Toronto, Canada

Building Professional and Occupational Networks: The Mentoring Partnership

TRIEC (Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council)

November 18, 2008

Connecting skilled immigrants with their employed counterparts for greater occupational and social capital

Oluseun Odunlami was a lawyer in her native Nigeria, who had worked in both the municipal government and the banking industry. However, when she emigrated with her husband and three kids to Canada, she struggled to find work. Her professional credentials were not recognized and potential employers did not relate to or appreciate her resume. The only jobs available to her were low paying and did not take into account her education or career ambitions

Annette Geldbert and her mentee, Kerry Mulchansingh

Annette Geldbert and her mentee, Kerry Mulchansingh

Oluseun’s story is a common one. Without professional networks or contacts and often unfamiliar with the nuances of the work culture, many new immigrants struggle to find work that reflects their past experiences and education. In the eyes of corporate Canada, immigrant job applicants can look unfamiliar or untested and pose a potential hiring risk.

Olusuen’s story changed with the help of The Mentoring Partnership.

The Mentoring Partnership (TMP) is a collaboration of community organisations and corporate partners that brings together skilled immigrants and established professionals in occupation specific mentoring relationships.

As of fall 2010, The Mentoring Partnership has matched over 5,200 skilled immigrants with Canadian mentors. The program works with 12 community delivery partners and has had 50 corporate partners come onboard.

These relationships achieve impressive results. For instance, based on an evaluation survey completed at the end of 2007, nearly 85 per cent of participants who completed the program were now employed in their field of choice. Their average annual income was 67 per cent higher than before entering the program and unemployment within this group had decreased by 78 percent.

Olusuen was matched with Karen Rubin, a veteran lawyer at Amex Canada. For the next three months the two women would meet for several hours a week. During that time Karen introduced Olusuen to a network of influential lawyers at large firms across the city, who offered invaluable professional advice and helped her to polish and adapt her resume to make it more enticing to Canadian employers. “Ms. Odunlami oversaw a $4 million budget in her municipal government job in Nigeria. We looked at what she had and how to sell it. I helped her build her self confidence with the skills that she already had.” adds her mentor Karen. An appreciative Ms. Odunlami continues, “She went on to introduce me to several attorneys. This helped me a lot and increased my network.”

Together they worked on various job strategies and tailored Olusuen’s resume so to the Canadian context. They then worked on various interview techniques and conducted a number of mock interviews.

Today Ms. Odunlami is working in Toronto’s financial district and has applied to the University of Ottawa’s specially designed program for lawyers with foreign credentials.


The Mentoring Partnership is a program of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), an organization that is working to remove the barriers that immigrants face when entering the labour market while also helping organizations benefit from the talents and skills that immigrants bring with them. The mentoring approach to labour force integration recognizes that who you know can be as important as what you know when it comes to getting a job. The mentor-mentee relationship is the first link in the development of a professional network that opens doors and changes perceptions about the value of skilled immigrant job applicants.

Relationships in The Mentoring Partnership are based on the idea of committing “one day of your life” to the program, a commitment of at least 24 hours spread out over a four month period. During this time mentors help new immigrants navigate through the job search process by sharing their knowledge and experience. The mentor helps to write a Canadian resume, to prepare their mentee for an interview and offers advice on how to network. They also provide insight into the Canadian workplace and work culture.

To maximize the impact of the relationship, both parties follow an established program that works in the following ways: TRIEC recruits mentors usually through corporate partners while community organizations screen and recruit job ready skilled immigrants for mentee candidates. Coaches at community partner organizations contact mentors with profiles of proposed mentees based on work and career compatibility, including shared educational backgrounds, similar work experience and common career goals.

Coaches continue to monitor mentee progress for up to three months after the mentoring relationship has officially ended. Mentors and mentees work together for a total of 24 hours over a period of four months. Coaches provide communication and relationship support as necessary.

However, the most important aspect of The Mentoring Partnership is really sharing professional networks.

Mentors are welcome from any profession, provided they are employed or self employed for at least three years. They must demonstrate links to professional associations and other business networks and have a knowledge of current labor market demands, context, trends as well as an appreciation of employment issues related to internationally trained professionals.

Success Means Adoption

The success of the Mentoring Partnership has been recognized beyond the city of Toronto and into the outlying regions of the city such as Halton, Peel and York.

Indeed, there are now seven mentoring programs across the country, with two more on the way. By 2007, TRIEC’s success with The Mentoring Partnership and related programs resulted in cities across Canada taking action in their own communities around immigrant employment solutions. In 2007, over 130 representatives from 18 city regions met to share the lessons and experiences that have come out of TRIEC. Today ALLIES is a new national multi-stakeholder initiative established to assist local leaders with immigrant employment strategies based on the TRIEC model for cities across Canada.

In 2007, the Mentoring Partnership was also honoured with the Canadian Urban Institute “Urban Leadership Award for City Initiatives.”

International Recognition

In 2007, a delegation from New Zealand known at the Committee for Auckland came to Toronto to meet with TRIEC and learn more about the Mentoring Partnership. The result was that in March 2008, the group launched OMEGA (Opportunities for Migrant Employment in Greater Auckland) based on the TRIEC model in the hopes of replicating Toronto’s experience with equal success in New Zealand.

For a selection of library resources related to this Good Idea, see sidebar at right.

Making it Work for You:

  • Hiring immigrants is not a social justice issue - make the business case for employing immigrants. Immigrants bring international skills, experience and the knowledge needed for economic growth and prosperity.
  • Is there a way that you or your organization can help bring skilled immigrants or other marginalised groups together with established professionals? For instance with a networking day or a community partnership?
  • Mentoring others provides employees with professional development opportunities. Find out whether mentoring programs exist in your organization and, if not, what you could do to start one.

For this Good Idea contact:

Joan Atlin, Director of Operations
Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC)
170 Bloor Street West, Suite 901
Toronto, Canada,
416 944 1946 ext 249