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The Connector Program-Making the human connections to open contact lists and open doors for youth and immigrants

Confronting the issue of youth unemployment lies in bridging the gap. There are so many talented young people on the hunt for a job and so many organizations and industries that are looking for that very candidate. However, the two may not always meet. There is a need for bridging this gap between the opportunities and the talent. This can be done in the simplest form-making the human connections. The Connector Program is the brainchild of the Greater Halifax Partnership designed to ignite connections between young people and industry leaders to bridge the employment gap in Halifax, Nova Scotia to help young people integrate into the workforce and settle in the community.

Photo of Greater Halifax Partnership
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The Connector Program works on a simple concept that the most powerful connection is a human one. There are so many driven, well-educated, enthusiastic young people who are ready to start their careers and dive into their industries of interest, but they also often face the employment barrier of being overlooked or missing the opportunities as their ideal job might not always make it onto the job bank sites. Word of mouth and professional networks are still a well-used means of finding and promoting jobs. Yet, without access to these professional networks, young people just getting established are potentially missing out on these jobs and opportunities as a result. 

The Connector Program is an idea to help bridge this gap. It works to give youth the opportunity to dive into their careers and industries of choice by meeting with local industry leaders (known as Connectors) to get some insights into the opportunitiesof their local job markets and introduce them to some other professional contacts to grow their professional network. 

It is a simple, yet effective networking program where local businesses and organizations are connected with immigrants, international students and recent graduates. The Connectors meet one-on-one with local youth to share their knowledge of the current labour market demands and promote their organization and industry, but also helps youth build their professional network and improve their local job search.

The program has been run by the Greater Halifax Partnership since 2009 and has seen the program help connect youth and talent to over 447 jobs. Given the simple structure of the program that merely functions on making the right introductions, it has been adapted nationally in over 14 different Canadian communities. 

However, we are curious about how this might work for other international communities as well? What does "networking" mean to you and your community? How would you like to adapt this to help bridge any gaps in your community to help youth tap into their local industries and career opportunities?

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

This idea can benefit everyone involved. On a larger scale communities that are able to retain their young talent are ones that will continue to grow and thrive. Helping to connect youth with local opportunities will not only benefit local businesses but will also help to strengthen the community. For the Connectors-the local industry professionals benefit by getting direct access to the diverse, young, enthusiastic and driven talent in their cities. This can help these organizations or businesses tap into a wealth of local talent and increase their hiring pool. For youth, this is beneficial as it helps them to find out more about their industries of interest and grow their professional networks to help them in their job hunt and throughout their entire career as some strong connections to draw on.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

This Connector Program can specifically increase access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people as it simply bridges the gap. It helps to create the human connection to connect young people with professionals in their fields and as such opens doors to future opportunities and employment.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

As the Connector Program has been in use by the Greater Halifax Partnership since 2009, it has proven local success. However, we are interested to see how this is applicable on an international scale. The resources and system used to help connect industry professionals to local youth and talent is relatively straight-forward and is currently accessed via an online portal. Any community could use the program by getting in touch with the Greater Halifax Partnership to get access to the Connector Toolkit that helps outline how to use the online portal, how to sign up connectors and how to get local youth to participate. For a community to participate, all that is required is an open-mind and positive attitude. Introducing the youth to industry professionals can be as simple and labour-intensive as sending out an email to introduce a young person and an industry leader.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

We would love to find out how you might see this working and adapting to suit the needs of your community? What does your typical job hunt look like? Does networking help? If so what does that look like? Do you feel there is anything we can do to make this easier or more adaptable? Please share any and all of your thoughts and feedback.

The idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • I'm more throwing the idea out there to inspire potential implementers

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Photo of Bernice Chan
Team

This sounds like a very interesting initiative. Would love to learn more about your experiences, successes, and lessons learned from the Connectors Program.

As Meena mentioned, your insights and experiences with the Connectors is a great asset and can really help strengthen the ideas for the challenges e.g. https://openideo.com/challenge/youth-employment-pathways/feedback-1/coffee-chat-network-bringing-people-innovation-and-opportunities-together

Love this initiative. Thank you for sharing this. Can't wait to hear more your experiences and insights and explore opportunities to collaborate

Cheers,

Bernice

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