Richard Tobin, an OCISO mentor for 11 years, was surprised when he received a call from the Governor General’s office saying that he would be receiving the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers. “I was quite surprised to be nominated by one of my mentees,” remarks Richard. “I am humbled by this award.”
“The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers is an important recognition of the countless hours of support Richard has provided over the years to so many newcomers and our sector,” says Karyn Steer, Interim Executive Director, OCISO. “Richard has made a difference in the lives of so many newcomers in our community.”
The award’s citation reads:
Since joining the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization in 2009, Richard Tobin has helped numerous internationally-trained newcomers to Canada find jobs in their fields. As a career mentor he meets with mentees on a weekly basis and assists them with building resumes, preparing for interviews, and offering networking tips to help them succeed with their job searches.
Richard has truly succeed in helping his 10 mentees succeed in their job searches. His mentees have come from many different countries, including, Mexico, Brazil, China, Bangladesh, Togo and United Arab Emirates. Four have gone on to careers in the federal government and the rest have found jobs in their field elsewhere in academia and the private sector.
Mentoring is a two way street that gives so much back to Richard. “I have learned so much about their cultures and science in their countries,” explains Richard. “They have a strong desire to give something important to Canadian society. It works both ways, you learn from the mentees, you become engaged in a relationship and it’s so rewarding when they get their first job.”
He feels that most of the credit is due to the hard work, resilience and perseverance of his mentees. When they find a job, he often tells them that they did it all.
Richard is retired, having served 35 years in the Public Service of Canada as a scientist, science manager, and senior executive. He has a PhD in biological sciences.
“I’ve always been worried about people coming to Canada and being underemployed,” says Richard. “I was shocked to see a physicist working as a taxi driver. I wondered how I could make a difference. Then I became aware of OCISO’s mentoring program, which seemed like a good fit for me.”
He chose to volunteer with OCISO helping foreign-trained scientists who were new to Canada. “I knew that these scientists faced significant barriers to getting good jobs in Canada that matched their credentials,” explains Richard. “I think that my role in helping them find a path to employment is one of the most important ways I can contribute to Canadian society.”
Dr. Silvia Sant’Anna was Richard’s second mentee. “When I met Silvia, who immigrated to Canada in 2010 from Brazil, I saw immediately that she had great potential and I wanted to make sure that she was successful,” says Richard.
When Silvia came to Canada, she was willing to do anything and didn’t expect to have a job in her field. “Richard encouraged me to find a job more specific to my field,” explains Silvia. “I wanted a job in science working in a lab.”
“Richard helped me to set my goals, to focus on my job search and provided different types of support – with interviews, encouraging me to volunteer in my field and helping with networking,” adds Silvia. “He helped me to learn more about my field in Canada. He helped me to write a resume and helped with my English writing.”
In addition to a weekly meeting, Richard was available by phone or email throughout the week. “Richard on many occasions provided me with emotional support, especially when I was discouraged,” explains Silvia. “It was motivational for me, with him cheering for me!”
With much hard work, Silvia’s aspiration of finding a science job materialized. After volunteering, and a few contracts in the federal government, in January 2017, she started full-time a job at Natural Resources Canada’s laboratories. “I wouldn’t have found a job in my field so quickly without Richard’s support,” remarks Silvia.
Silvia, an OCISO alumni, is now paying it forward at an OCISO mentor, her way of thanking OCISO for the support of her mentor, Richard.
“Mentoring is a virtuous cycle, you feel energized by each person you meet and each success that they have,” explains Richard. “You provide tips and help them through an interview or an exam. A lot of reward comes with mentoring. It helps balance my life. I try to find small ways to keep up with the science and mentoring in retirement keeps me attached to my professional life. The OCISO team is good at matching people and getting a good fit.”
And Richard has made the world of a difference to each of his mentees. He has contributed to many of OCISO’s Career Mentoring Programs, but in particular has supported interns within the Federal Internship for Newcomer (FIN) program run through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and OCISO’s Career Mentorship Program.
OCISO’s Career Mentoring Program supports newcomers to obtain employment in their field. OCISO clients are matched with a volunteer Career Mentor working in the same or a related field.