Majari Mehta arrived in Canada from India two years ago armed with a PhD in seed technology and several years’ experience as a research associate under her belt.
Today, she’s gaining experience that she hopes will plant the seeds of success here.
The Mentoring to Placement for Environmental Professionals (M2P) program is a bridge training program led by Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). It’s designed to help internationally trained environment professionals land work in their fields.
“Many internationally trained professionals are highly skilled and often motivated to make a valuable contribution to their field,” says TRCA’s Marisa Iorfida-Sdao, senior project manager, volunteerism and diversity.
Participants must bring a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in their field.
“Often, they’re faced with a number of barriers, such as language and culture, lack of Canadian work experience and foreign credentials not being recognized,” Iorfida-Sdao says.
The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration helped launch the program, which is designed to help newcomers overcome such barriers through three components:
A mentoring placement that pairs them with a professional in their field for up to six months,
Technical and soft skills workshops specific to their profession,
A three to 12-month paid work placement with a host organization.
“Mentoring provides the participant with access to professional networks, helps improve their communication skills, provides them with labour market information and helps them make informed choices about employment,” Iorfida-Sdao says.
Through workshops, participants learn how to prepare a resume and develop interviewing techniques and job search strategies. “It helps them translate what they have into the Canadian context,” Iorfida-Sdao says.
Finally, the work placement helps them gain relevant Canadian work experience while making contacts and building networks.
In return, M2P helps host organizations promote more inclusive work environments and attract talent that can give them a competitive edge in a diverse and global economy, Iorfida-Sdao notes. “Newcomers can help Canadian companies effectively compete in a global economy. (This program) also helps them fill labour gaps.”
Mehta is eager to work in her field. Through M2P, she has helped TRCA map an urban forest study, and collect data for trail density and stream surveys.
“Now I am comfortable with the Canadian workplace,” she says. “I built up my courage and strength with the help of this program.”
For Lionel Normand, a terrestrial biologist with TRCA since 1993, being a mentor to Mehta has been a rewarding experience. On one occasion, he was happy to reassure her that it is culturally acceptable to express her opinion.
“When I told her that her opinion is valuable, I could see her confidence increase, which may have a positive impact in an interview,” he says. “I benefited by helping someone realize their potential, removing some of the external barriers. I find that very satisfying.”