Alberta Mentorship Program: Bridging Cultural Differences

Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC) has been establishing a strong mentorship culture for newcomers within the Edmonton region since 2008. We were really excited to help extend this culture throughout the province by becoming part of the Alberta Mentorship Program (AMP). The program is a joint project of mentorship and employment organizations and the Alberta and federal governments, started in 2019. It is led by ERIEC Executive Director Doug Piquette in collaboration with a provincial project team and stakeholder advisory committee. The project is made possible with funding provided by the Government of Alberta through an agreement with the Government of Canada.

While the resources provided by the Alberta Mentorship Program can help any kind of career mentorship, the primary focus is on programs and participants who are supporting newcomers to Canada. Mentorship can help smooth the transition for newcomers as they look for work or try to understand the Canadian workplace culture. AMP is providing resources through its website and pilot programs with two Alberta community organizations.

Moving to a new country and a new culture is an exciting change, but it can be challenging. Feeling like you know how to “fit in” can be stressful and even more so if you are looking for a job. This is the reality for newcomers who arrive in Alberta. The AMP wants to help ease the transition for newcomers across the province.

Piquette has seen how mentorship programs can be an important part of a successful, professional transition. This becomes even more important during challenging economic times. “Really what mentorship does is that it allows, especially in the case of professional immigrants, the possibility of getting insider information about what the Canadian workplace is like,” he says.

By having a mentoring partner who “gets” Canadian culture, mentees can ask questions in a safe space where they will not be seen as silly or unimportant. When a mentor is able to recognize cultural differences, they will be better listeners and more able to support their mentee. They can also help pinpoint the differences during the mentoring relationship in a way that supports a more directed job search.

But it is more than just the small cultural differences that matter. It is about seeing how the newcomer’s skills fit into the Canadian job market. The mentor may be aware of opportunities in Canada that tap into the mentee’s skills in a way that they did not consider. A mentorship program can help newcomers learn about the work culture and behaviour in their new home. It can help them find work and fit into their new workplace.

Pilot Program

A key part of the Alberta Mentorship Program is the pilot program. Two community partner organizations are currently running pilot mentorship programs building on their work with mentorship and immigrant services.

Our Southern Alberta pilot site, Lethbridge Family Services, was doing what many mentorship programs do. “We ran off the side of our desk,” says Tyler Ramsay. Participating in the pilot program gave them the support and mentoring they needed to solidify and grow their program. “The AMP helped to bring structure, best practices, and measurability to our mentorship program,” says Ramsay. “Without the AMP we would likely never have been able to have the same level of success that we are currently experiencing.”

Northern Alberta YMCA in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo found similar success growing their program with the support of our pilot program. “The journey to refine our mentorship supports to the Fort McMurray region has seen successes and challenges, and while this is but one aspect of the programming we offer, it has significant importance for those seeking mentorship,” says Erin Brann.

These pilots are supported by our program partners including ERIEC and the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Councils (CRIEC). Tapping into the experience of ERIEC and CRIEC builds on their success and shares it with our pilot program. AMP’s mission is to spread mentorship in a way that is engaging and sustainable throughout the province. Part of that is to connect mentorship programs so they can share experiences, challenges, and ideas.

Both pilot sites found this connection invaluable. “The biggest support for me was having the help of ERIEC and CRIEC through various bumps and barriers.” Says Ramsay. “Whether it was a quick email, connecting me to additional people/resources, or bouncing feedback off of them of what I was seeing.”

“Coming together and learning from the expertise of ERIEC and other agencies has been instrumental in the progress that we have made and in the way that our mentorship project is shaping up,” says Brann. “Having these supports in place for guidance and resources helps us succeed in our efforts.”

Creating a freely accessible website that addresses all stages of a mentorship program was a key goal of our program. The site contains success stories; information to support mentors and mentees, program administrators, and employers; and samples, forms, and planning tools for participants and programs.

As part of the project, our pilot partners are evaluating our resources and providing feedback so we can further develop website features and content to create a self-contained platform that can help any organization launch their own mentorship program.

How can you get involved?

Join us! We are holding a free, online session on Tuesday, November 24, 2020 at 10 am to celebrate the official launch of our website. Register for your spot today.

Spread the word. Follow AMP on Twitter (@ABMentorship) and LinkedIn (Alberta Mentorship). Share this blog to others who might be interested in our program.

Connect to us. A key part of the AMP website will be to collect information about existing mentorship programs and other services for newcomers so we can connect Albertans to you. Let AMP know if you want to be added to our organizational directory.

Try out our resources. After the launch, AMP will be sharing our free Resource Guide and website so you have lots of templates, forms, samples, information that will support you whether you are a mentorship program, potential employer, mentor, or mentee. Sign up for our virtual launch and get the guide straight to your inbox.