Spotlight: Grand Prairie Council for Lifelong Learning

The Grand Prairie Council for Lifelong Learning provides active programming, leadership pathways, and other services to help adults develop numeracy, employability, and other skills. They also provide English as a Second Language courses and employment enhancement programs such as GED prep, family literacy and basic computers. As the volunteer tutor and mentorship coordinator, Crystal Nedohin Fowler began to notice many of their students who were new to Canada had started in entry-level jobs but had professional training and skills they wanted to utilize.

The Council decided to apply for the Alberta Immigrant Mentorship Innovation Grant with the Government of Alberta. After receiving the grant in March of 2022, they were directed to the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC) for a consultation. “Thank goodness for the help and professional consultation of ERIEC,” Crystal says. “They shared their resources and tools and directed us to the Alberta Mentorship website as a model for effective market strategies and how to build a strong and operative program. Without their support, the AMP website and forms – I wouldn’t have known where to start!”

“When we reached out to ERIEC, they said we should have a structured program for it to be successful, so that’s what we did. A structured program means it’s easy for mentors and mentees to understand what the program is about, what benefits there are for both mentors and mentees, what their goals and expectations are, and what their roles are.” The council began designing their mentorship program in June 2022 and launched in November of the same year.

What have been your greatest challenges and successes?

Designing the mentorship program during a pandemic provided some challenges and important learnings. “I knew because we live in a COVID world where we had been forced to pivot to online in the past, we might have to do so again. Because of that, we focused on creating two PowerPoint presentations for remote orientation training and recruitment – which became one of our biggest successes.”

Because Crystal had digital assets for orientation prepared, she was able to make time to accommodate new mentors and mentees with busy schedules, offering orientation at their convenience, one on one. “It was a challenge because, initially, we wanted to do group training with mentors and mentees. But nope! It just proved too difficult to arrange. When you first start a mentorship program, you’re not going to get a bunch of mentors and mentees all at once. We were getting one, two or three at a time, so I was training them one-on-one – which did take a lot of time! What I didn’t expect was that this one-on-one training would allow me to get to know the mentors and mentees really well. I got to know their needs and build a report, so they were more comfortable, and they began to have some confidence and trust.”

“Knowing my participants so well made pairing up mentors and mentees a lot easier and more successful. I started with a good idea of each of their skills, goals, and resumes, and what they wanted to get out of a successful pairing.”

What strategies have been most successful in recruiting mentors and mentees?

Regarding recruitment, the Council has adjusted their strategies, using the advice of ERIEC and the resources available through AMP to help find the best mix of activities. “You have to be persistent but not pushy,” Crystal shares. “I would send emails to businesses, but finally, I spoke to Doug from ERIEC, and he said, you know, send them a couple of emails, but then phone them, and if there’s no interest, that’s all you can do. I really had to be patient, understanding, and willing to adjust my work schedule to accommodate them.”

Crystal gives the following advice for recruiting mentors and mentees:

  • Network with your existing circles: post to your LinkedIn, and encourage your connections to share about the mentorship program on their own pages.
  • Attend tradeshows, career fairs and other events: “We've been going to job fairs, I went to a business networking event and met other nonprofits providing employment opportunities, and we just get out whenever we can to spread the word.”
  • Offer presentations on mentorship to companies in your area: Crystal notes that it’s important to find the mentors specific to your mentee's needs so that, when mentors sign up, there’s someone to pair them with immediately, “You can get a ton of mentors, but they could be sitting around, and then they’re like, oh they don’t need me! You want to be able to connect them right away.” To that end, she pays close attention to the industries most in demand with the program mentees and directly approaches relevant businesses.
  • Get specific with your marketing: “Right now, we need more mentors in the oil industry. We’ve had a hard time finding these mentors, so we are going to be placing a Facebook Ad that’s specific to that industry, for example, saying ‘we’re looking for environmental surveyors’ right in the ad copy.”
  • Find relevant Facebook groups: “The marketing coordinator for the program has joined the Grand Prairie Facebook page, where she comments on relevant posts to share information about the mentorship program.”
  • Be excited! Talk to your friends, families and co-workers! “I just started talking about mentorship everywhere I went! At a Christmas farmer’s market last year, I just started talking about it to a colleague, and she was interested in knowing more!”

To learn more about the Grand Prairie Council for Lifelong Learning mentorship program and other services, visit their website

What would you say to other organizations looking to start a mentorship program?

“You don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Crystal says. “Find someone, an established organization like ERIEC or the Calgary Regional Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC), find an established mentorship program that’s been through this phase before, and reach out to them for help and guidance. That’s what we did, we had conversations with ERIEC through zoom and then went back to the Alberta Mentorship Program’s website, where we had all of the tools and resources we needed to design a successful program right at our fingertips.”

Overall, Crystal has found the process of helping to create the mentorship program, the first of its kind in Grand Prairie, very positive. “I dreaded starting this mentorship program because I’m an English Language Instructor! This was very much new to me. But I am so excited to meet mentors and mentees, and when it’s a good match – I am just so pleased to see things working out. We have mentees who are thriving now! They have all of this new confidence because of an amazing mentor. It’s an awesome feeling.”

The Alberta Mentorship program is sponsored by the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC).

The Alberta Mentorship Program appreciates the funding from the Government of Alberta through Labour and Immigration Workforce Strategies. Our program is here to provide information and support to help organizations start mentorship programs.

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