Environmental network aims to bridge gap for newcomers

Sept. 10, 2009

Danielle Milley

Yves Danteu knows firsthand the benefits of a professional mentor and now he’s behind a program that will help other new Canadians get into the environmental field.

Danteu is the program co-ordinator for volunteers and mentorship with Toronto and Region Conservation. He is part of a new program to help remove barriers faced by newcomers. TRCA has launched the new Mentoring to Placement for Environmental Professionals Program, which will offer a mentorship component and a paid work placement for 40 internationally trained environmental professionals.

Danteu is originally from Cameroon and came to Canada after working in Geneva, Switzerland. With a background in environmental science and international policy, he had problems finding work in his field in Toronto.

“At the beginning it was really hard to get information or an interview or even a volunteer opportunity,” he said.

He became a part of TRCA’s Environmental Volunteer Network where he was matched with a mentor who helped him understand the field in Canada, including how it was more locally focused. Through volunteering and his mentor he was able to get a job with the TRCA working with the Network, but that wasn’t the only positive outcome of the relationship.

“My mentor is now a friend,” Danteu said. “That’s a pretty amazing thing.”

He’s hoping the 40 people accepted into the program have as good an experience with their mentors as he did.

The idea for the program stemmed from the increasing interest in the Environmental Volunteer Network. Of the 2,000 people registered, nearly 50 per cent were new Canadians, many of whom were trained professionals.

“They were also looking for rewarding work opportunities to get back into their field,” Danteu said.

Led by the Network, the program offers three main components: mentorship, technical and soft skills workshops, and a three- to 12-month paid work placement with a host organization. It targets the environmental sector and provides 40 internationally trained environmental professionals with experience in one of four fields: environmental planning, terrestrial or aquatic biology, ecology, and green building technologies.

“Toronto and Region Conservation has been providing green jobs for more than 50 years, and we’ve found that there is a current skills shortage,” said Marisa Iorfida-Sdao, senior project manager, volunteerism and diversity at TRCA. “There’s an untapped pool of talented, internationally trained environmental professionals out there with diverse skills in their field, but their lack of Canadian experience and networks are common barriers for finding a job in their field. The workshops and mentoring relationship will allow the participant to get the support and guidance from environmental professionals who can then help them improve their local knowledge, build new networks and open doors to employment opportunities where they can make a valuable contribution to their field.”

The program is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration as part of its investment in bridge training programs throughout the province. Danteu said it could run again in the future, though this round could last for two years.

“The idea is maybe to reshape it next time based on our experience to make it better,” he said.

Danteu is pleased to be a part of the project.

“I’m very happy to know it’s going to help 40 people get their foot into the environment field,” he said.

The application deadline is Monday, Oct. 5. To be eligible a candidate must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in their field and three years relevant work experience outside of Canada. The M2P Program is delivered in partnership with Skills for Change and ACCES Employment Services. For more information, visit www.trca.on.ca/m2p

Reference: InsideToronto.com