Thanks to a committed group of local businesspeople, the Regional District of Central Okanagan’s Economic Development Commission connector program will continue helping newcomers build their professional networks in 2023.

The networking initiative is designed for newcomers, partners of someone who gets a job in the region, young professionals and soon-to-graduate or recently graduated post-secondary students. The aim is broadening a job seeker’s network through one-on-one meetings with well-connected businesspeople in a variety of employment sectors in the region. Since the program’s inception in 2018, hundreds of valuable connections have been made.

“The labour shortage, combined with our region’s continued economic and population growth, makes retaining skilled newcomers and young professionals more important than ever,” says Krista Mallory, manager of economic development at the Regional District. “This program is advantageous to attracting and retaining employees. It is easier to retain an employee recruited to our community when both the newcomer and their spouse or partner can find meaningful employment.”

“The program is an effective, no-cost referral process putting people in touch with people so they can connect to the workforce and settle more successfully in the community,” says program leader Myrna Stark Leader. “What makes the program work are the approximately 50 formally named Connectors, plus countless others who contribute when called upon.”

Connectors share information about their business sectors and aim to provide warm introductions to two or three other people within their network so Connectees can enlarge their circle. Connector Brian Wall has been with the program since the start and says helping others is part of his philosophy.

“Leadership is a practice seldom achieved. It’s driven from within and a life-long learning process; helping others is one part,” says Wall, who’s served thirty years in senior leadership roles for a variety of organizations, most recently as CEO of Anodyne Electronics Manufacturing where he remains in a consulting role.

Connector Nithasha Prem Kumar, a technical assistant at Okanagan Regional library, says “The program gives me an opportunity to gain an understanding of how the world looks through someone else’s eyes and experiences. These perspectives enrich my life and there is nothing more fulfilling than being able to share your own knowledge to someone else who could use it for bettering their life.”

Fellow connector Sharon Hughes-Geekie, owner and CEO of Jumpstart Communications & Business Development, agrees.

“It’s not just about linking people to potential employers, sometimes it’s providing industry information, helping them prepare for a job interview or introducing them to others who can provide further connections,” she says. “Through this program, I have had the privilege of working with a variety of dynamic, experienced and talented people who go on to make valuable contributions to our economy.”

Although the program can’t promise a job, it can help newcomers make important connections which hopefully lead to work, says Stark Leader, who used the program herself in 2018 after relocating to Kelowna. She encourages businesses to share information about the program and is always on the look-out for new Connectors who can apply online or email her at

More information can be found at The website also includes Connector program testimonials within the blog section.

How it works:

Connectee applications are accepted online and assessed for criteria such as work status. Following that, the applicant meets with the Connector Program coordinator to discuss work experience, aspirations and sectors of interest. This is followed by the Connectee being email introduced to a suitable Connector whom they are encouraged to meet. Chats include information about local employment, business culture, networking, as well as a referral to two or three others within the Connector’s circle, enabling the Connectee to grow their network.