The Social-Distance Network

Thanks to ECF funding, technology upgrades will allow Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council to hold business conferences for upwards of 150 professional newcomers.

Getting a jump-start in the business community can take some time, but the Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC) is making sure that newcomers are provided with the tools they need to make their mark – virtually.

The process of integrating into a new community is daunting for many newcomers, and even more so with the added challenge of COVID-19. ERIEC seeks to ease that fear by matching employers with professional newcomers, through their peer mentorship program and networking events.

“We always encouraged our clients to meet face to face, just because a large percentage of information is transferred nonverbally,” said Doug Piquette, Executive Director of ERIEC.

“So, we really emphasize that part of that exchange, but when COVID hit, it was like, ‘Well, what do we do now?’ ”

The pandemic forced ERIEC to rethink its programming model. Large in-person conferences have been replaced by ever-convenient online platforms.

“For some, I think they are able to communicate better,” Piquette said. “They’re able to be a bit more pensive and they have time to think. Otherwise, when you’re in a room of 100 people, you may not put your hands up. I find here people are more willing to participate that way.”

A $33,700 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation through the Emergency Community Support Fund was given to ERIEC to support technology upgrades. The funding means  ERIEC will be able to continue producing quality virtual content for its clients in the business community.

“Hardware and software isn’t glamorous, but it is an essential tool for the work of organizations like ERIEC, especially right now,” Craig Stumpf-Allen, ECF’s Director of Grants and Community Engagement, says. “The flexibility of the ECSF allowed us to meet all kinds of needs to provide necessary programs in our community.”

ERIEC plans to create more virtual content to meet the increase in demand they’ve seen since April. The amount of networking events has already doubled from last year with more than 260 participants.

The funding will allow ERIEC to make necessary software and technology upgrades to accommodate large virtual events.

The Government of Canada’s $350-million Emergency Community Support Fund aims to help charities and non-profit organizations adapt and increase frontline services for vulnerable populations during COVID-19.

Together, the Canadian Red Cross, Community Foundations of Canada and United Way Centraide Canada are collaborating with the Government of Canada to flow ECSF support to those who need it most right now.

“The Edmonton Community Foundation has been a supporter of ERIEC for the last couple of years, not just during the pandemic,” Piquette said. “Their forward thinking and provision of resources for non-profits to thrive in times like this has been a lifesaver.”

The future is technology, and Piquette notes that ERIEC is excited for the opportunity to upgrade itself to be a “first-class online delivery organization.”

Learn more about the Emergency Community Support Fund.

The Emergency Community Support Fund
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