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Finding Value in Community with Professional Immigrant Networks

Friday | April 20, 2018 | by Shaunna-Marie Kerr

professional immigrant networks Canada

What do organizations like the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association, Indo-Canadian Community of Professionals, and the Chinese Workers Support Network have in common? They are all examples of professional immigrant associations. Volunteer-led and run by skilled immigrants, each association is organized based on a profession, ethnicity, or both, and has a mandate to support skilled immigrants in achieving career success in Canada.

As a leading destination for immigrants, Toronto is home to the largest concentration of professional immigrant associations; since 2010, these individual associations have been supported by the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) under the Professional Immigrant Networks (PINs) program.

PINs association activities include:

  • Mentoring programs
  • Information sessions
  • Workshops
  • Guest speaker events
  • Networking events

What Do PINs Do?

Aside from the career-building activities for members that are organized on a regular basis, each PINs association is also focused on raising awareness, fostering collaboration, and developing leaders. Covering a wide range of professions and ethnicities, PINs associations not only raise awareness of the challenges skilled immigrants face entering the labour market, but also highlight the specific opportunities employers and industries can tap into by hiring skilled immigrants.

The PINs program fosters collaboration by sharing resources and best practices across individual associations and developing innovative programs with employers and partner organizations. In a 2013 survey, 85 percent of respondents agreed that they had benefited from this collaboration. Developing leaders and increasing the capacity of individuals through various learning opportunities and referrals is the third focus area of the PINs program.

Benefits of Joining a Professional Immigrant Association

As a skilled immigrant, joining a professional immigrant association can be a great step on your journey to career success. In addition to regular networking events and mentorship opportunities, PINs associations consistently provide members with valuable information on licensing, employment opportunities, and labour market trends. With some exceptions, most PINs associations do not charge membership fees, making membership one of the most cost-effective investments in career development.

Marcela Chein is a PINs leader and president of EXATEC Ontario, which was founded as an alumni association for a university in Mexico. She recently shared the impact of PINs on the start of her career in Canada. Marcela came to Canada in 2013 and found EXATEC Ontario through her research into groups for skilled immigrants. They have members from a wide range of professions including engineering, architecture, business, human resources, and information and communication technology.

Through her attendance at quarterly meetings, Marcela met and connected with another member of the group who recommended her for a job opening.  Marcela secured that role and eventually became the association leader of EXATEC Ontario. In addition to her current role as a Student and Employment Coordinator for the Information and Communication Technology Council, Marcela is also now a member of the PINs Advisory Committee.

As Marcela shared, “Joining a professional association has many benefits for newcomers in Canada. They get the opportunity to meet and connect with other immigrants in Canada. Learning from others’ experiences also allows us to relate to their life experiences and get a new perspective.”

For more information on how to find a PINs association near you, visit the PINs Directory.

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Shaunna-Marie Kerr

Shaunna-Marie Kerr is the Program Manager at WES Global Talent Bridge Canada.