Addressing Canada’s “mentoring gap” could unleash the potential of newcomers
Published January 3, 2022.
Mentoring is considered a valuable tool for new Canadians looking to establish their careers and lives in their new country. But across Canada, there is a critical shortage of mentors for immigrants and refugees despite growing demand.
A 2020 report by Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) Mentoring Partnership confirms the “mentoring gap” experienced by newcomers across Canada. It found there are thousands more immigrants and refugees interested in having or wanting a mentor to help them establish their careers in Canada than there are mentors or formal programs to serve them.
Add to this shortage a lack of awareness about mentorship among newcomers. Véronique Church-Duplessis is the Director of Research and Evaluation at MENTOR Canada, a coalition of organizations focused on growing mentorship awareness across the country. She says the main barriers keeping newly-arrived individuals from accessing mentorship opportunities include not knowing how to find a mentor, where to look for a mentoring program and not being aware of or not understanding what mentoring is and how it could benefit them.
The benefits of mentoring for newcomers have been widely reported and researched with positive impacts on professional and social outcomes, personal growth, settlement experiences, and mental health benefits. Notably, beneficial effects for mentors themselves have also been demonstrated. For example, improved coaching skills, networking potential, and increased confidence and personal satisfaction.
Filling the mentorship gap
MENTOR Canada is working to address barriers to mentoring access by increasing the profile of mentoring programs across the country, building awareness of mentoring, and helping organizations and schools provide mentoring opportunities.
As TRIEC reported, the critical shortage of newcomer mentors means limited access to mentorship opportunities and an “unmet demand” among immigrants and refugees. This applies to a wide variety of industries ranging from engineering, architecture, information technology and marketing to media, communications, the pharmaceutical and health care sectors, according to TRIEC.
Church-Duplessis suggests a culture of mentoring can be applied to most any area of employment and the number of organizations recognizing its strategic value continues to increase.
“Many, if not all industries, can promote a mentoring mindset in their work culture or even implement a mentoring program to help more employees feel supported, welcomed, and help them realize their potential. Many trades have a long history of mentoring and it is now common in many industries. The number of mentoring programs in workplaces keeps growing,” she adds.
MENTOR Canada and TRIEC recommend employers play a significant role in addressing and responding to Canada’s mentorship gap. With increased employer engagement and greater capacity, TRIEC argues more newcomers, as many as 40 per cent, could benefit from mentoring in their personal and professional lives.
The mentoring gap can be filled and newcomer potential fulfilled, as a result.
Where new Canadians can look for mentoring support
Several organizations in different parts of the country, including Windmill Microlending, offer mentoring programs for newcomers. These include: