Career Bridge Internship Program: Providing Meaningful Work for Newcomer

by Consuelo Solar

Last February, the annual Career Edge Organization Achievement Awards paid tribute to institutions and individuals who make possible three paid internship programs; Career Edge for recent graduates from Canadian colleges and universities, Ability Edge for graduates with disabilities, and Career Bridge for recent immigrants. Among the honoured was Filipino-born Richard Ballesteros, who received the Intern of the Year Award for his work at St. Michael’s Hospital, an institution that has hired 35 internationally trained newcomers who came in first as interns from Career Bridge. “The internship helped me build a foundation for the future, acquire Canadian experience and see immigrating from a different perspective,” says Ballesteros, one of thousands of professionals who joyfully call themselves ‘Career Edge alumni’.

Career Edge began in 1996 as a not-for-profit initiative of various private organizations to offer recent graduates opportunities to gain work experience. Three years later, they created a second program for graduates with disabilities, and in 2003 Career Bridge was born as an alternative for internationally qualified professionals. The program offers professional level, paid positions, where newcomers can apply their skills in the Canadian workforce. Internships last between 4 and 12 months, and are available in several non-regulated sectors, such as finance, human resources, marketing, IT and engineering. “We are almost at our 10,000 internships point; that is over 9,500 careers that we have launched,” proudly declares Michelle Pinchev, E-Marketing Specialist at Career Edge.

“We want to provide meaningful work opportunities for newcomers, so they are doing enriching work related to their expertise and experience,” Pinchev says. They require that applicants have at least three years of work experience, have been in Canada less than three years and have never worked in their field since their arrival. “We want to reserve our internships for people who never had a chance to work here in their professions,” she explains.

Pinchev stresses that even though everyone who meets the minimum requirements is welcome to apply online, the program is highly competitive. “We have to selectively screen the résumés, and what we are screening for is essentially a match between résumés and the job postings we have, to ensure that those who are accepted into the program can truly benefit from it and succeed,” she observes.

Currently, the program is only offered in Ontario, because candidates have to go through a pre-screening interview in Toronto, where they have their English/French business communication skills assessed.

The organization has grown tremendously over the years, and the next step for them is to find innovative ways of engaging employers. The Career Bridge program was created as a response to Canada’s labour market demand for internationally qualified professionals, and it has become a low-risk, inexpensive way for Canadian businesses to access diverse talent.  One of their key partners is the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), which is currently engaged with over 100 employers in the GTA about programs and solutions to effectively integrate skilled immigrants. “TRIEC promotes Career Bridge as a solution for employers that are ready to bring on diverse talent through our program,” Pinchev says about their partnership.

The Ontario Government is another important partner, who places interns in its different ministries. Currently the Ontario Public Service is offering the OPS Internship Program for ITI’s through the Career Bridge program. (www.gojobs.gov.on.ca/ITI.asp).

The Career Edge Organization has recently started a blog (www.careeredge.ca/ceoblog/), they are on twitter, and they are improving their website to expand their online community.

For more information go to www.careerbridge.ca.

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