AREC - How Group Mentoring Has Helped Their Members in Finding Employment
Since its beginnings in 2003, AREC has focused on helping newcomer engineers integrate into the Canadian labour market.
Our interest in mentoring was initiated by the high number of requests received from the community and soon became one of our core missions. Numerous engineers who had immigrated to Canada from Romania in the late 90s and early 2000 were looking to connect with experienced professionals and get help to overcome some of the barriers they were facing.
For years, we connected newcomers with experienced engineers in a non-structured way. When we had request from newcomers, we would ask around and use our personal connections to find a match. When the opportunity came to participate in the Intercultural Mentoring Program in 2011, we were among the first to join. The program created a structured environment for us to help newcomers connect with professionals in their field and develop a professional network.
We started by taking part in the trainings offered by JVS Toronto on recruiting mentors and mentees, coordinating the program, promoting it and collaborating with other participating networks. To recruit the program coordinator, we followed a formal process - we created a job posting, advertised it in the community, received applications and interviewed candidates. We looked at aptitude and attitude, and offered the position to a very energetic and committed applicant.
Recruiting mentors and mentees was a team effort. We created flyers that were posted on forums and social media, published in community newspapers, sent out to members and supporters. In the four cycles of the program, we were able to recruit a total of 18 mentees and 9 mentors. Although the recommendation was to have a mentor for a group of 4-6 mentees, we have been able to provide one-on-one mentoring in most cases.
Development of a positive relationship between those involved was vital and mutuality was the key. We encouraged in-person meetings between mentors and mentees, as well as regular check-ups and the use of English in all communication.
During the program, the mentors took multiple roles as counsellors, goal-setting guides, connectors and facilitators. They helped the mentees to bring out the best in their capabilities and make use of their own resources.
We are very happy with the outcomes – more than half of the participants are now working in positions commensurate to their experience. With the help received from their mentors, some have passed the PEO designation exam, and all said that the program helped them learn about workplace culture and communication, how to network effectively, how to present themselves in a professional manner.
At the end of each program session, mentors and mentees participated to the wrap-up events organized by JVS where their efforts and contribution was acknowledged. They met mentors and mentees from other PINs, expanding their network and practicing their newly acquired networking skills.
The feedback we received was extremely positive and encouraging. The mentees were satisfied with the program arrangement, found the mentors helpful and said that their confidence level to find a job independently enhanced. All said that they would recommend the program to other newcomers. The mentors were also satisfied with the opportunity to develop their coaching and leadership skills. All said that giving back was a deeply rewarding experience.
What we learned is that successful relationships involve mentors who encourage their mentees through dialogue. Rather than impose a particular way of performing, they assessed mentees' needs and initiated strategies of self-help. Goals were set collaboratively, and successes were shared. As the mentee confidence was enhanced, the mentors stepped aside and took a less prominent role. As well, on-going commitment was vital – and the regular follow-ups performed by the program coordinator helped everybody stay on track and involved.
I encourage all PINs to join the Intercultural Mentoring Network, especially the ones active in communities with a high number of newcomers. Mentoring is not only about helping them get employed. Developing interpersonal skills equip the mentee with appropriate skills to take a place in the broader community and contribute to its future growth.