Student creates job readiness programs for new Canadians

Megan Catalano

A kitchen rental request turned into a job readiness program for new Canadians thanks to Royal Roads student Wes Wilkinson.

Wilkinson, a student in the Master of Arts in Tourism and Hospitality Management, was contacted by the Chinese Community Centre in Ottawa last December with a request to rent kitchen space to fundraise for Syrian refugees. As the academic manager for the School of Hospitality and Tourism at Algonquin College, Wilkinson develops credit and non-credit courses for the school and the request sparked an idea.

“It’s a community college and we need to respond to community need,” says Wilkinson. “The intent of the program is to get them ready for employment in Canada.”

In March, 15 students started the 13-week program developed by Wilkinson, Cooking for New Canadians. They spent five weeks learning theory followed by seven weeks of hands-on learning in the kitchen labs. The program is a credit course taught by a Red Seal Chef and offers the opportunity for students to transfer into other programs at the college.

“About 20 per cent of the students had a cooking background,” says Wilkinson. “When students are hired by an employer they’re able to get going right away as opposed to the employer training them.”

Wilkinson says overall the program ran smoothly with help from a few translators in the classroom and during tests. The 15 students celebrated their new skills during a graduation ceremony in July for which they prepared traditional Syrian appetizers and desserts.

In addition to the Cooking for New Canadians program being offered again this fall with 45 students already enrolled, Wilkinson is developing assistant baker and beauty and spa apprenticeship programs for new Canadians.

Photos: Cooking for New Canadians graduation ceremony celebration and Master of Arts in Tourism and Hospitality Management student Wes Wilkinson