Good News Toronto
April  2009

By Emily Mills

Recently honoured at the third annual Immigrant Success (IS) Awards for her outstanding accomplishments, Patricia O’Connor has helped more than a hundred social workers from diverse backgrounds find employment in the Greater Toronto Area.

Patricia is the coordinator of field programming for the Internationally Educated Social Work Professionals (IESW) Bridging Program at Ryerson University’s Chang School of Continuing Education. The program is the first of its kind in Canada.

Patricia won the Toronto Star Immigrant Champion Award at the IS Awards, which are presented by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) and sponsored by RBC. The IS Awards recognize employers and individuals who demonstrate leadership by recruiting, retaining and promoting skilled immigrants in the workplace.

Launched in 2005, the IESW program has helped internationally educated social workers move successfully into employment by offering courses, individual consultations, mentorship, job hunting tips, supervised work placments, and outreach to employers. Within a year of completing the certificate program, more than 90 percent of graduates find employment in hostpitals, community health centres, child welfare agencies, women’s shelters, and other community-focused organizations.

With a n extensive resume and three decades of experiences as a community worker, teacher, health promoter, and advocate for social justice, Patricia was instrumental in creating the IESW program.

IESW graduate Christine Okech is one of the many beneficiaries of Patricia’s work. “I felt for the first time in a long time that nobody was judging or doubting me, and I met social workers from other countries and realized I was not alone.” Christine, originally from Kenya, now works as a child protection worker for the Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton. She nominated Patricia for the IS Awards and included testimonials from over a dozen IESW program graduates.

“The most meaningful part of winning this award is that the nomination came from internationally educated professionals who complete the program and are currently working in the field of social work,” says Patricia. “Their patience, courage, efforts, and the trust they placed in us have encouraged us to continue to work with creativity and persistence to build a strong program that delivers on its promises and leads to real change. Their endorsement of our approach inspires me to move forward with renewed commitment and enthusiasm.”

Patricia also coordinates a network of over 550 internationally educated social work professionals, and organizes educational workshops and presentations for employers to raise awareness about the ways in which immigrant professionals can make valuable contributions to their organizations.

Reference: Good News Toronto