Talking to Torontonians about the importance of immigrants to the labour market isn’t enough for The City of Toronto – the organization is leading by example. “Taking a leadership position in furthering the employment of skilled immigrants is key to Toronto’s economic and social development,” says Cheryl Borland, Workforce Transition & Employment Equity.
One of the original corporate partners to come onboard, over 225 City of Toronto employees have now participated in the program. The Mentoring Partnership has proven its popularity: Many City staff are repeat mentors and in fact, seven current mentors have been involved in the program since it launched at The City in 2004. Recently The City of Toronto surpassed all expectations, reaching 500 matches.
Initially the program began with 29 mentors representing accounting, engineering and IT. Today the program has spread to include 16 professions across the organization, resulting in more mentoring opportunities for more skilled immigrants.
One of those immigrants was Maggie Chen, a PhD in economics, who was paired with Senior Policy Advisor, Susan Brown. By accompanying Susan to workplace meetings, Maggie recognized differences between the Chinese and Canadian workplaces. “Taking initiative is a common expectation here,” says Maggie. “Coming from a much more formal workplace culture, I learned that I had to adapt. I know I fully understand the different approach because my mentor gave me the opportunity to learn by doing.”
Senior management at The City champion the program and push for the organization to open the workplace to skilled immigrant mentees. Mentors are encouraged to invite their mentees to attend professional development sessions with them, adding value to the experience for the mentees. The City hosts an annual recognition event, as well as networking sessions to further enhance the mentor and mentee experiences.