Toronto, Canada

Mentoring Skilled Immigrants at City Hall

City of Toronto and TRIEC’s The Mentoring Partnership

August 23, 2012

City employees volunteer to mentor newcomers about workplace and professional culture.

When Maggie Chen, a PhD in economics, was settling in Canada, she was paired with mentor Susan Brown, Senior Policy Advisor at the City of Toronto as part of the municipality’s Profession to Profession Mentoring Program. 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.”

Maggie’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.

The Mentoring Partnership

With 50% of Toronto made up of immigrants, their inclusion in the labour market is vital to the prosperity of the city. But talking to Torontonians about the importance of immigrants to the region’s economy 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 critical to Toronto’s economic and social development,” says Cheryl Borland, Workforce Transition & Employment Equity.

Each year, the City of Toronto invites members of the Toronto Public Service to volunteer as mentors to skilled immigrants through its Profession to Profession Mentoring program, a part of a broader project called The Mentoring Partnership (TMP) (Good Idea – Building Professional and Occupational Networks: The Mentoring Partnership). The program matches skilled immigrants with professional employees in similar professions for a four month mentoring experience that focuses on building professional networks, gaining information on their profession and workplace culture in Canada.

As part of the Toronto Regional Immigrant Employment Council, TMP is a collaboration of 12 community delivery organizations and 50 corporate and has brought over 4660 mentors onboard.  As of April 2012, The Mentoring Partnership has matched over 6,700 skilled immigrants with Canadian mentors.


As one of the original partners for TMP, the Profession to Profession Mentoring program began with 29 mentors representing three professions: 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. In 2011, 165 city staff volunteered as mentors while over 600 skilled immigrants have received 24 hours of mentoring each from city employees since the program began in 2004.

Senior management at The City of Toronto have championed the program and opened 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 its own annual recognition event, as well as mentor networking sessions to further enhance the mentor and mentee experiences.