*Article republished from Hireimmigrants.ca: http://www.hireimmigrants.ca/success-stories/career-bridge-internships-a-win-win-for-st-michaels-hospital/

Structured program allows hospital to assess skilled immigrants’ suitability for permanent jobs. 

In December 2012, Mehmet Bahar, a Career Bridge intern at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, led a project to improve the quality of the hospital’s environmental service audits, which measure the cleanliness of patient rooms and other core hospital areas.

Mr. Bahar, a recent immigrant from Turkey, redesigned the auditing process and improved communication between the supervisors performing the audits and the employees responsible for cleaning the different areas. In three short months, the average audit score increased by 15 per cent.

Because of his success on that project and others during his six-month internship, as well as his Master’s of Engineering degree and project management certification, the hospital offered him a six-month contract position as project manager in Environmental Services.

A decade-long partnership

Since 2004, St. Michael’s has sponsored over 45 internationally educated Career Bridge interns from the Career Edge Organization, about one-half of which were hired after their internships finished, says Kevin Kirkpatrick, manager of recruitment at St. Michael’s.

Career Edge pre-screens the internationally educated professionals (IEPs) and ensures they have a mentor and a coach. All of them have at least a bachelor’s degree and three years of international work experience in their field.

The structured program an attractive way to tap into diverse talent, which is a priority for the hospital located in one of Canada’s most diverse cities, says Mr. Kirkpatrick.

“Our executive vice presidents have a philosophy that they wanted to be supportive and reflective of our patient population,” he says. “When an EVP says we’re going to commit and align resources to this program, that’s the true driver.”

Saint Michael's Hospital logo

Projects provide clear objectives to measure success

The paid internships range from four months to one year in length, though the majority of internships at St. Michael’s are   four months long. Most of the internships are in IT positions, while others are in research, procurement and corporate health programs.

All the interns are assigned to at least one project for the duration of their internship. This ensures there are objective goals against which to measure the interns’ progress and skills, says Mr. Kirkpatrick.

“We get really talented people through the program and we get a really good idea of their skills by the time the internship ends,” he says. “It’s very much a win-win. The IEP gets access to Canadian work experience and we get access to strong candidates who can be considered for available positions.”

Supporting IEP integration

To help them be successful at St. Michael’s, interns are encouraged to participate in the hospital’s general orientation program for all new hires. And those who start around January are also able to take part in the hospital’s IEP Transition and Integration Program, which runs from January to June.

The program, originally created in partnership with the Government of Ontario and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, supports the integration of IEPs who are currently employed by the hospital. It consists of several elements, including:

  • an orientation and transition program for IEPs
  • workshops for mentors and managers to increase their knowledge of IEPs’ experiences and challenges
  • a corporate IEP balanced scorecard for continuous improvement and evaluation

Networking essential for career development

Recently, Mr. Kirkpatrick led a networking and social media workshop for IEPs in the program. Contrary to popular opinion, networking isn’t just about finding a job, he says.

“Networking is about building relationships, sharing information and creating mutually beneficial dialogues,” he says.

It’s also essential to career development because it’s a way to let people know about all the various skills and experiences you have that might not be apparent in your current role, he adds.

During his internship, Mr. Bahar took part in the program and found it a very useful way to become familiar with the hospital’s culture and practices. All employers should offer this kind of program to help newcomers learn about the workplace culture and be successful in their new jobs, he says.

Tips for employers

  • Tap into skilled immigrant talent through structured internship programs that pre-screen internationally educated professionals.
  • Assign interns projects with clear goals and expectations that can be used to objectively measure success and determine if an intern would be an asset to the organization in a permanent role.
  • Executive support, including financial support, is essential to creating a cohesive corporate vision that values a diverse workforce that includes skilled immigrants.
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