Networking program aims to connect
Networking is not a new concept, but there is a new networking program in the Valley called the Connector Program and it’s been proving its worth from the day it debuted in Kentville on Wednesday, Sept. 19.
As the name suggest, the Connector Program connects business and community leaders (connectors) with community members (connectees), but ones who are new residents and/or underemployed work-ready professionals in their industry to help them integrate into the community.
It allows connectees the opportunity to enhance local knowledge, learn about the job market and build a professional network by matching them with others who provide additional references that person can also connect with socially and professionally.
The program, under the umbrella of the Valley Regional Enterprise Network, is funded by Employment Nova Scotia under the Department of Labour and Advanced Education. It launched in Halifax in 2009 and is now international.
“It began as a means to help immigrants break into the job market in Halifax,” says Emily Kennedy, the Valley’s project co-ordinator. Meetings begin with a cup of coffee and an informal chat about what the person does for a living, discussing trends, advice and anything the connectee wants to ask. At the end, the connector then refers them to three more people they can approach. “It’s like speed-dating for job seekers and I get to be cupid.”
“I’m excited to see what happens. There was a lot of visioning that happened to create the program,” said Belinda Tupper, the project’s agreement manager who works for the province. “It makes sense to me that newcomers and recent graduates would benefit from experienced people helping them along. It might happen for some people naturally, but to have people who sign on to make a commitment to make it happen is wonderful.”
Brenda Lagrandeur manages the Connector Program for the western region, which includes Yarmouth County, Digby County and the Municipality of Barrington.
“It’s been fantastic and it’s been a retention tool because we’re helping people that are already living in our region; we’re not trying to recruit people to come. We’re working with people who have already chosen to live a rural life, so half that battle is already done.” With 63 clients, they’ve exceeded the target of 50 for their first year. “It helps people who just don’t know who to talk to or where to turn,” said Lagrandeur.
The event attracted people like Renata Tweedy, who saw an ad for the event pop up on a social media account that morning. Tweedy works with an organization in Shelburne but lives in
Kings County and would eventually like to transition to a more local position.
“I’ve been with the organization for seven years, but it’s evolving beyond what they need from me being away, so if we’re going to be settling here in two years time, what is the next step for me? How am I going to find the connections that I need? So the idea is delightful. This program just seems like a good place to do that.”
“It’s very difficult to meet people socially, but especially professionally when you are divided in your time and your thinking. It’s my desire to be able to invest here in the way that I’m investing there. So it’s just not my goal to find a job; it’s about finding where I can do the most good with the skills and experience that I have.”