Y Employer Engagement Event Sparks Crucial Employment Discussions

Immediate Release – March 25, 2021

SAINT JOHN, NB – YMCA Newcomer Connections is thrilled to have hosted its first online Employer Engagement Brunch and Forum (EEBF) on March 23. The event, created in a new virtual platform called REMO, provided a new and interactive experience to its attendees.

Members of the Y Newcomer Connections team met virtually with more than 60 community stakeholders, including representatives of the business community, parliament, local government, social development organizations, and more, to spark meaningful conversation on challenges faced by newcomers and businesses alike in hiring and retaining workers in the region.

Olive Ozoemena, Manager of Newcomer Programming, commenced the morning by recognizing the social and economic issues faced by newcomers and employers. She then went on to give land acknowledgements to the Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet), Passamaquoddy, and Mi’kmaq Peoples before giving her seat to Kathryn Melvin, General Manager of Newcomer and Community Connections. In the first portion of the event, Melvin facilitated words of acknowledgement from local government officials, including Honorable Mayor Don Darling. Member of Parliament (MP), Wayne Long, was also in attendance and had previously kick-started the initiative with a $1.2 million grant through the Service Delivery Improvement (SDI) Funding Stream.

“I’m very passionate about having a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming community. We could not do this without YMCA Newcomer Connections and all of the groups that are working on helping people,” said Mayor Darling.

Mayor Darling went on to discuss the need for open discussions, acknowledging that employment, housing, and an open and welcoming sense of community is crucial for any newcomer settling in the region.

“Why Saint John? [We have the] friendliest people anywhere so we need to duplicate that for anyone who comes into our community,” he said.

He then went on to address panelists, urging them to speak with honesty and integrity on the experiences they have undergone when hiring and working with local newcomers as well as how they were able to foster partnerships to bridge visible gaps.

“I would urge everyone to speak with honesty, to talk about the gaps, to push ourselves to come together in ways we’ve never come together before, to talk about our resources, to make sure the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted because it matters,” said Mayor Darling.

Melvin went on to welcome four guest speakers to the stage: Valentin Boinitski, Project Manager for the Saint John Local Immigration Partnership; Julia Skidan, a member of the Employment and Training Working Group with the Local Immigration Partnership; Ashley Dooks, Corporate Recruiter for OSCO Construction Group; and Michael Griffin, Employment Manager for Working NB. These representatives discussed their organizations’ experiences in hiring and retaining newcomers and took part in a detailed Q&A session.

“In hosting the Employer Engagement Brunch and Forum, our goal was to bring together employers, key stakeholders, and community partners to have discussions on how to bridge gaps in newcomer employment through honest and meaningful discussions,” said Melvin.

Following the forum, stakeholders took part in the brunch portion of the event, then broke out into roundtable discussion, for which data was collected by the YMCA to help shape its employment and professional development programs for newcomers.

Participants were asked to discuss experiences in dealing with labor shortages and how they work to resolve the issue. They were asked as well to share their hardships in hiring and retaining newcomers, how they work to challenge cultural and racial bias in the workplace, and how they utilize support services in the community to help achieve a more inclusive space for all.

“Getting the chance to have these discussions was a key component of the event, not only to help us shape our programs and services, but also to provide employers a safe space to share experiences and get an understanding of the contribution newcomers bring to the workforce,” said Melvin.

The final piece of the EEBF was an introduction to the YMCA Newcomer Connections’ Cultural Competency Training, currently offered by Chris Squire, the Social Inclusion Facilitator. Newcomer Connections offers this training to promote inclusiveness among professional organizations. It allows them the opportunity to reflect and examine their policies, internal biases, and practices to challenge the status quo.

The event ended with closing remarks from Ozoemena.

“As we leave today, if you think of any ways we can help or support your organization, please reach out to us,” she said. “We do hope that discussions continue as a way to not only address the emerging gaps in our labour market, following this pandemic, but we also want to create collaborations among community organizations.”

The EEBF is part of the three-year, federally funded Service Delivery Program, in which the YMCA helps newcomers better integrate into the Greater Saint John community by improving the accessibility and quality of settlement services as well as improving employer engagement to address workforce challenges. This program’s intention is to assist newcomers in finding meaningful jobs in their desired

sectors via language training, skills development programs, and exposing local employers to global recruitment opportunities.

The EEBF welcomed over 60 attendees from more than 30 local organizations. Among the crowd were representatives from UNB Saint John, City of Saint John, Working NB ,OSCO Construction Group, EDGSJ Saint John, the Saint John Local Immigration Partnership, Gilbert McGloan Gillis, NTI Boilers Inc., Royal Bank of Canada, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, World Financial Group, Loch Lomond Villa, Inc., MAP Strategic Workforce Services, Coast Tire &Auto Service Ltd., Government of New Brunswick, Rukky Tee Designs, Emro Consulting, Saint John Learning Exchange, New Regional Economic Development Agency for Greater Saint John, J.D.Irving, Kent Building Supplies, New Brunswick Multicultural Council Inc., Saint John Newcomers Centre, Cooke Aquaculture Inc., Brunswick Subway, Town of Grandbay Westfield, Port City Delicious, Human Development Council, Ganong Bros. Ltd., CBC New Brunswick, Shadow Lawn Inn, PHD Consulting, PRUDE Inc., Innovatia, Homestar Group, Chroma NB, Cankata Consulting Corp., and Kaima Designs.

About YMCA Newcomer Connections

Y Newcomer Connections currently offers sector-specific employment language training (SSELT) programs to help newcomers prepare for their first jobs in Saint John, some of which were formed in partnership with NBCC, the Saint John Toole Library, Working NB, and the New Brunswick Department of Post-Secondary Education and Labour. These programs focus on three elements: employment language training, employment preparation training, and employer contact. These SSELT programs range from eight to 12 weeks in length and include a wide variety of professions: hospitality, childcare, facilities maintenance, housekeeping, truck driving, carpentry, and more.

For more than 20 years, YMCA Newcomer Connections has welcomed newcomers to the Greater Saint John community. As a leading community organization, Y Newcomer Connections assists immigrants and refugees with their settlement needs and helps facilitate their integration and participation in the community. This includes offering a diverse range of programs and services to newly arrived immigrants, such as English language classes, employment readiness programs, Canadian cultural orientation, immigrant settlement and refugee resettlement assistance, and school readiness programs. With a multilingual team of more than 50 staff representing 11 countries, we make every effort to provide services in a client-centric manner that is inclusive and respectful of the rights, dignity, and diversity of all newcomers to Canada.

Media Contact:

Kristen Wheaton Clayton

Chief Development Officer


+1-506-634-4927 | +1-506-343-170