Shawn Read, chairperson of the Career Education Department at Thompson Rivers University, encourages BC employers to utilize the strengths of international students. “For the most part, they speak a number of languages that could help businesses — especially hotel chains,” said Shawn. “Using their skills and language talents, and merging that with their Canadian academic training, makes it a win-win proposition for employers and students.”
Shawn helps international students find jobs in BC after they graduate. “I’ll assist students with leads and I’ll let employers know that we have lots of eligible workers.” He feels frustrated when he hears about BC employers having problems finding enough workers. “The students feel a lot of pressure trying to find employment. This isn’t matching what we’re hearing in the labour market. With the current labour crunch, we should be accessing this labour pool as much as possible.”
Shawn thinks that employers are hesitant to hire international students because of the perception that hiring these students means you can’t lay them off. “Employers think that when they write a job offer letter for the student to get his or her visa, the letter is a binding contract,” he said. “I’ve tried to educate employers to let them know that this is not the case. The student should be treated the same as any other employee. If circumstances change or the employee is simply not working out you are free to let them go.”
The Delta Sun Peaks Resort makes use of international students. Click here for an overview of all student foreign worker programs. Sun Peaks hire students from eligible Canadian Post Secondary Institutions who usually receive two-year permits for working in the BC interior.
Dan DeSantis, former general manager of the Delta Sun Peaks Resort, said these international students add a multi-cultural component to their workforce. “Our business continues to grow and we find it harder to fill vacancies – particularly within key operational positions,” said Dan. “These positions are what international workers are seeking so we find it a creative and effective way to fill some of our vacancies.”
Dan noted that the post-graduation program only works if you are hiring a student into a job that is directly related to his/her field of studies, which is one of the criteria of this program. Otherwise, employers will need to obtain approval from Service Canada to fill the position with an international student (or any non Canadian).
But overall Sun Peaks has had success using international students. Dan described hiring a recent graduate from the hospitality diploma program at Thompson Rivers University. The graduate started as a room attendant in the housekeeping department and soon moved through a succession of more advanced positions – guest services agent, reservation agent, sale coordinator, tour and travel representative and finally tour and travel sales manager.
International students want to work and BC employers need them. Tapping into the foreign worker pool benefits both the workers themselves and companies that need people who speak different languages or have unique cultural talents.