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How networking helped prevent an immigrant brain drain in Nova Scotia

Fred Morley, executive vice president and chief economist for the Greater Halifax Partnership poses along the Halifax waterfront.

Mike Dembeck/The Globe and Mail/Mike Dembeck/The Globe and Mail

Fred Morley spearheaded a simple solution to a problem that has plagued Nova Scotia for generations: losing too many of its best and brightest to other parts of Canada.

Retaining young people and newcomers has long been a provincial priority, so Mr. Morley, as chief economist of Greater Halifax's economic development agency, decided to create networks dedicated to helping immigrants find good jobs in their field.

The initial plan three years ago was to recruit 50 employers for a program that has immigrants meet over coffee with professionals so they can ask questions and come away with the names of three other people they can speak with. Twice that number answered the call, and now 360 well-connected volunteers take part.

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"Finding a job isn't about what you know," Mr. Morley says. "It's about who you know and recognizing that most people don't find work because of ads in newspapers, but because they meet someone."

The Connector program doesn't cost much to run, and has already had a measurable impact on labour market outcomes, finding work for 115 immigrants so far. As a result, 10 other cities from Montreal to Charlottetown are adopting the approach. And the Halifax program has been broadened to help international graduates and recent Canadian grads forge professional contacts.

For example, Doris Du, 24, came from China in 2008 to study finance at St. Mary's University. Last month, she landed a job as a client services representative at the Bank of Montreal after connecting with the bank through the program.

Chatting face to face with her future employer gave her the edge, she says. "If you talk to people in person, they see you're confident and positive and have a lot of energy and the passion to learn, that is very important."

Do you know an immigration innovator? The Globe would like to hear from you - nominate an innovator here.

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More

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