Mentors help immigrants find success in Canada

bow valley collegeImage by Dave McLean (aka damclean) via Flickr
Many immigrants come to Canada with years of work experience, talent and new ideas, but often run into language barriers and challenges adjusting to the local culture.
Frustrated and desperate to feed their families, many new Canadians end up taking minimum-wage jobs far from where their expertise lies.
It’s a situation that Ratna Omidvar sees everyday in her line of work.
That’s where mentoring programs can help, said Omidvar, president of Maytree, a Toronto-based private organization that invests resources to reduce poverty.
“Skilled immigrants bring talent, connections to world markets and new ways of thinking to solve problems,” she said at the Sheraton Suites in Eau Claire, where the 2011 ALLIES Mentoring Conference is taking place. “We need to collapse the time for them to succeed.”
Omidvar credited a mentor for helping her find her career path when she first arrived to Canada from Iran nearly 30 years ago.
Her mentor took the time to organize mock interviews, work with Omidvar on resume-writing skills, and even taught her about the “unwritten rules” of Canadian workplace culture.
The experience inspired Omidvar to take on many mentees throughout the years, many who have found success in Canada.
More than 120 delegates from across the country are in Calgary today and Friday to discuss how mentoring between employers and skilled immigrants can benefit workplaces and also help newcomers realize their full potential.
A local partnership between the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC) and Bow Valley College pairs mentors in the city’s corporate world with immigrants new to Canada.
Katalina Bardell, a mentoring project lead and employment facilitator for the program, said the partnership has facilitated over 100 matches.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi lauded the program and many others that are sprouting up across the country, but he said more needs to be done to help put new immigrants in jobs that best suit their abilities.
“We need to ensure everyone who comes to this country has the ability of achieving his or her own potential,” he said.
Immigration policy changes also need to be made to better recognize foreign credentials, he added.

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