Canada’s immigration doors have been opened in recent years allowing newcomers to migrate into the country as students, permanent residents, or other approved immigration paths as one way to address a skilled labour shortage. However, some newcomers find the integration and transition into the Canadian workforce difficult or complex due to several factors such as the absence of Canadian work experience and lack of knowledge of Canadian work culture, among others.
Renzo Calienes is a newcomer. Hailing from Peru, Renzo came to Canada as a student to pursue a Master’s in Business Administration at Vancouver’s University Canada West. When he approached the end of his studies, Renzo was eager to build his resume with Canadian work experience before he graduated as he believed this would increase his chances of employment.
To support Renzo, his university’s career centre introduced him to the Rural Development Network’s Rural Roots initiative – a work-integrated learning (WIL) program that allows post-secondary students to gain practical work experience alongside their classroom study. When an employer is matched with a student, this is known as a WIL placement.
In this blog, Renzo highlights how Rural Roots helped him gain Canadian work experience to enhance his resume and how Rural Roots can do the same for other newcomers.
For newcomers like Renzo, Rural Roots offers the opportunity to safely test the waters of the Canadian workforce. Renzo was matched with the Rural Development Network’s Shelter Pulse project. He worked as a Research Intern, conducting research, analyzing data, and writing reports on gender issues and violence against women.
“I pursued a work placement opportunity to gain practical experience and apply what I had learned in school to a real-world setting,” says Renzo.
The internship introduced Renzo to the realities of a formal work setting in Canada. He developed workplace skills and experience in Canada’s work culture. To secure the position, Renzo received guidance on how to prepare his resume to improve his chances of being invited for interviews by Canadian recruiters. Essentially, he learned how to ‘Canadianize his resume’. He also went through a formal recruitment process that will help him prepare for future recruitment processes.
Renzo argues that his WIL placement offered an experiential insight into the Canadian workforce, making him “feel better prepared for future work opportunities.”
WIL placements can help newcomers explore career paths they haven’t considered or had the opportunity to experience. Renzo worked in the non-profit sector for the first time through his WIL internship while his previous work experiences have been in entrepreneurship, consulting, sales, and customer service in his home country.
“In the beginning, I felt overwhelmed and doubted whether I could succeed. However, I was able to overcome challenges and succeed in this new environment. This experience has taught me the importance of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and being open to new opportunities, even if they seem daunting at first,” Renzo explains.
As an intern, Renzo helped develop and implement projects, such as creating new policies or procedures and communicating the results to stakeholders of the Shelter Pulse Initiative. “I had a few "AHA!" moments [working with Shelter Pulse] when I realized the real-world impact of my work and how it could contribute to improving the lives of women and marginalized groups,” he adds.
Seeing the outcome of his research in real-time combined with his newly gained work experience in the non-profit sector, Renzo is now open to exploring career opportunities in the nonprofit sector, especially roles that will help him support women and other marginalized groups.
Through Rural Roots, newcomers can identify new industries and explore potential career opportunities where they can learn to transfer their existing skills to not only gain employment in Canada but also identify the type of work and industry they’d like to pursue after graduation.
WIL placements help post-secondary students build their resumes or portfolio before they graduate, which is very important for newcomers seeking employment. It can help newcomers improve the quality of their resumes by enhancing their existing work experience or help them develop new skills, allowing them to effectively compete for skilled jobs and improve their quality of life.
“From this experience, I learned the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and how to effectively communicate research findings to stakeholders. It helped me build my research, analytical, and technical skills, provided me with valuable experience for my resume and portfolio, and opened up new opportunities for future work,” says Renzo.
Renzo’s favourite part of working with the Shelter Pulse team was how he was able to develop a range of soft and hard skills while contributing to the project’s mission to build capacity for rural women’s shelters across Canada. These new skills have greatly improved Renzo’s competitiveness in the employment space.
Renzo also developed a professional network that can provide mentorship and testify to his skills, potential, and professional character for future employment referrals – a powerful and much-needed asset for newcomers.
“It was also a great opportunity to work with passionate and knowledgeable professionals who were committed to making a difference. Looking back, I am proud of my achievements and the skills I developed during my time with the Rural Development Network such as adaptability, resilience, and dedication to learning,” Renzo says excitedly.
The Rural Roots initiative invites newcomers in post-secondary institutions like universities, colleges, and trade schools to take full advantage of the benefits of its work-integrated learning program and work placements.
“Work-integrated learning is a great way for newcomers or international students to learn about the Canadian workplace. It’s a low-risk way for you to discover new skills, build relationships, or add valuable experience to your resume as a way to enhance your future job applications,” says Daniela Seiferling, RDN’s Program Manager for WIL.
Renzo Calienes is a highly qualified and value-driven business leader with over 15 years of business management experience in entrepreneurship, consulting, sales, and customer service in his home country, Peru. He holds a Master's in Strategic Business Administration from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, and an International Certificate in Digital Transformation from MIT. He recently completed his second MBA from University Canada West (Vancouver, BC).
Renzo possesses strong leadership, talent management, strategic planning, and change management skills. He is self-motivated, proactive, and detail-oriented. He has a track record of managing diverse teams ranging from 5 to 60+ people. Renzo is known for his ability to adapt to new technology trends and update his strategies accordingly. He has garnered numerous affiliations, awards, and recognition for achieving top rankings, annual goals, customer loyalty, and growing customer bases.