3 Perspectives of B.C. Co-operative Education Employers Regarding Hiring Students from International Pathways: Early Findings of a Multi-Institutional Study


Earl Anderson, British Columbia Institute of Technology
Cristina Eftenaru Co-operative Education Coordinator, SFU
Larry Iles, Senior Faculty, TRU Career Education Department

Dr. Norah McRae, Executive Director, Co-operative Education Program and Career Services, UVic

The ACE-BC Research Committee engaged in a collaborative research project to learn more about employers’ perspectives regarding hiring PSE students who have come from international pathways (refugees, new Canadians, visa students, etc.). The study utilized a unique qualitative methodology wherein employers were asked to sort and rank a range of 38 statements that reflected a range of perceptions related to the research question. This session presents the study, the methodology and preliminary findings. As time permits, we will also explore potential implications for Co-op and Career professionals.

  • International students
  • Co-op Education
  • Employer Perceptions
  • Workplace
  • Diversity
  • Immigration
  • Cultural Transition
  • Language
  • Intercultural Communication
  • Pathways




Earl Anderson, British Columbia Institute of Technology
Earl Anderson is a co-op coordinator at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. He holds an M.Ed from the University of Calgary. He has served on the Association for Co-operative Education BC (ACE BC) research committee for the past eight years and is the current chair. He was part of a team that designed and implemented a student survey to evaluate the role that co-op education plays in student recruitment and engagement. He presented and co-presented the results from this study at over ten conferences and professional development events. He is also a member of the research committee for the Canadian Association for Co-op Education.

Cristina Eftenaru, Simon Fraser University
Cristina is a Coordinator, Co-operative Education, Graduate Programs in the Faculty of Applied Sciences at Simon Fraser University and EdD Candidate in Educational Leadership, Post-Secondary at SFU. Cristina has conducted and presented research on topics related to Co-operative Education/Work Integrated Learning, skilled immigrant integration into the BC Labour Market, and Higher Education Leadership. She is currently serving as a member of ACE Research Committee and WACE International Research Group.

Dr. Norah McRae, University of Victoria
Norah McRae, PhD, is Executive Director of the Co-operative Education Program and Career Services and the Director of the Office of Community-University Engagement at the University of Victoria, Canada. Her involvement in co-operative and work-integrated education spans more than twenty years, over which time she has led strategic program development and research on student engagement, community-engaged learning and intercultural competency development. In 2016 she was awarded the Albert S. Barber award from the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education (CAFCE) for outstanding contributions to the field of co-operative education in Canada and was co- recipient for the BCCIE Award for Outstanding Program in International Education. In 2013/14 she was awarded the CAFCE Service Award for meritorious service to the association and in 2012 the CAFCE Graham Branton award for research excellence. Her doctoral research examined conditions that enabled transformative learning during work-integrated education and led to the development of a preliminary theoretical model for learning during work-integrated education. Norah has been published in the International Handbook for Co-operative and Work-Integrated Education, the Asia- Pacific Journal for Co-operative Education, CEIA Journal, The World is my Classroom: International Learning and Canadian Higher Education and the Refereed proceedings of the 2nd International Research Symposium on Co-operative and Work-integrated Education. She is a faculty member for the WACE Planning Institute for Global and Experiential Education and the WACE Assessment Institute. Norah has served as President of the Canadian Association for Co-operative Education and is an Executive member of the World Association for Co-operative and Work-integrated Education Board of Directors.



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This is a collaborative research project involving four post-secondary institutions in British Columbia. The purpose of the study is to analyze employer’s understandings, beliefs, and perspectives around the hiring of students who have completed most of their pre-university studies outside of Canada (e.g. international students, new immigrants, Canadians living abroad, etc.). We have presented preliminary findings from our study reporting on employers’ perceptions and practice regarding the hiring of students who come from these international pathways. For this project, we utilized Q methodology, which is a qualitative methodology that allows for the interpretive investigation of subjective, individual and group perspectives related to the research question. Twenty-nine employers participated in the study. They ranked and sorted a range of 38 statements (described as the Concourse) on our research subject. We will be presenting preliminary results from this analysis.

Key Findings

  • There are multiple strong employer views expressed on this topic.
  • One perspective is that qualifications, regardless of where they were earned, are key and very much value SFIP (Students from International Pathways).
  • A second view is quite opposite and see SFIP as problematic and poor fits in their workplaces.
  • A third perspective is that one should hire for success and SFIP are not the most likely to succeed because the cultural transition is too challenging.
  • The fourth worldview reflects an intellectual commitment to the notion of diversity but a behavioural commitment to hiring Canadians because it is what they know and there are less language and cultural transition issues.

Next Steps

We intend to submit this paper for publication in the Asia/Pacific Journal for Co-operative Education and present it at the CBIE Conference in Halifax on November 21, 2017.

Implications for Career Education

For Students

  1. SFIP students need intercultural effectiveness training and support to enable their adaptation to Canadian workplaces
  2. Canadian students need intercultural effectiveness training to strengthen interactions with SFIP students (on-campus and on work terms)
  3. Solutions require the engagement of Canadian and SFIP students…together…
  4. SFIP students needs additional training on how to make their unique skills, knowledge, and attributes evident to employers and how to be strategic in their selection of employers
  5. SFIP students planning to stay in Canada need to engage in their communities (on and off campus) to demonstrate an interest and commitment to a future in Canada

For Employers

  1. Training to better understand the various pathways international students take to get to our institutions
  2. Development of Intercultural effectiveness training and strategies to enable SFIP students’ adaptation to the workplace
  3. Appreciation of the world view (skills, knowledge, and attributes) and adaptability our SFIP students have
  4. Appreciation of how to make use of that world view and adaptability in the workplace
  5. Training on how SFIP students can gain work permits and/or permanent residency
  6. There seems to be a latent nationalism (i.e., employers preferring to hire Canadians or wanting to give Canadian’s an advantage

For Government

  1. Additional funding support to enable institutions to provide extra training for SFIP students:
    1. English as an additional language
    2. Intercultural communication/effectiveness
  2. Incentives for employers hiring SFIP students as there is the perception that hiring international student is not cost effective
  3. Permit international students to qualify for research grants (CHIR/NSERC)
  4. Increase the opportunites for the hiring of SFIP into federal government departments
  5. Smoother transitions to permanent labour force: Visas, PNP, Permanent Residency, etc.

For Practitioners and Institutions

  1. Everyone needs intercultural effectiveness training… include as part of institutional internationalization efforts
  2. Development of intercultural effectiveness training for employers and students
  3. Training in how students get work permits and permanent residency
  4. Training in how to showcase SFIP students’ world view, experience and adaptability
  5. Collaborate with international student groups at your own institution
  6. Collaborate with other institutions for a regional approach


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