• Annette Wierstra

Client Spotlight: Alberta Mentorship Program

Sitting over breakfast in Jinan, China during my MA residency, I remember a deep sense of dissatisfaction. I was meant to be working on a major research project during our three weeks and I felt like I was spinning my wheels. My professor Zhenyi Li understood this without me having to say anything. My original concept, developed at home, was not engaging me and it wasn’t coming together no matter how I tried.


As we ate our breakfast together, he redirected me with a few astute questions. What was engaging me?

For two weeks before our residency, I’d been travelling around China with a friend and we both had knitting projects in our bags. We quickly learned that many Chinese women were also knitters and crocheters who were delighted to compare work and talk without a mutual language about our projects. I’d also been running informal knitting classes on the bus with members of my cohort. Having conversations, making observations. For fun. For passion.


With a gentle nudge, Professor Li opened my eyes to a research project that had been there all along. Building on my deep practical understanding, our classes in intercultural theories, with formal interviews with an interpreter, I had a new path: Knitting with Chinese Characteristics.


This moment was like a flash of insight that was so powerful and yet so small. I’ve never had formal mentors, but my professional life has been shaped by informal mentors. Those mentors can be such a gift.


The Alberta Mentorship Program

Both this experience with informal mentorship and my MA in Intercultural Communication has fit so perfectly into our work on the Alberta Mentorship Program (AMP). AMP is a joint project of mentorship and employment organizations and the Alberta and federal governments, that was started in 2019. The program is lead by a stakeholder advisory committee that is overseeing the development of this website and pilot programs with two Alberta community organizations.


My primary role has been to develop the content for the AMP website. Our goal was to create a freely accessible website that addresses all stages of a mentorship program. The website focuses on providing information and tools to organizations that offer mentorship programs in rural and small urban communities. The primary goal is to support programs for newcomers to Canada looking for career help. But we recognize that the resources on the website could support mentorship programs for other target audiences and mentorship program goals.


This site presents a basic path for organizations to plan and explore options for a mentorship program. There is no single “right” size, style, or outcome for a program. It will also provide resources for mentors, mentees, and employers. These resources are available directly to these individuals and as a resource that programs can use for their participants and partners.


Developing content for this project had a good degree of interactivity, not only with the clients but with the pilot sites with Lethbridge Family Services and Northern Alberta YMCA in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. While the website hasn’t yet officially launched, I’ve been getting requests for tools or resources from the two pilot community organizations who are letting me know what they need to support their program. I love this because it helps us develop the pieces that will be useful for other programs. It also is rewarding to see our work being used in practical situations. We make content, forms, and templates because we want them to be used, so this aspect of the work has been rewarding.

Our role has been only one piece of the project. The pilot sites are supported by program partners including Edmonton and the Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Councils (ERIEC & CRIEC). This organizational mentoring rounds out online information and resources by tapping into the experience of ERIEC and CRIEC.


Ultimately, it is the hope of the Alberta Mentorship Program that anyone can use this site to reflect on what their organization and mentoring participants need right now, whether it is starting a new program or making changes to an existing program. After the launch, we will capture the stories of organizations, mentors, mentees, and employers to inspire others who are participating in mentorship programs.


Help Us Spread the Word!


We really believe in the value of this project and the hard work that we’ve done with the whole AMP team. You can help us and the Alberta Mentorship Program if mentorship and supporting newcomers in a few ways:


Join us! We are holding a free, online session on Tuesday, November 24, 2020 at 10 am to celebrate the official launch of our website. Register for your spot today.


Spread the word. Follow AMP on Twitter (@ABMentorship) and LinkedIn (Alberta Mentorship). Share this blog to others who might be interested in our program.


Try out our resources. After the launch, we will be sharing our free Resource Guide and website so you have lots of templates, forms, samples, information that will support you whether you are a mentorship program, potential employer, mentor, or mentee. Sign up for our virtual launch and get the guide straight to your inbox.

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