This morning I had the opportunity to go before the City of Hamilton’s General Issues Committee and talk about two new initiatives – our Everyday Heroes campaign and our Welcoming Communities project.
Here are the remarks I made to the Committee.
Thank you Deputy Mayor Duvall.
Serving as tour guide is one of my unofficial duties as President of Mohawk College. It’s also one of the best parts of a really great job.
So thank you to Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Councillors Lloyd Ferguson, Doug Conley, Aidan Johnson, Rob Pasuta, Tom Jackson and Arlene VanderBeek for touring our college. If you haven’t been to Mohawk in a while, I’d be happy to show off our facilities and introduce you to our amazing students, faculty and staff.
I also want to thank your team here at the City for hosting our Alumni Breakfast. This was the first breakfast we’ve ever held at City Hall. It was great to start the day in the company of all the Mohawk alumni who work for the city and help make Hamilton a great place to call home.
Not only does the City hire a lot of Mohawk grads. You also help train our students. The City of Hamilton is one of more than a thousand partners who offer our students co-ops, placements and projects that extend the classroom out into every corner of our community.
And I want to thank Council for giving Mohawk a few minutes on the agenda this morning. We’d like to do two things – debut a new video and announce a new college and community project.
EVERYDAY HEROES VIDEO
So that was the official world premiere of Mohawk’s Everyday Heroes video. The video was created by the same team that produced your Ambitious City video. In the weeks ahead, we plan to showcase everyday heroes – ordinary people who are making a real difference in our community. We’ll be approaching community leaders and asking them to nominate their everyday heroes. We’d love to have Councillors recognize everyday heroes at City Hall, in their wards and from across the City.
This morning, I want to introduce you to an everyday hero.
Vanh was 12 years old when she arrived in a refugee camp with her mother, stepfather and four siblings. The camp would be her home for five agonizing years. Every day was a fight for survival with 10,000 other people at the camp. There was never enough food or water. There was no school for Vanh to attend. Infectious diseases ran rampant.
On August 13th 1985, Vahn and her family stepped off a plane in Canada and made their way to Hamilton.
Vahn finally got to go to high school. She was 17 years old when she started Grade 9 at Sir John A. MacDonald.
She went on to study at Mohawk College and graduated in 1991. She was the first in her family to earn a postsecondary education.
Six years after graduating from Mohawk, Vanh bought her first business.
In 2001, she opened her first restaurant.
Today, Vanh owns and operates restaurants in downtown Hamilton, Ancaster, Burlington, Brantford and Waterloo.
She employs 70 people, pays property taxes and gives back to the community.
After growing up in an overcrowded refugee camp, Vanh has made a home on 10 acres in the country just outside of Ancaster.
Vanh Kalong is a Mohawk College graduate. She’s the owner of the My Thai chain of restaurants. And we’re thrilled that this everyday hero joins us this morning in Council Chambers.
Bringing more everyday heroes like Vahn to Hamilton is the focus of a new project we’re launching at Mohawk.
The time is right for this project. We know that immigration will account for all of the future growth in Hamilton’s population, our workforce and student enrollment at Mohawk.
Immigrants built this city and newcomers will remain the lifeblood of our community.
We’re also coming off the latest City Magnets report card from the Conference Board of Canada.
Hamilton was one of 13 Canadian cities to score a D.
When a student gets a D at Mohawk, we offer a helping hand.
Our response is no different when it’s our community.
We can debate and appeal the grade. Or we can take it as a challenge and put in an A+ effort.
Mohawk is ready to step up and do our part, as both Hamilton’s community college and as one of Hamilton’s largest employers.
Here’s how we’re going to help. We’re going to engage the community in a year-long conversation. These conversations will start with the same question. How can we do even better at attracting, developing and retaining people like Vanh?
We’re going to connect with our 1200 international students who are from more than 70 countries. We’re going to connect with the hundreds of foreign trained professionals enrolled in our health and technology bridging programs. We’re going to connect with our community partners. We’re going to connect with Hamilton employers.
Employers who are desperate for highly skilled, highly experienced workers and who want their workforce to reflect the diversity of their customers and the people they serve.
Mohawk is going to listen. We’re going to learn. And then we’re going to act.
This will not be an academic exercise. At the end of the year, Mohawk will bring forward an action plan. And just like a Mohawk education, our plan will be practical and hands on.
Our plan will outline the steps we’ll take to make Mohawk a more welcoming college and employer. It will show where we can marshal our resources to best support community partners and projects. We’re already committed to helping Global Hamilton Connect. And we’ll be hosting a conference this fall to share best practices and forge new partnerships.
Our goal over the coming year is to come up with a game plan that welcomes the world to Hamilton. And connect Hamilton with the world.
We’re going to share our action plan and lessons learned with our college partners.
And we’re inviting other Hamilton employers to join us on the journey. We’re recruiting a dream team that will meet for the first time within a month. We’d love to have the City of Hamilton at the table.
Becoming a more welcoming college and employer is not only a priority for Mohawk. It’s a personal mission.
I’ve had the good fortune to travel to every continent. I’ve been to 68 countries and counting.
I also serve as Chair of World Vision Canada. I’ve met with many remarkable and resilient people like Vanh – everyday heroes living in unimaginable conditions – who would give anything to come to Hamilton and contribute to our community.
Through my travels, I have come to appreciate the value and power of diversity. I always return home with new ideas, fresh perspectives and a reaffirmation that we live in the best community in the best province in the best country in the world.
Neil Everson tells us that Hamilton’s best economic development strategy is to grow our own. To retain hometown companies and help them compete on the world stage.
Whether it’s advanced manufacturing, life sciences, creative industries or agri-business, the most valuable resource is human capital.
We’re building that capital at Mohawk. We’re educating and training 22,000 students and apprentices every year. The majority of our students continue to live and work in Hamilton once they graduate.
We work with industry partners on applied research projects. These projects bring innovative ideas to market and give companies the competitive advantage that comes from working alongside Mohawk students, faculty and staff.
Along with developing homegrown talent, we’re importing talent from around the world. We’re committed to welcoming that talent and making a strong case for putting down roots in Hamilton.
We want to import the talent who will help local companies export made-in-Hamilton goods and services to customers around the world.
And Mohawk wants to welcome everyday heroes like Vanh. Newcomers who share her drive, determination and entrepreneurial spirit. Newcomers who will launch small businesses, create jobs, build prosperity and enrich our community in every sense of the word.
Newcomers from all the corners of the globe who, like Mohawk and Vanh, will be proud to call Hamilton their home.
Thank you for your time. We look forward to working with the city in welcoming everyday heroes and opening up a world of opportunity for Hamilton.