by Gloria Welton
Recently, newcomers to Canada and post-secondary graduates gathered at a PEI Connectors speed networking event to connect with local employers.
PEI Connectors helps newcomer entrepreneurs succeed in business on PEI and helps job seekers who are professionally trained interprovincial and international newcomers, as well as recent domestic and international post-secondary graduates, develop professional networks that connect them to the local labour market.
The program offers one-on-one support services, educational programming, and networking assistance. It is an initiative of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce; however, the services are available to all eligible clients across the Island.
The initiative connects new Islanders and new graduates to business and community leaders in order to grow professional networks to help with business startups or to expand career opportunities on the Island.
PEI Connectors offers services at no cost in English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Spanish, and Persian to encourage connections and provide necessary resources to job seekers and entrepreneurs. Clients looking for work are considered job ready and have proficient language skills for the work culture on PEI.
“In the last year, we served over 700 job seekers and entrepreneurs,” says Nicole Bellefleur, Director. “For some time now, we have heard from chambers across the Island that their members have labour shortages. We at PEI Connectors have a client base of job seekers who are very highly qualified.
“The challenge is to connect job seekers and employers. The networking events we offer are very effective in bridging that gap. Our highly skilled clients are very eager to hear about job opportunities and we are working hard to bring people together.”
Speed networking events
“At our speed networking events, clients mix and mingle with business professionals and community leaders to exchange information and contacts,” says Nicole. “These exchanges provide the opportunity for clients to share their professional backgrounds and goals for their business or career.
“Through one-on-one scheduled meetings, they can enhance their networking skills, build a professional network, and improve their job search on PEI.
“These in-person networking sessions really help to drop barriers. When people have a chance to meet each other, their personalities shine through. When connections are made, it gives people a chance to explore possibilities.”
Nicole says the informational interview environment poses less pressure, and people become more relaxed and less formal, which is very effective.
“It is hard to walk up to someone you don’t know at a Job Fair. At these networking events people have a set appointment with each other and the discussion is much more informal.
“This year’s speed networking event used a very targeted approach by featuring only 40 clients and 15 employers. Before the event, the clients told us what areas of work they were interested in exploring and then we matched their interests to employers representing that industry.
“Because of the success and the demand, we are thinking about bringing this type of event to the eastern and western ends of the province and inviting local employers.”
About the staff
Along with the Director, five Program Officers work in Charlottetown. “We also have two regional Program Officers, one in Prince County and one in Kings County.”
Nicole has been with the organization for eight years. “One staff member, Amy Zhang, has been with PEI Connectors for 11 years, pretty much when the program started. We are very fortunate to have so much experience within our team.
“The Program Officers follow the client along and work with them as they reach their entrepreneurial or employment goals on PEI.”
Nicole says the last few years have been hard on their clients with being isolated from their home country, financial commitments, and trying to navigate resources on PEI. “Our team is here to turn to for much-needed help.
“Many of our staff members have had experiences similar to our clients, with coming to PEI and needing to navigate resources and services and make connections. They can relate to our clients in a deep and genuine way that is very effective.
“I too did not have a lot of connections growing up and I certainly see how it makes such a difference to have a network and people you can call upon to help move forward with career goals.”
Funded through Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, ACOA, City of Summerside, and from the province through Island Development Investment Inc. and Department of Workforce, Advanced Learning, and Population.