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Meet Richard: Integrating into the Communities

Updated: Jun 15, 2023


1. How did you get involved with newcomers?


Newcomers have been an important part of my personal and professional life for many years – so much so that much of my education, volunteer and professional experience has been focussed on supporting newcomers in some capacity, whether through facilitating English conversation circles, advancing labour mobility, foreign qualification recognition, fair access to regulated professions and trades and broader corporate equity, diversity and inclusion work or playing a significant role in the internationalization of one of the region’s post-secondary institutions.


Currently, I’m working to build a new Global Engagement Community Development (GECD) Program for SLC and our tri-campus communities (Brockville, Cornwall and Kingston) in support of our international students. More specifically, our program seeks to ensure that our international students continue to be welcomed and supported both on and off-campus throughout their student journey and more intentionally connected to employers and ultimately careers in SLC communities as alumni.


2. What have you learned from the experience(s)?


Ultimately, from my perspective, despite our unique differences we’re ALL more similar than the collective ‘we’ may take the time to appreciate, we’re all newcomers to this land (unless you’re Indigenous) and we’re all learning along the way.


Inviting newcomers to this land is, or should be, a two-way exchange and learning process, similar to how we must continue to approach the very necessary and ongoing path to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.


In my view, this is the only way that we’ll all (whether settler, newcomer or Indigenous) feel a greater sense of belonging in our communities, establish shared understanding, connection to and respect for this beautiful land we’re fortunate enough to call home.


3. Has your involvement with newcomers changed your perspective on anything/your workplace? If so, what and how?


It has broadened my understanding of the immense assets newcomers bring to our workplaces and communities. Cultural (and all) diversity in the workplace is immensely beneficial to not only an organization’s bottom line but to the clients/customers served, the inspiring nature of diverse representation for prospective employees and young people and, ultimately, to our communities!


4. What do you think is most helpful for newcomers to know about working in Canada?


My top three items include understanding that:

1. Networking is important to both your social and professional success and is perhaps even more important in smaller communities;

2. Your successful integration into the Canadian workplace should ideally consist of a shared, two-way learning process with your employer and co-workers, not simply you learning about the Canadian workplace and fitting in; and,

3. Many people are here to help you and we’re glad you chose Canada and our region. Welcome!

5. What impact do you think newcomer workers have had on the region/Canada?


Given my role at SLC, I’d like to note that international students alone contribute over $22.3 billion to Canada’s economy (Global Affairs, 2018). The vast majority of international students in Canada work part-time during their studies and many wish to remain and work full-time after graduation. St. Lawrence College, for example, welcomes students to this region every year from over 60 countries around the world. Our region not only benefits economically from this growing group of newcomers but goes far beyond the economy by enriching the social and cultural fabric of each of our communities, similar to other newcomers.


6. What do you wish people knew about newcomer workers?


Our country and region relies heavily on newcomers. Please never forget we are a country of newcomers and our demographics rely on immigration for our prosperity and sustainability.


Current trends are an important reminder of this reality.


7. Is there anything you’d change about how employment in Canada works?


In my view, we need to have greater recognition of the foreign qualifications, skills and experiences of newcomers to Canada – there’s an overdue need for ‘us’ to shift our mindset and see these as immense assets of prospective employees, not deficits.


8. Do you have advice for anyone looking to hire/work with newcomers?


Be open to hiring newcomers (including international students and graduates), help intentionally facilitate their success and retention and reach out to those organizations and services that can help, if you need.


International students/graduates of St. Lawrence College, for example, bring a wide range of benefits to any employer, including:

· Educated and trained at St. Lawrence College

· Fluency in multiple languages

· Intercultural knowledge and experience

· International networks and potential links to new, global markets

· Meeting labour needs with strong work ethic and determination

· Ability to adapt to new environments and cultures

· Improving team diversity while adding fresh perspectives

· Establishing further connections to new talent pipelines

· In some cases, offers current team members new opportunities to teach and mentor


9. What do you think Leeds and Grenville needs to do to attract/retain newcomers?


The region has the talent, expertise and resources to successfully attract and retain newcomers of all types to the region while also acting as a model for other communities to look to. In my view, our success to do so sustainably will ultimately rest on our ability as a region to be deeply collaborative, to embrace the change needed and to proactively welcome newcomers with open arms in both our workplaces and in our communities – all while publicly showcasing our successes along the way. We all have a role to play!


If you have questions about the work that St. Lawrence College is doing to retain students in our region after graduation, please reach out. You may reach me at rwebster@sl.on.ca.

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