Toronto Star
April 2, 2009

Noor Javed
Staff Reporter

When Malcolm Barrington heard about a new program at work seeking mentors for new Canadians, he signed up to help.

“The minute I saw the notice, I joined. I didn’t think twice,” says Barrington, an operating unit manager at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation. “It was a no-brainer for me.”

The city’s largest social housing provider, TCHC is one of many companies involved in a city-wide mentoring partnership program run by Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).

Since the program launched at TCHC in late 2007, the number of mentors at the company has increased every year.

“I’ve also been an immigrant and understand exactly what the issues are,” says Barrington, who was born in Guyana but lived in England for 10 years before coming to Canada in 1994. “The culture is different, the workplace is different, and even the dress code is different. I just wanted to give back in some way.”

So far, there have been 52 mentoring relationships, involving 39 mentors from TCHC. Of those, 25 “mentees” found employment, says Jennifer de Four, manager of workplace and safety at TCHC who organizes the mentoring program.

“We really try to reflect the diversity of the people we serve,” says Barrington, 49, who was matched with Taofeeq Olatinwo, 43, who came to Toronto from Nigeria in 2007. “We meet people from all walks of life, and we want our staff to represent that.”

Olatinwo had worked in Europe and Africa as a project manager for a large company, but found it difficult to get his foot in the door when he arrived in Toronto.

The mentorship program helps newcomers make connections in the corporate world. The program is available only to those deemed “job-ready” and those who are in a professional line of work. The mentor is expected to spend 24 hours in consultation with the mentee, which can be in person, over the phone or through email.

Barrington first invited Olatinwo to the TCHC, and introduced him to his colleagues. They also spent time talking about Olatinwo’s struggles and challenges, and past work experience. Over time, their relationship moved to the phone, where they would spend time discussing interviews, and job options.

“He gave me a lot of confidence,” says Olatinwo. “He told me, you are professional and have worked around the world, you shouldn’t strive for anything lower. He reassured me.”

Eventually, Olatinwo got the job he wanted: a project manager with Enbridge in Richmond Hill – a job similar to what he was doing in Nigeria before he left.

“He told me I was one of the first people he called (with the news),” says Barrington. “We were able to build a relationship that helped to ground him in a way that (we) would have not been able to if this program didn’t exist.”

[TRIEC editor’s note – Olatinwo took part in The Mentoring Partnership at COSTI Immigrant Services]

Reference: Toronto Star