Those two words may seem relatively innocent to some people, but to many newcomers, those words hang heavy over their hopes and aspirations for their new life in Canada.
Seeing the difficulty new immigrants often have in finding meaningful work due to a lack of Canadian experience, North York Community House launched its Stepping Stones to Leadership program in 2013 - with funding provided through a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
A TAILORED APPROACH
The Stepping Stones to Leadership program was developed as a way to increase newcomers’ success in the workplace, at school, and within their community by:
- Expanding personal networks
- Developing goal-specific knowledge and skills
- Building self-confidence
- Providing an introduction to Canadian workplace culture
What sets the program apart is that it encourages participants to determine their own goals for success, and then matches them with specific learning opportunities that work towards achieving those objectives.
This tailored approach is structured around mentorship and volunteerism, and offers various group, pair and one-on-one activities.
Through the Stepping Stones program, newcomers are connected with established Canadians who are able to share their knowledge, skills and experience. The support that these volunteer mentors provide can take many forms, from guiding a group on a workplace tour to regular one-on-one coaching sessions.
The added benefit of this mentorship model is that many past participants return to the program as mentors themselves, “paying it forward” to those just beginning the program.
Along with mentorship, Stepping Stones offers a variety of workshops that help participants enhance their knowledge and skills towards workplace success. These workshops cover a range of topics, from public speaking to stress management, and are often provided in tandem with other organizations.
As a way to help newcomers familiarize themselves with their city, group visits are planned to various places of interest across Toronto - such as Casa Loma, the Ontario Science Centre, and the Aga Khan Museum.
Volunteering is embedded into the Stepping Stones program because it serves as a way for newcomers to gain valuable work experience, build self-confidence and develop a deeper connection with their community.
Digital Storytelling has given NYCH a unique tool to capture the stories and experiences of our diverse community. During the fall of 2014, Stepping Stones participants had the opportunity to share their stories in a digital storytelling session.
THE IDEA MIXER
In September 2014, we held an event to celebrate the success of the Stepping Stones to Leadership program to date, as well as to raise the profile of the program and expand our network of contacts. This ‘Idea Mixer’ brought together program participants, graduates, and people from across the private, non-profit and public sectors.
Attendees enjoyed a wonderful evening of celebration and networking, hosted by the Shamba Foundation in downtown Toronto. The activities of the evening were designed to encourage the sharing of ideas and feedback to discuss the challenges newcomers face in establishing new careers in Canada and further strengthen the Stepping Stones to Leadership program.
- Over 95% of newcomers report increased competence in a targeted skill
- 77% have achieved more than one of their goals
- 20 corporate and community partners have contributed their employees’ volunteer time
The Stepping Stones to Leadership program continues to be a wonderful demonstration of all the skills, strengths and leadership newcomers contribute to the Canadian workforce and the broader community.
In the spring of 2015, the producers of the New Canadians TV show approached North York Community House to do a feature on the Stepping Stones program. It was a great opportunity to hear from current and past participants about the positive impact the program has had on them. The episode will air on Rogers Television in the coming weeks.
A symposium to share the insights gathered over the course of the program is scheduled for early 2016.
Scroll through the gallery of fun photos from our Idea Mixer at the Shamba Space in September 2014.