New Canadians benefit from YMCA’s networking event

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Pradip Rodrigues

Recently the YMCA of Greater Toronto’s Next Stop Canada program hosted a well-organized community networking event which was aimed at helping new Canadians who’ve been in the country for a year or less.

Well over a hundred earnest newcomers were given a priceless opportunity to network and listen to the advice and experiences of seven former newcomers who’ve gone on to contribute and become productive members of society. They also had the opportunity to connect with 15 community and employment service agencies that were on hand to answer their questions and provide the kind of services they required.

Next Stop Canada is a pan Canada online, pre-arrival settlement service funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

In an interview with Can-India, Medhat Mahdy President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Toronto was more than satisfied with the positive effect of the program on newcomers. “It helps prepare new Canadians for the workplace and gives them the ability to make a connection, find work in their fields of expertise. That is the number one challenge facing them,” he said.

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Many of the new Canadians make their initial contact with Next Stop Canada online prior to them setting foot in the country. This online interaction helps orient them about the Canadian workplace and prepares them for what they can expect.

One of the biggest challenges new Canadians with children face is how to keep their children engaged while they go out networking, studying or working. That is why YMCA started a program called Newcomer Youth Leadership Development Program (NYLD) which is geared toward the age-group of 12 to 18.

Under the able stewardship of Medhat Mahdy, its CEO, the YMCA in the GTA has realized that for new immigrants to be successful, networking with agencies and other individuals is essential and so there are plenty of such networking opportunities held throughout the year to connect new immigrants with more specialized agencies, partners and other mentors who can chaperone them onto their pathway of social and professional integration.

Among the speakers at the event were Riyan Mody, currently a senior IT Recruitment Consultant with RBC who gave the participants a lesson in the mistake made by most rookie newcomers. He admitted how hard it was for him to find a job in Canada at the level he was hoping for. He quickly realized and advised new immigrants to accept that once they move to a new must accept the currency of that country. “My US experience didn’t count; each country has a different currency exchange for education and experience. I took a job of a security guard, then as a sales person loading TVs into customers’ cars….” He gave these examples to illustrate how new immigrants should approach survival and temporary jobs while also working on the transferable skills.

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Another speaker Taranum Khan, a career strategist at Career Professionals of Canada offered more sage advice for those gathered. “Always perform at one notch above the rest,” she said. She also emphasized the importance of being willing not just to learn but also to unlearn. But her most important piece of advice to the serious bunch of earnest newcomers was “Smile and work on the likability factor and be approachable,” she said.

Each speaker gave their own unique experiences and were there after the talk segment to answer more questions from the new immigrants who had plenty of questions for them.

In more recent years, a growing number of new immigrants first arrive in gateway cities like Toronto and later after gaining experience end want to explore opportunities in other cities or towns and in that case, YMCA in the GTA will put them in touch with the local YMCA that exists in the city they are moving to. The YMCA in the other city will then give the Toronto transplant access to any of the available programs, partners and other opportunities to network.

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The Next Top Canada program simply affirmed that YMCA in on top of things when it comes to anticipating the needs of newcomers and being pro-active in its approach. Fortunately, in the GTA, Mahdy points out that the “YMCA has a robust volunteer program” where former clients of the organization come back to share their experiences and help other newcomers find their way forward. -CINEWS

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