Volunteers, Mentees and Interns Are All Sources of Skilled Immigrant Talent

Newcomers are the largest group coming to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) for volunteer opportunities. As such, it’s important for TRCA to learn about attitudes towards nature because different cultures experience nature in different ways.

This is where the Volunteerism and Diversity Co-ordinator comes in. The co-ordinator is responsible for the Environmental Volunteer Network (EVN), of which 35 environmental and community agencies are members.

The goal of the network is to provide diverse volunteers with hands-on work experience and education in the field of conservation and environment, while providing non-profit environmental and municipal agencies in TRCA’s jurisdiction with ready, willing and able environmental volunteers. Many of these agencies, including TRCA, also use the network as a hiring pool.

TRCA also hires from various job boards that cater to immigrants and encourages its employees to become mentors, as both a source for potential new hires and as valuable leadership training for employees.

Many employees take on more than one mentee and TRCA sees this as ongoing — and free — diversity training. The staff gets the opportunity to work one-on-one with new immigrants and dispel any pre-conceived notions they may have held.

The conservation authority also partners with Career Bridge, providing internships for skilled immigrants. In the HR department, one Career Bridge intern was hired on before her term was over because they didn’t want to lose her. What became apparent quite quickly was that strategies that had always been perceived as exclusively North American were very familiar to the newcomer.

Tips for employers:

  • Mentoring skilled immigrants provides employees with leadership training and creates a pipeline to a new source of talent for the organization.
  • Internships give organizations the opportunity to test out a skilled immigrant to see if her skills and experiences are a good fit.

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) is a public agency mandated under the Conservation Authorities Act to conserve and manage natural resources. Responsibilities include flood management and warnings, public education and tree planting. The land it manages extends from the Humber River west of Toronto to the Rouge River in the east, and south from the Oak Ridges Moraine, including parts of Lake Ontario. TRCA employs about 400 people in the GTA.

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