Q & A Calgary

Conversation with Bruce Randall, Rosa Martinez, and Nketti Johnston-Taylor

The Calgary Regional Immigrant Employment Council has housed the Connector Program since 2014 and has focused on Internationally Educated Professionals, assisting them before and upon arrival in Calgary. The program has helped hundreds of professionals get their feet under them and hit the ground running as soon as they step off the plane. We were able to talk about the program and its evolution in the city with Coordinator Rosa Martinez, Executive Director Bruce Randall (retired), and Executive Director Nketti  Johnston-Taylor.

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Alida Campbell

Interview by Alida Campbell.

Alida manages the National Connector Program and continues to be inspired by the stories of connection and growth that participants share across the country.
Alida

Alida:

Calgary was one of the earliest adopters of the Connector Program across the country. How does the program fit into CRIEC and how does it bring value to your organization?

Rosa

Rosa:

The Connector Program clients, who are often prearrival clients, enrich CRIEC. The Connector Program plays an important role in helping newcomers meet people – and those in the community to meet newcomers. It helps the prearrival clients connect the dots on what they need to succeed before they even land here, and that is so helpful for them. It helps them to explore other career options, build their professional networks, to find opportunities in a given company, to learn from peers and share their journeys with people, and for integration purposes and support. The Connector Program is not just to get information on a job or a company – it’s for multiple supports for newcomers to the area. As a coordinator, I am always navigating evolving challenges and opportunities through the program, and CRIEC is more able to navigate these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves because we have this program as part of our offerings.

Bruce

Bruce:

We noticed early that it’s a perfect complement to everything we do. We are a mentoring forward organization, we do a lot of mentoring 1 on 1, and then are also active outside of that, connecting 1 on 1 for the afternoon (smart connections), and the Connector Program is a 1 or 2 cups of coffee mentoring situation. The program helps us better help our clients. The Connector Program also allows us to find a connective point to work with other organizations, and better support newcomers as a city.

Nketti

Nketti:

I have a saying “There has to be soldiers on every front”. In this instance, it means there has to be support for newcomers at every stage of their journey – we need to offer a continuum of support, and Connector Program fits well into that continuum.

Alida

Alida:

It can be very difficult to move to a new place and take on the challenge of settling there. How does the Connector Program help alleviate the barriers people might experience?

Rosa

Rosa:

The Connector program is the help they need when they arrive. It allows them to see the whole picture – it gives them agency. They are smart, capable people, this program just helps them connect the dots, it doesn’t protect them, it gives them power to make their own decisions and make sense of Calgary. The program helps people ready for employment to tap into specific employment opportunities. It also helps people find other opportunities in Calgary, which is a very dynamic place. It helps people move into other areas of employment and helps them to revamp their skills to be used in those areas. Finally, it opens one’s mindset to what the job market in Calgary offers a newcomer with their specific education and skills.

Nketti

Nketti:

The newcomer is exposed to guidance and referrals, and if this amounts to something, either information, or nuances about the labour market, if it helps them get their license, for example if they are an engineer or doctor, then in each case it gets them closer to a job, which helps the community in the long run and the newcomer in the immediate term. On another note, when you come from a different country, your communication skills are different from Canadians. So being able to build communication skills that are appropriate in the Canadian workplace context is important. This helps to build confidence, self-awareness, and maybe even turn the relationship into one of a mentor or friend!

Bruce

Bruce:

The Connector program is a focused program, which allows people to refocus, and pivot too, based on their own experiences within the community, and where they now want to go, and what they want to do. It gives people a leg-up, a fast track to figure out how they fit into their new community. It allows them to pivot so much faster than they would have been able to.

Alida

Alida:

Overall, wat would you say is the impact of the program?

Bruce

Bruce:

It allows people to feel confident in the community, and the community can only gain when people feel confident in their careers. It’s people helping people get the space to talk. This happens anyways, but the program allows us to have people trained and ready and willing to help. It creates a sense of intentionality and a framework – and once you do this, the results of your actions are magnified. The program is a very powerful tool – but as with all tools, it takes a great craftsperson to run it.

Nketti

Nketti:

It increases newcomer confidence. When you have confidence, you move differently, you interact differently. When you feel you belong to a place, you feel more confident, and you can contribute more to your family, to your community, and this has a ripple effect.

Alida

Alida:

Thank you all so much for your insights. The program really is helping to spur connections in the community, and creating links between newcomers, organizations, and the wider community. The work you do is very important, and we look forward to continuing to partner with you as a part of the National Connector Program for years to come!