and immigrants, including global experience and connections of their own.
Webb says every year the Partnership hosts a recognition for those they call Super Connectors. She says there, connectors have a chance to share their experiences with other connectors they may not otherwise meet.
“It’s a chance for them to share something they really enjoy,” she says.
Webb says the program has been invaluable for connectors who are looking for new talent.
“We have connectors who call us regularly and ask, ‘I want another meeting,’” she says.
Now, the Connector Program is heading online with Connector + (connectorplus.ca), a mobile app that will be launched in March. Through the app, connectors and connectees can be matched and then meet through a video chat, phone call, or face-to-face meeting. Like the initial Connector Program, the connector provides three referrals at the end of the first meeting, helping the connectee create their new network.
“We’ve very excited about the program,” Webb says. “After 10 years, it just keeps evolving.”
Arantes says he knows some students and new arrivals to the city may want to move on to other cities for work. But he recommends the connector program to anyone new to Halifax who wants to stay and find a job. He says they provided the guidance he needed to network.
“I said I wanted to stay,” Arantes says. “And they said, ‘We want you to stay and we will help you.’ That is very valuable.”