Mentorship aids newcomers to success, say experts

Samantha Berdini
News Reporter

Strategies for employment for South Asian communities was the theme when Dr. Srimanta Mohanty visited Humber North campus last Friday.

“Networking is very important for newcomers,” said Mohanty, CEO of the Social Planning Council of Peel Region. “South Asian immigrants should talk to peers, staff and community members. This gives others the opportunities to understand different situations better.”

In an address organized by Humber’s Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Diversity, Mohanty stressed the importance of being well informed when moving to a new country. Networking with a graduate student can be helpful for students trying to manage a new way of life in, and outside, of school.

“In India, when someone invites you out to lunch, it’s customary to pay for the whole bill. But in Canada, people split the bills,” said Mohanty. “Something as simple as that was explained to me by a mentor. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known the different cultural perspectives.”

If mentoring on the individual level is too difficult to coordinate, Mohanty encourages South Asian immigrants to reach out for guidance at the community level.

“Career counselors, academic advisors and community practitioners are all great services that can provide new comers with culturally appropriate information,” said Mohanty. “These are the people students can share their feelings, ideas and challenges with.”

Another helpful resource in education institutions is communities and clubs. Humber’s South Asian Beatz organizes events that showcase South Asian culture and heritage.

A post-secondary institution might be a newcomer’s first experience with Canada. Providing an inclusive and helpful atmosphere is crucial, explained Mohanty.

“Many families leave their home countries to provide a better education for their children. It is important that all students feel safe.”

Nancy Simms, Director of the Human Rights, Equity and Diversity Centre, said,

“The Centre for Human Rights, Equity and Diversity ensures that diversity and equity are instilled as values throughout Humber’s inclusive culture.”

While both Mohanty and Simms do not see racism as a prevalent issue at Humber, Mohanty said discrimination entering the workforce is a real issue.

“This country is culturally diverse, and it is important to tell people how welcoming Canada is,” said Mohanty. “But language barriers and cultural differences can affect how South Asian immigrants live day to day.”

Post-secondary institutions should promote multi-cultural studies and freedom of speech, according to Mohanty. Students should be able to debate and discuss their informed opinions in the classroom. For any students interested in multi-cultural studies, Humber offers International Development programs.

Another crucial addition to education should be job specific training, he said. Many South Asian immigrants change their education paths or professions when they move to Canada. Mohanty encourages proper training for this transition.

“Students need preparation for the job market, and it should be an integral part of their curriculum,” said Mohanty. “Sometimes this will be as simple as training in basic computer skills, but it is still very important.

“When I moved to Canada it took me five years to understand the community,” he added. “I still would have had to work very hard, but if I had cultural specific mentors my journey may have been a little easier.

“Students need guidance from people who have been through similar experiences and can understand their challenges.”

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