Net­work­ing pro­gram aims to con­nect

South Shore Breaker - - Games - HEATHER DESVEAUX hdesveaux@gmail.com

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.”

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