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Building Bridges: Altered Minds and the Newcomer Employment Hub’s Impact on DEI

March 5, 2024

4-minute read

Hey there! I’m Veronica Valenzuela, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. I’m also the person behind the scenes of the Newcomer Employment Hub (the Hub), the official job board of CODE —a standout initiative reflecting our Commitment to Opportunity, Diversity, and Equity. 

Since my arrival in Winnipeg in 2022, my newcomer journey has been a continuous exploration and evolution. In 2023, I was fortunate to join The Chamber, and it was during this time that my involvement with the Hub made me deeply aware of the invaluable support offered to newcomers by remarkable settlement agencies, such as Altered Minds. Altered Minds function as supportive partners, aids newcomers in achieving their goals while helping local businesses tap into international talent.  

I had the privilege of engaging with the passionate staff members of Altered Minds. Our aim was to understand the inner workings of the organization and unveil its groundbreaking strategies for fostering diversity, inclusion, and community empowerment. Let’s dive into the valuable insights they generously shared with us: 

What is Altered Minds, Inc. (AMI)’s primary mission in supporting newcomers, and how has it influenced the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in Winnipeg’s business community? 

Altered Minds, Inc. (AMI) is dedicated to its primary mission of building stronger communities and fostering positive change globally. The organization actively pursues this mission by providing responsive and accessible programs and services tailored to assist immigrants in overcoming barriers. Guided by the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), AMI has developed core programs, including Settlement Online Pre-arrival (SOPA) and Computers for Life (C4L). 

SOPA plays a pivotal role in helping immigrants secure jobs related to their professions upon their arrival in Canada. Beyond initial job placement, SOPA ensures job retention and professional advancement through offerings such as Workplace Culture and Communication courses, workshops, and assistance in obtaining foreign credentials. SOPA provides a seamless transition and integration into Canadian society. C4L equips participants with essential digital skills, enabling them to access government services, engage in online transactions, and find employment opportunities. Primarily catering to individuals with low income, limited English proficiency, and no prior computer background, C4L addresses crucial gaps in digital literacy, contributing to the overall empowerment of newcomers. 

AMI’s commitment to DEI is exemplified by its intentional hiring practices. Program staff and interns predominantly consist of immigrants from various ethno-linguistic groups, fostering an inclusive work environment. 

How do AMI pre-arrival programs prepare individuals for effective integration into the local workforce, and how do these efforts contribute to the city’s economic development? 

Launched in 2015 and funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in partnership with ISANS and SOPA MB provides a significant pre-arrival program operating within a network of six settlement agencies across Canada. The 2023 SOPA report indicated nearly 4,000 immigrants received assistance, offering essential services like employment counseling, job-search assistance, and guidance on Canadian workplace culture. The program goes beyond job-search support, actively contributing to participants’ ability to retain employment by fostering an understanding of Canadian workplace norms. 

This collaborative effort enhances economic development by empowering immigrants with essential skills, contributing to a more robust and diverse workforce, and fueling economic growth. The 2023 report also underscores the tangible impact of SOPA MB in bridging the gap between newcomers and the Canadian workforce. 

How does AMI collaborate with local businesses to address common challenges and myths surrounding the hiring of individuals who have not yet arrived in the country? 

AMI facilitates monthly networking events, employer connect sessions, and virtual job fairs, creating a dynamic platform for meaningful interactions between newcomers and employers. This approach not only builds communication but also initiates the process of building strong relationships. With these initiatives, AMI dispels common challenges and myths associated with hiring individuals who have not yet arrived in the country, fostering a supportive environment for both employers and newcomers in navigating the hiring process. 

What’s a common myth businesses in Winnipeg encounter when considering hiring new residents, and how does AMI work to debunk them? 

It’s essential to debunk Myth: individuals may not be immediately available for interviews or employment. Fact: SOPA’s clients, upon landing, are already permanent residents with a high proficiency in English and substantial skills and education. Over the past 8 years, SOPA consistently shows that many participants secure interviews and job offers either before arrival or immediately upon landing, showcasing the readiness and capabilities of pre-arrival immigrants in the workforce. 

How has AMI incorporated the Hub into its services to support newcomers in their job search, and how has this partnership benefited the local business community in terms of diversity and talent? 

SOPA MB sends weekly job features from the Hub to all pre-arrival clients. This encourages clients to create accounts and explore job opportunities available through the Hub, enhancing their job search experience. 

The partnership between SOPA MB and the Hub extends beyond facilitating job searches. SOPA participants bring a rich tapestry of skills, talent, and innovative ideas. As a result, this collaboration provides valuable connections for newcomers but also serves as a catalyst for linking the local business community with international markets. The infusion of diverse perspectives fosters a more inclusive and dynamic business environment, showcasing the tangible benefits of this impactful partnership. 

There’s no denying the vital role agencies like Altered Minds play in elevating the newcomer experience and championing DEI in Winnipeg. We take immense pride in our partnership with them through the Newcomer Employment Hub, as this collaboration actively contributes to the city’s economic growth by connecting local businesses with diverse talents cultivating a vibrant and inclusive community that enjoys benefits for all involved. 

If you’re curious to learn more about Altered Minds and explore the programs they offer, don’t miss these valuable links: 

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