Pilot Project Sees Refugee Youth Succeeding in BC’s Hospitality Industry

A two-year pilot project between World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and Camosun College had a successful wrap up after bringing two cohorts of refugee youth from their country of asylum, Kenya, to British Columbia. The Hospitality Industry Welcomes Refugee Employment-linked Sponsorship (HIRES) project, funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, was a unique employment-linked sponsorship pathway in collaboration with BC’s hospitality sector.

“The HIRES project helped address a labour shortage in the hospitality industry. The idea behind the program was to provide a pathway for refugees but also meet labour needs here in Canada,” says Marius Langeland, Associate Director, International Projects and Partnerships, at Camosun.

The refugee youth, nine in the first cohort, and 20 in the second, were selected out of 800 people. They travelled from Kenya to Camosun on Vancouver Island for a customized hospitality management training program before taking job placements at restaurants and hotels in Tofino, Kelowna, Vernon, and Fairmont Hot Springs.

One such student was Wivine Mathias Rukera, who was working as a server in Kenya when she found out about the HIRES program. After her training at Camosun, she was placed at Tofino’s Long Beach Lodge Resort Lodge. The resort was one of four champion employers in Tofino that welcomed the first nine HIRES participants.

“This program and these students have had a tremendous impact here at Camosun. It brought together instructors, students, and volunteers across campus and departments. Everyone involved, including our job placement sponsors, said it was worth it, despite the challenges of running it during the pandemic,” says Marius.

While the pilot project with IRCC has completed, WUSC is planning to launch the program with a third cohort this spring with funding from a new partner.