New networking program creates career path for skilled immigrants

June 12, 2015


To help new immigrants build their professional networks, the Immigrant Employment Council of BC (IEC-BC) has launched a new program, Connector that matches established professionals with skilled immigrants.

Funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the program is designed to help level the playing field for BC’s skilled immigrants by matching them with local professionals, who in turn connect them with contacts in their occupational field.

“As the growth of major projects and retirements combines to create a labour shortage in BC, the Province predicts 306,000 international workers will be required by 2022 to meet the labour needs of employers,” says Kelly Pollack, CEO of IEC-BC. “The Connector program is one of our employer-focused initiatives that address the skills gap by increasing employer access to top talent in BC, while helping skilled immigrants integrate into our workplaces.”

The City of Vancouver was the first employer to partner in a pilot of the Connector program. During the three month pilot program this spring, 27 City of Vancouver employees volunteered to meet with a skilled immigrant over coffee, helping to establish industry connections that could lead to a career in the province.

“We understand how important networking is in this world,” says Penny Ballem, Vancouver City Manager. “You can’t get better exposure than working with and meeting people from different backgrounds. We’re a big, diverse organization and we’re proud that we’re able to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s a really powerful thing.”

A recent survey conducted by the Vancouver Local Immigration Partnership, a new initiative to increase capacity to settle immigrants in Vancouver, found that networking was listed by immigrants as a top method to establish a career in Vancouver. The survey stresses the importance of initiatives which help immigrants build networks and support their participation in the community.

Wendy Au, Assistant City Manager for the City of Vancouver and a connector with IEC-BC’s Connector program says that when she was new to Vancouver many years ago, someone took the time to help her get a career foothold in the City.

“I was a new immigrant and somebody gave me an opportunity,” says Au. “Now I’m returning the favour.”

Helping a new immigrant was as easy for Au as meeting her conectee, a UK-trained lawyer, for coffee. Following that meeting, Au sent a letter of introduction to a law contact who in turn referred her to lawyers working in his field.

Modeled after the award-winning Connector program developed by the Halifax Partnership and replicated in 12 communities across Canada, the BC Connector program has recently expanded to the City of Surrey.

“The Connector program is easy for participating businesses and professionals,” says Opreet Kang, Manager of Global Connections for IEC-BC. “Community partner organizations refer job-ready immigrants and we match them with established professionals from organizations or with individuals who have signed-up for the Connector program. Most connectors and connectees meet once and for less than an hour.”

IEC-BC is seeking BC-based companies and professionals from finance, IT, engineering, urban planning and HR backgrounds to participate in the Connector program.

To learn more or to become a Connector visit or call 604.629.5364.
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