The Kitchener-Waterloo region of Ontario has a long history with Mennonites, a group of people known for their strong spirit of mentorship and helping each other in times of need. In a similar fashion today, startup companies are mentored by established firms, and make connections for newcomers to the region, explains Valerie Bradford, a business development officer with the city of Kitchener and a Connector. “Newcomers are at such a disadvantage because they have to establish their whole network,” said Valerie. “We’re using our connections to help them make new connections.” “The community is fairly welcoming to newcomers because most of us were new at some point, and so we do have a lot of services here to help people integrate,” she said.
For Valerie, the WR Connectors program is an extension of the work she already does in the region, primarily using her wide range of networks in local industries to make connections for newcomers in manufacturing and business development. “I do corporate visits all the time with manufacturers, and the primary concern I hear from them … is that they’re unable to find the workforce they need with the skills they need,” she said. “They’re always looking for new sources of employees, so when I’m able to connect these two constituents together, it’s wonderful.”
Sign up to be a Connector with your local Connector Program. To start a Connector Program in your community, please visit: https://connectorprogram.ca/connector-communities/