The socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have created a unique climate for youth navigating the Canadian labour market. These impacts have also shed light on long-standing trends wherein high rates of educational success may not translate to commensurate employment outcomes for emerging talent; including immigrant youth.
To better understand why this breakdown occurs, and more importantly, what can be done about it, World Education Services (WES) has seized the opportunity to not only conduct critical research on the matter, but to support the career development of these youth through an internship experience. Work-integrated-learning (WIL), when done well, accelerates school-to-work transitions by enabling access to meaningful work opportunities and career development support.
Last year, WES welcomed its first youth cohort to participate in what has come to be recognized as the WES Summer Experience Internship Program, a new WIL program specifically for youth of immigrant backgrounds including first- and second-generation immigrants, refugees, and international students. Having completed the second year of the program, WES is committed to learning how to make it a success for both the students and the projects they support.
The WES Summer Experience Internship Program is:
- A paid internship opportunity: Students are compensated for their time, work, and commitment. Unpaid placements often pose a significant barrier to youth who may be navigating their academic and emerging professional experiences without traditional safety nets.
- A meaningful, work-integrated learning model: WES interns don’t get the coffee. They are integrated as team members and make entry-level but real contributions to initiatives that impact the communities we support.
- An avenue for bridging theory and practice: Students are engaged in hands-on experiences and reflection; they are better able to connect knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world situations.
- A mentorship and support network: WES is committed to fostering an inclusive environment for learning and professional development (PD). “Wisdom Chats” are organized with senior leaders as well as with co-workers, during which interns identify and explore PD areas they want to learn more about. This approach gives students additional learning opportunities beyond their day-to-day work, and in turn, exposes the organization to new ideas and fresh approaches.
“At WES, we believe in providing opportunities that help people meet their educational and career goals,” said Beth Clarke, Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships. “Working in a professional setting helps immigrant youth become job-ready by providing them with an on-the-job experience that builds their skills and confidence to begin their career journey. We are proud to share this work with others and hope it will inspire employers to create work-integrated learning opportunities in their own organizations.”
Here’s what our students have said about the program:
- Ani Gurtsishvili, Program Delivery, and Integration: Recent Bachelor of Science Graduate in Systems Analytics at York University
Getting started at WES, I was extremely excited to share and apply my expertise from working with immigrants and newcomers and had set goals for my internship. I wanted to initiate conversations about lived experiences, improve my presentation and public speaking skills and provide quantitative analysis on team projects. All my goals were achieved! Throughout my role, I was thrilled to learn about Salesforce and use this cloud-based software to improve the accessibility of shared data across different departments, and actively participated in and led Salesforce one-on-one meetings. Through effective communication and collaboration across various teams, I managed to input 79 new leads, 64 new contacts, 58 new organizations, 126 new tasks and events, modified over 120 pieces of information, and over 30 campaigns with contacts. I became a Salesforce Champion and provided firsthand Salesforce support to my fellow interns. Outside of Salesforce, I researched and worked on the WES Partner Referral Program logic and the Master Diagram. With the Agile approach and collaborative efforts, the diagram has been simplified to reflect the core processes. Key takeaways from the Summer Experience program include the power of effective communication and your life story being your career motivation.
- Gorad Muhumed, Global Talent Bridge: Fourth-Year Undergraduate Student in International Development and Program Management, University of Guelph
As an intern, I supported both the Global Talent Bridge and Strategy, Policy & Research teams by engaging in strategic partnership mapping initiatives and facilitating evaluation mechanisms across the team. With lived experience as a refugee student, I have always been passionate about humanitarian work related to immigration and settlement services, community development, and opening doors to education. Through my participation in the WES Summer Experience Program, I was able to apply my skills and build my network while gaining new experiences working in a different environment. I plan to continue my efforts for systems change that will enable access to education for immigrant and refugee youth globally.
- Karen Kai Lun Wang, Employer Initiatives: Third-Year Dual-Degree Undergraduate Student in Applied Math and Computational Sciences at Duke University and Duke Kunshan University
My expectations going into this internship were underscored by the fact that this was my first time working a full-time job, and my first time being in an office or corporate environment. The reality of the internship was in line with my expectations, such as learning how to take concise notes and attending staff meetings. A pleasant surprise for me was that I had the opportunity to I expected. My goals were to learn about policy and government relations, especially as they relate to educational initiatives. I also wanted to develop my soft skills such as communication, professional writing, and time management. I appreciated the opportunity to work on various projects with my team, including identifying resources for the Employer Playbook, helping with the Moncton Playbook Launch event by designing breakout sessions, and editing social media tool kits. I enjoyed researching Local Immigration Partnerships (LIPs) for phase two of the #ImmigrantsWork initiative, where I gained interesting insights into cities across Canada as well as learned more in-depth knowledge about immigration policy. My long-term goals for the future include working in the tech industry before pursuing graduate school in education policy and human-computer interaction, and I know that what I learned this summer at WES will help inform my choices for my future career.
- Sarah Klein, Knowledge Management and Mobilization: Master of Global Affairs Candidate at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto
I joined WES as the Knowledge Management & Mobilization Intern on Immigrant Solutions (GTB Canada). Through this role, I hoped to get out of my comfort zone, learn something new, and gain insight into what energizes me. The Summer Experience internship was incredibly valuable. I learned so much about WES’ work, both on the evaluation and social impact sides of the organization. It was my first time working in the non-profit/social enterprise sector, and I found it to be both engaging and rewarding. I was also able to gain exposure to program development, which is an area of work I might like to pursue after graduation. Throughout the summer I had the incredible opportunity of participating in the beginning stages of WES’ international student strategy development. I was able to conduct an environmental scan of Canada’s international student landscape, looking at trends and identifying gaps in the network of service providers, advocacy organizations, and provincial and federal policy. Following this extensive research project, I had the chance to present my findings in front of team members from both Canada and the U.S., including several members of the Senior Leadership Team. In addition to my work with international student strategy development, I conducted research related to knowledge management and mobilization, youth programming, and more. I was also able to help with WES’ social impact alignment process. As I look toward graduation in spring 2023, my time at WES will play an integral role in determining what career I plan to pursue, hopefully within the non-profit or humanitarian sector. Thank you, WES, and thank you to the people who have made my time here so meaningful!
- Shahene Patel, Managing Director’s Office: JD Candidate at the Lincoln Alexander School of Law, Toronto Metropolitan University
As the Data and Policy Analysis Intern in the Managing Director’s Office, I learned about current and emerging challenges facing employers and skilled immigrants entering the labour market. Working closely with the Managing Director of WES Canada, I had the opportunity to conduct environmental scans on the labour market and workforce development trends such as Express Entry reforms and the growing immigration backlog with the intention of influencing government policy. I hope to work in the labour and employment, immigration, or government/public law areas with a focus on advocating for those who may not be able to advocate for themselves.
WES welcomes organizations and companies interested in collaborating or learning more about innovative work integrated learning (WIL) opportunities for immigrant youth. To learn more, please contact Ousama Al Khatib, Manager, Youth Initiatives.