They meet over coffee, or virtually, to strategize. From there, professional relationships grow, rooted in a sense of community and camaraderie.

Under the National Mentoring Partnership initiative (NMP), immigrant professionals pair with mentors for exactly that. The initiative, delivered through local employment agencies, aims to make the arduous job search less daunting through mentorship and continuous learning.

Spearheaded by RBC and TRIEC, the NMP launched in 2019, against a rising tide of immigration to Canada. That year, new Canadian immigrants under the Economic Class—a cohort of highly educated newcomers with in-demand skills— jumped 5.5% to a record high of 196,658 compared with the year prior. The momentum underscored Canada’s drive to increase immigration amid its greying population and declining birth rates.

The mentorship program, which links employers like Loblaw and TELUS to the regional talent pool, is a win-win strategy. Participating Canadian employers have gained greater insight into how to leverage newcomer talent to bolster corporate success. In turn, the initiative has opened doors for skilled immigrants.

Ting He, an immigrant professional who moved to Canada from China in 2016, is one of the program’s beneficiaries. Despite her MBA degree and years of banking experience, she found it challenging navigating the Canadian job market, having to juggle between a newborn baby and a need to brush up on her language skills. Family duties put her career on the backburner.

Ting He at home in Bedford, Nova Scotia. She moved to Canada from China in 2016. Photo Courtesy of Ting.

Early this year, eager to relaunch her career, Ting matched with a mentor in the banking sector through the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia. After regular check-ins with her mentor, her self-doubt began to dissipate. “Since participating in the mentoring program, my mentor had been encouraging me all along, which was very important to me,” she said.

Ting came away with more than just confidence. Tacit knowledge of the local job market helped, too. Through her mentor, she learned that the same jobs might have different titles in Canada. They arranged mock interviews. There were discussions of networking tips and etiquette. And at the urging of her mentor, she added the local volunteering experience to her resume, something she would not have done in China.

It paid off. In May, she started working for RBC in Bedford, Nova Scotia, as a client advisor, setting her on to a path that reflects her training and career vision.

She wasted no time in sharing the good news. “The minute I got an offer, I reached out to him to say thank you,” Ting said. Now, her mentor is a career connection. “We’re still in touch. Just a few weeks ago, we met up to talk about my new job and my career plans in the future.”

In Canada, where employment success often hinges on networking, mentorship plays an important role. A dearth of professional connections, along with sparse knowledge of labour market conditions, can hamper newcomers’ job search. According to a 2020 external evaluation of a TRIEC-led mentorship program, mentees were more successful in securing employment and growing their professional network, three months after program completion, than those who did not participate.

The NMP initiative has reached mentees from coast to coast through partnerships with local employment agencies. Nearly 80% of NMP participants arrived in Canada within three years of joining the program, and many hail from sectors including finance, information technology, human resources and marketing. So far, 1589 matches have been made, almost double the target.

“This program allows us to take what’s happening regionally and bring it up into national levels, as mentors share their experiences across the company in different ways,” said Cindy Laporte, senior HR advisor at TELUS.

She added, “We’re more linked in to what’s happening across the country and other regions, in our offices and in our community in terms of diversity.”

With the NMP program set to conclude at the end of December, established regional connections will remain and continue to serve immigrant professionals and employers.


Writer’s Note: This article uses Ting He’s given name throughout, contrary to the Canadian Press Style. The CP style stipulates that surnames be used on second reference. The decision is made to avoid possible confusion of her family name, He, with the English pronoun.