As BC faces an acute labour shortfall over the next decade, UBC Okanagan's Global Engagement Office (GEO) and Career Advising teams are redoubling efforts to promote international students as one solution to addressing worker shortages.
UBCO is celebrating Global Education Week this week as part of the broader set of programs to support the success and well-being of international students during their time at UBC's Okanagan campus. Along with the celebratory programming of Global Education week, the team has been focusing on launching Global Pathways as a testament to its commitment to supporting students in their goals post-graduation, and to connecting employers and students, says Dr. Philipp Reichert, Director of the Global Engagement Office and a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant.
"This is an excellent opportunity to engage employers in our community who are looking for skilled workers and connect them with our students," Reichert says. "We continue to hear about the ongoing labour shortage, and we hope to play a part in addressing that."
The 2022 Labour Market Outlook, created by Workplace BC, underscores the urgency of these efforts, forecasting more than one million job openings in the next decade as 636,000 workers retire, leaving a void filled by only 474,000 young entrants.
The GEO extends services to alumni for three years after graduation, something Reichert says proves UBCO is serious about attracting and retaining potential employees for the Canadian economy.Study and Stay set of supports, they offer comprehensive advising on post-graduation work permits and permanent residency applications. This is one of Canada's most comprehensive services, extending to alumni up to three years post-graduation.
"It's really that kind of wraparound level of support--holistic advising--and ensuring that students are supported not just in one dimension but all aspects of the challenges of being a new-to-Canada international student," he says.
GEO has a roster of alumni who've stayed in Canada.
KT Nguyen completed her Bachelor of Science with a major in mathematics and computer science at UBCO after arriving from Pleiku, Vietnam. She's now a software engineer for QHR Technologies, a medical technology firm.
"GEO's assistance with visa, immigration matters and resources for cultural adaptation allowed me to concentrate on what I was here for--my education and my future," Nguyen says.
Joses Akampurira graduated with a civil engineering degree from UBCO and decided to remain in Canada after falling in love with its natural beauty, welcoming people and the community he built. Now a Project Engineer with the City of Vancouver, Akampurira fondly remembers his early days at GEO.
"International students are often at a disadvantage because our references are usually in our home countries, and employers tend not to pursue them. For me, the GEO was the knight in shining armour that broke down that barrier," says Akampurira, originally from Kabale, Uganda.
Gabriel Zavala's journey from Monterrey, Mexico, to the halls of UBCO was one of growth, challenge and discovery. He earned a BSc with a major in biochemistry but found his calling in student services at the University of Calgary, where he is employed now.
"GEO was my central station at UBCO," he says. "It was where all my friends and I would go between classes to hang out or study. The advisers were always around to support, joke with, and get to know us. Being an international student at UBCO felt like being part of an incredible community, and that was all due to GEO, their programs and advisers."