CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI – May 10, 2013 – The Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce has been offering its entrepreneurial mentorship program, PEI Connectors, to immigrant clients who speak English, Mandarin and Persian for the past couple of years. Thanks to RDÉE Prince Edward Island’s LIENS project, the program has now been extended to include French-speaking immigrants.
Originally, the LIENS project (whose acronym translates to « Linking Economic Immigration to our Successes ») was supposed to develop an independent francophone mentorship program. However, project leaders soon realized that it would be better to simply add a francophone dimension to the existing PEI Connectors Program, which was already extremely successful and surpassing all expectations.
The French version of the program, along with its accompanying pamphlet, was officially launched Friday, May 10, in Charlottetown during a conference organized to make public several of LIENS promotional tools. During these ceremonies, the first-ever francophone « Connector » – Gary Doucette – was introduced. He is the assistant executive director of RDÉE PEI, the provincial francophone economic development council.
Don MacCormac, coordinator of the PEI Connectors program, said he was extremely pleased with the addition of the francophone component since « we can certainly use all the help we can get! »
He noted that the Chamber had realized a couple of years ago that a number of immigrants arrived on PEI with all kinds of money and skills but that practically nobody here was giving them an opportunity to use their cash and aptitudes. These immigrants would simple pack up their things and move to other Canadian locations to invest their cash, launch a business or work.
The Chamber therefore established this program to help retain a greater number of immigrants on PEI. At the start, it was hoping to help out a few handfuls of newcomers. However, the staff has been deluged with requests. A total of 160 clients, mainly Chinese and Iranian people, have so far participated in the two-year-old program. Sixty of these are still active clients while others are now well-established in their businesses or have left the province.
MacCormac added that some of his first clients are coming back to seek assistance with a second entrepreneurial project. He is therefore extremely impressed with the success of the program, which keeps growing on a weekly basis.
He explained that the program is adapted to the needs of each individual client. The program first matches a newcomer interested in setting up a new business with an Island business person or community leader. The local « connector » helps the newcomer to get plugged into the local community and to meet other business people that could help him. Essentially, the connector does whatever he can to help integrate the newcomer into the business world.
As well, program staff organizes information sessions on general themes – such as the preparation of business plans, marketing and exporting – as well as presentations on specific business sectors, such as agriculture and tourism. Business mixers are also organized on a monthly basis to provide opportunities for meeting business people on a social basis.
The program team is multilingual but didn’t yet have a francophone capacity. The introduction of Gary Doucette changes that.
Doucette said he has already had a few opportunities to collaborate with the province in encouraging francophone clients from other provinces settle on PEI. He would therefore be extremely pleased to welcome any francophone clients through the PEI Connectors program. From now on, any client arriving in MacCormac’s office who requests to be served in French will be referred to Doucette.
CUTLINE: Gary Doucette, left, is the new francophone « connector » for the PEI Connectors Program, which is coordinated by the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce. He and coordinator Don MacCormac are looking over the French version of the program pamphlet.
For more information:
Francophone Connector for PEI Connectors Program
RDÉE Prince Edward Island