Saint John’s YMCA Wants To Help Businesses Embrace Newcomers

(Image: Submitted, YMCA)

SAINT JOHN– The YMCA of Greater Saint John is helping businesses of all sizes adapt and embrace the city’s increasingly diverse labour market.

The organization has been offering a “Cultural Intelligence” course, a program geared toward businesses and organizations looking to welcome newcomers to their teams. Since 2017, the YMCA of Greater Saint John has welcomed newcomers from 35 countries and says more than 120 newcomer clients have been hired in the Saint John Region.

“At the Y, we’ve been working with newcomers for over 25 years and have learned a lot,” says Shilo Boucher, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Saint John. “As you can imagine, we have had an insurgence of both our clients, refugees as well as economic immigrants and we want to recognize that here in Saint John and support our community as we adapt and change with the times.”

Boucher says there’s always been a lot of focus on the importance of diversity, which is of course important. But she says the YMCA wanted to take their support a step further.

“It’s taking that next step in terms of social inclusion and what that looks like for everyone and every demographic and every stage of life people are in.”

The YMCA’s Cultural Intelligence training includes two phases – the regular diversity training and then the cultural intelligence training. Boucher describes the cultural intelligence training as helping people work with their biases and become more open to other cultures.

“It helps people understand where they are at and what their beliefs are because all have different beliefs and things ingrained in us, even though sometimes we don’t realize it,” she says.

“It helps people understand that it’s okay that we have biases, and that we just need to recognize them and work with them to help understand the different perspectives around the different cultures that are out there.”

It also helps people realize it’s okay to make mistakes.

“I found because I’ve been through the training, that it’s really about self-discovery, understanding that it’s okay to make mistakes when you’re working with other cultures and it means creating that comfort level that we all need as we work cross-culturally,” says Boucher.

A wide range of businesses have sent employees to complete the training, such as NB Power and Freedom Tours and Travel.

Saint John-based Freedom Tours and Travel hired three new employees last year from China to help attract more Chinese tourists to the region. Owner Ellen Tucker says it was important for her staff to take the YMCA’s cultural intelligence course.

“I think all of us recognize that it’s important for us to grow our population here in New Brunswick and there are many people around the world who would love to live in Canada and live in beautiful New Brunswick,” says Tucker.

“It’s important to us as New Brunswickers to be very open to people all over the world and to welcome them and to be happy to share this wonderful part of the world with them, so they can bring their children here and have a wonderful, safe life right here in New Brunswick.”

Tucker says the cultural intelligence training helps employers navigate things such as language barriers and embracing and sharing different customs.

“It opens so much to anyone who takes it. It gives you a better understanding of different cultures,” she says. “It just opens your mind to not see things in the same restricted way but to open up. That’s what we all need to do.”

There are different rate options available for business and organizations looking to take the training. Boucher says around 370 people who have completed the training so far. That includes all the of the YMCA’s staff, who are required to do the training. The goal is to get the number up.

“Our dream would be that everybody in our region has taken it because we want to be the leaders and we want to empower others in our region so it’s a place where everyone feels a sense of belonging,” says Boucher

“It’s a big goal, but we’re always looking for ways to launch different events and invite people out. because not everyone is thinking about this right now, but that will be part of our strategy … helping people understand that it’s a good training and it can also help you personally as you work to build those relationships.”