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Putting Visible Minorities into the Mainstream Workforce (Originally Published in Pride Newsmagazine)

In Culture, Media Writing, Writing (all kinds) on May 6, 2016 at 3:00 AM

The proof of their success is in the runner-up of The Apprentice. Kwame Jackson is a graduate of the Inroads program. He did internships every summer while he was in school to learn his expert corporate skills.

That’s what Inroads is all about. It’s a non-profit organization in North America that helps visible minorities and Aboriginal youth get work in the mainstream while they are at the post-secondary education level. And it’s not just any work – its work that will hopefully lead them into major management positions that will help companies shape the changing population of Canada.

One of the alumni of the Inroads program who came across poised and confident is Joanne St. Bernard.

St. Bernard got involved with Inroads in 2002 and secured an internship with a leading food company in the summer of 2004. The company can not be named.

She’s going into her masters at the University of Toronto in September. She’s doing her masters in industrial relations and human resources. She had the chance to work in human resources with the organization is interning for.

“It’s a wonderful organization where they make sure the internships are developmental. You really do the skills that are required as a full-time employee there. As an intern, you’re treated as one of the full-time employees. Everyone respects you and wants your input. That was one of the biggest surprises I had – that I was a valued member, I was a valued member of the organization.”

She spent her first two summers at the organization corporate facility and requested a transfer to another facility to do her master’s. Her company made it happen.

“Very few companies can you request a transfer to another facility and they can make it happen and the next summer you’re put there. That’s just a testament to how committed they are to developing their employees.”

St. Bernard speaks well of the organization she works for, but she knows without the Inroads program it would not have been possible.

“The Inroads organization is a wonderful opportunity for visible minorities to gain exposure in terms of becoming a professional and knowing what it’s like to be around professionals,” says St. Bernard. “It’s also an amazing way to network and know other very ambitious young people. And they help fuel your ambition. And the friends I have gained through this process are amazing and it’s something that I would want my kids to do, my grandkids to do.”

She mentions that she hopes that by time she has her grandchildren that a program like Inroads will not be needed.

For now, one the key people who makes Inroads a success is Richard Pinnock, Managing Director. He is planning a session for at-risk youth with a Canadian version principle of Kwanzaa.

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