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VideoCast Episode 10: Tamwood Co-op Programs, Opportunities, and Tips for Students Who Want to Work in Ontario Canada

In this episode, we have Alisa Severina, Senior Co-Op Education Specialist at Tamwood College, specifically in Toronto Campus. Tune in as we discuss the Co-op programs in Ontario, the job market, the opportunities, what to expect, and so much more!

– I think it’s an amazing opportunity and adventure. I have lived abroad myself, and I loved it. And it really helped me not just grow as a person, but develop professionally, develop personally. So I think it’s a really, really awesome, brave, amazing thing to do.

– This is Study and Work in Canada, Tamwood’s podcast on all things international students want to know about co-op education programs in Canada. I’m Tamsin Plaxton, Tamwood’s founder and president, and an avid member of the Canadian private educational sector. Hi, welcome back to Work and Study in Canada. I’m really excited to be joined today by Alisa Severina. Welcome, Alisa.

– Hi. Thank you for having me.

– Alisa works for Tamwood Careers College in Toronto, Canada, and she is the Senior Co-op Educator for Toronto campus. In that role, Alisa works with all of the students in the co-op programs at Tamwood Toronto. And so she’s the perfect person to talk to us about what’s going on with co-op programs in Canada, but specifically in Ontario and the job market there. And that’s actually where I’d like to start our conversation today, Alisa. In your experience, having been in this role now for more than a year, what are the opportunities for students in Ontario, and what’s the job market like right now?

– Nice. Yeah. Thank you for asking, Tamsin. So the job market is really exciting. Toronto is, as you know, a major international city, very cosmopolitan city, very multicultural city, and there is so much potential here and so many great job opportunities for students with all sorts of professional backgrounds. I’ve worked with students that come with very little job experience, with none. They don’t even know what a resume really is, and they’re able to secure, you know, really great work. And I’ve worked with students that are professionals, that have 10, 15 years of experience. And of course, they find something kind of like, at their level, but again, it’s gonna be at a great company. And it’s really exciting. Yeah.

– Well, that’s great. What industries are we seeing in the sort of highest demand for employees right now? ‘Cause there’s quite a tight labor market in certain industries, in certain sectors.

– I would say the greatest need right now is in sales associate retail roles, kind of general customer service. And we’re also seeing a shift to a lot of part-time roles in administration. And of course marketing is exploding. I don’t think that’s gonna slow down anytime soon. So lots of marketing roles as well.

– And what about in the resort areas of Canada or Ontario? Let’s focus on Ontario. Most of our students would stay within the province. There’s some pretty big resort areas north of Toronto and along the lake. Are you working with employers in those areas? And what are you seeing in terms of job opportunities?

– Yeah, I’m actually working with a lot of really exciting employers in the north of Ontario. Two of them I can mention are Rocky Crest Resorts, and the other one is Blue Mountain. So what they do is they usually hire en masse every February and March. For the summer season for Rocky Crest because it’s a golf resort. Blue Mountain hires during the autumn for its winter hiring season. And those are really great opportunities too because the students can obviously work in the restaurants there, in the cafes, but they also get front desk experience. They get some kind of a reception experience. Supervisor roles, not just for, again, restaurants, but for housekeeping and general admin work. And obviously, where they’re working is so beautiful and so pristine. And they get to live either onsite or very close. So they make friends, they kind of explore the area. It’s a really kind of unique way to experience Ontario because they’re not just confined to the cities. They’re in these gorgeous, green or gorgeous, snowy places. And it just looks like such a wonderful experience.

– Yeah, and actually, I’ve had the, you know, the privilege to be able to have stayed in both of those resorts in my past. And the Rocky Crest, spectacular, spectacular tourist resort on a beautiful lake up on the Muskoka, north of Toronto. It’s a very beautiful lake district of Canada. They’re the famous lake district. Yeah. And it’s a gorgeous, gorgeous resort. And Blue Mountain is the place to ski if you live in Toronto or anywhere in Ontario. Everybody heads north. It’s about an hour and a half, I think. Two hours north of Toronto. So I guess people who work up there, they also, on their days off, can get back to Toronto if they wanna go back to the big city. But there’s so much to do in that area of the Blue Mountain and Collingwood area.

– Exactly, yeah. I don’t know if they come back. It’s just, it’s too nice there.

– Yeah. So of course we’re talking about co-op students, and we’re talking about the Tamwood programs. And all of those programs are structured with a six-month study term, where the students can work part-time, and then a six month co-op term. So those who are doing administration jobs, marketing, sales, presumably, I guess, you’re working with employers in the Toronto area, and they can work during their co-op term. But also, do you ever get them into these positions earlier than the co-op term?

– Yeah, absolutely. I would say, you know, maybe a good chunk, 20% of the students, maybe even a bit more, they find their co-op job while they’re studying. It just so happens that maybe they come with a bit of experience, or maybe they come to me early and they’re hungry. They’re keen to start working. And so we work on their resume, on their cover letter, we practice their job, and then they manage to find work, or I connect them with someone, while they’re studying. And most employers are very good about starting a student off at part-time hours, and then transitioning them to full-time hours. So it’s really great. But everyone’s been very flexible about that.

– That’s great. Yeah. Because the students can work part-time during their six-month study term. And obviously, they have to get a job in the Toronto area near to the campus ’cause they’re going to school Monday to Friday. But once they finish their study term, they don’t come back to class. So they’re on a co-op term. They can work full-time in their second semester, which is a full six months. Which means they can actually go anywhere for that work. Anywhere in Canada. They don’t have to stay in Ontario. And that’s where we see people sometimes leaving to go to these resort jobs that we’ve talked about. Yeah. So let’s talk more about the work placement process. Students get services from Tamwood and from you. What does that look like, and can you describe that? From the time that they apply, before they even arrive, where does it start, and then what happens, and when do you get involved?

– Sure. So I can start. They are sent out an email about a week before they’re due to arrive, which gives them information, you know, campus location, time to be here, and a little kind of overview of what to expect. Then the day they arrive, so always a Monday, I kind of lead an orientation with the campus manager. He takes over kind of the contract side, the school conduct side, and I lead orientation on co-op. I introduce them to generally the marketplace here, what to expect, the workshops that I run, the meetings that I run with them. And I make it clear from the start that, if they need help with part-time work right now, I am completely available for that too. So they’re really supported, not just from day one, but before they even come here, they’re given a little welcome package. And then when they arrive, we’re already talking to them, we’re already offering them support. I personally give them my WhatsApp number in addition to my work email just because they might have a question they, you know, they’ve forgotten to ask during orientation. And I want them to feel comfortable messaging me, especially if it’s something quick and casual. So I’d like to think they’re very supported from day one.

– Right. And what are the workshops that they get? ‘Cause there is a structured program that they’re participating in. Can you tell us a little bit more about the program that they’ve joined, the workshops that they join to help them get ready and look for work?

– Absolutely. So there are four workshops that they have to attend. The first one focuses on actually the co-op process. So everything from the part-time job, the full-time job, and the documents that they need to submit. It also talks a bit more about the job market. And then I tailor parts of the workshop to students in different programs. So I will have a section on the portfolio which is something a marketing student needs to focus on, but not a hospitality student. We talk about also a lot of the great programs that are coming up in Tamwood, like our hiring events, our info sessions, our showcase days, learning service methodology, which again is geared towards marketing students. But basically, the first session is just kind of, you know, all of the information that they’ll need. Afterwards, it’s emailed to them so they have it, you know, in black and white, and they’ve listened to me chat. Workshop two, we focus on the resume, and specifically on how to write an accomplishment statement, which is something that even very experienced professionals aren’t really sure about. Workshop three, we look at job search sites, a bit more about the job market, and specifically the underrepresented or internal job market, which is what I can tap into as a co-op educator. And we look at the cover letter. Sorry, if I’ve already mentioned that. And lastly, workshop four, we end with the job interview. So we’ve kind of gone through the whole job process cycle. We look at commonly asked questions. We look at really tricky questions. We kind of practice there on the spot as a class. And then, you know, I reiterate again that now you can start booking one-to-ones with me to specifically work on your co-op resume. They can always meet with me beforehand to work on their part-time resume, or to just be connected with part-time employers.

– Great. And what does Tamwood do in terms of supplying leads for employment? Does Tamwood have employment boards? Talk a little bit about the work you do in securing more opportunities for students.

– Absolutely. So almost all of the jobs that are available to co-op students and students who are studying, so part-time and full-time students, they’re all found in my Google Classroom, and they’re all sent a link to that the day of orientation. So they have that information off the bat. We also have a Facebook page which posts similar things, but it’s possibly easier for students, for some students to use because it’s Facebook and they’re used to it. And I also have a LinkedIn page, which I encourage students to add me on because I will also repost job opportunities there. It’s also a great way to network, and that’s something that we’re focusing on teaching the students as well. How to actually network and introduce yourself professionally, online, and in person.

– Okay. And you mentioned showcases and networking events. What are those, and can you give us some more detail?

– Sure. So networking events during the summer. Okay, I’ll start with, we’ll call them, walking tours. So walking tours are something that happens from, let’s say, April to end of October. Basically, I meet with a group of digital marketing students. They come with their portfolios, either on their phone or printed out, along with business cards that lead right back to the Tamwood co-op program. And we actually take a walk around either the school or somewhere with a lot of foot traffic downtown. And we target local businesses. So small, medium businesses. As we walk by these businesses, we all kind of look at their presence on Instagram and on Google to see what kind of online presence they have. And more often than not, in fact, I would say 90% of the time, these businesses are not really putting any effort into their digital marketing purely because they don’t have a budget for a digital marketer, or it’s just something they haven’t thought of yet. So then this is where the networking skill comes in. The students go in, usually in a really small group of two or three, they introduce themselves, they show their portfolio, they show the Tamwood business cards, and they offer their services to them. And we’ve actually had a lot of success this way. Students have been able to find clients this way or even part-time roles just through, A, learning to network, and B, actually, you know, generating their own leads by walking around these high-foot-traffic areas and seeing where there’s a need, basically. And then afterwards we all go out for lunch. It’s usually tacos in one of my favorite places in the city, and it’s a really, really nice time. Yeah. Obviously, that’s not possible to do November to March because it’s quite cold here. So we move those events indoors, but then we just call them kind of networking info sessions where we talk about the different ways you can network online and in person. We talk about dress code, professional language, the importance of a LinkedIn account, and also just how to kind of reach out to people on LinkedIn or on social media using a professional template. And that template is actually available in my classroom. So if the student wants to kind of put themselves out there, but they’re maybe worried about their English, or they’re a bit shy, I help them with that by providing them with kind of networking templates.

– Fantastic. You also mentioned showcases. And what is that?

– So a showcase day is, it’s a really exciting opportunity for the marketing students. Again, we bring in real businesses. These businesses come to us with a challenge of some kind that they’re facing. So maybe with their website design, maybe with, they don’t have enough clients, or they don’t know how to generate new leads. We present this problem to the students, these real companies. They work on that problem for about three weeks in small groups. And it’s completely, you know, their instructor is there guiding them along, helping them throughout the process. And then at the end of the three weeks, the employer comes back, the students present their solutions, and then the employer can choose to either hire the students, to give them an excellent LinkedIn referral, or they just give them, you know, really useful professional feedback, but they’ve met the student, they’ve seen what they can do. So it’s a great way of, again, networking, but also letting people know that Tamwood is just, you know, chock-full of opportunity. And I find that having a challenge kind of related to a real company really helps them understand that their skills have so much practical value, right? Because there are employers that are looking for exactly what the students are studying.

– What do you recommend students understand, or what do they need to know, about their role in the job placement process? How do they have to engage, and what should they expect?

– I would say the number one thing I want students to understand is that even though they have so much support, it is definitely a collaborative process in the sense that they do have to come to the workshops. They do have to meet with me at least twice, one to one, because they do have to put in the effort into writing their resume and their cover letter and practicing their interview. Of course, they’re not on their own. I’m with them every step of the way, and we try to make it as fun and informative as possible too, but ultimately, they do need to participate, or they’re just not gonna have as positive of an experience. When it comes time to actually look for your co-op job, the students can definitely look on their own. They’re taught all about the different job search, the different job websites they can use, the different search terms they can use, how to introduce themselves. They have all the skills to go do it on their own, but obviously they also have me. And I’m more than happy to connect them with our, you know, one of our many, many employers. So they’re supported every step of the way, but it is a collaborative process, and they do need to work on their job search materials.

– And you mentioned Tamwood having many, many employers. What do you do in terms of your work personally to network and to secure sort of connections with employers so that we can recommend students to them and work collaboratively with employers as well? ‘Cause it really is a marketplace, you know, with employers needing students, students needing employers.

– So there’s definitely lots of ways to connect with employers in the city. Like I said, it’s just such a major international city. So there’s a lot of opportunities. I definitely kind of follow up on leads through, I look through LinkedIn. I do my own kind of networking walks where I walk around, and I actually meet managers or business owners kind of out either where they’re working or maybe at a cafe, and we have a chat and I tell them about Tamwood. If a student finds work on their own, their workplace documents gives me a good opportunity to reach out to that employer as well and say, you know, “You’re having a great time with student X. Can I connect you with another student, you know, now or six months down the line?” Besides that, I often, you know, find myself on the weekend, if I’m out, I see a place that I think would be great for our students, I try to go in and introduce myself. And again, I leave a business card, and I chat with them a bit. I really think it’s important to create those community connections, for sure. With bigger companies, it’s not possible to kind of network in person or find opportunities in person. And so that’s where I use kind of social media. So I use LinkedIn, I use Indeed, I use Instagram. Sometimes it’s just a matter of pulling up your bootstraps and just going through and emailing potential leads. And not all of the time, but sometimes people do respond and they’re interested. And then to vet them, because I never want to send a student to a workplace that I personally haven’t vetted myself, I either ask that, you know, we meet for a quick coffee, or we just meet online, and I chat with them a bit about their business, their hiring process, what they’re looking for. And obviously, I give them an opportunity to ask questions about Tamwood as well.

– Right. So with that work that you’ve done, you’ve obviously built some good partnerships. What are some of the employers that, you know, you’re excited that students have the chance to work with that Tamwood, you know, has got sort of a healthy relationship with and is, you know, able to send students to? Can you think of a few that stand out?

– There are two companies recently that I’ve worked with very closely. I’m really excited about them. One of them is called NuYugen. It is a health and wellness company, and they are rapidly expanding at the moment. So when I first started working with them, I think they had one or two students of ours just working there. And now a year later, I think they have six or seven of our students working there. And they’re making actually a really decent salary, and they are learning skills that, you know, it’s just such a fabulous opportunity. Two of the students are doing business development, and the other two are doing marketing. I’ve met the CEO of NuYugen. She is a lovely, intelligent woman, and I can tell that she really cares about their professional and personal growth. I can tell that, you know, they’re really a bit of a family there. And I think, you know, the students are benefiting enormously. And the CEO, she’s absolutely ecstatic to kind of have tapped into the Tamwood student market because, you know, we just keep supplying her with great students and great candidates. The other company that we’ve recently started working with, they are actually Canada’s longest-running Spanish language radio station. They’re called Ondas FM. I’ve been told means sound wave in Spanish. So Ondas FM is really interested in our marketing students because they are looking for a major overhaul to their website, how it looks. And also, they want to capture the young markets of listeners in Canada. They’re competing with Spotify and Apple Music, right? They’re an old-school radio station. So they really wanna break into that market. And they’ve come to Tamwood looking for our help as to how to do that. So they’re not only hiring our students in our co-op term, but they’re also part of our showcase days, or we call them now learning service methodologies. But they’re actively involved in that program. They’re showing a lot of their challenges to the students kind of every month. And students are working on solutions, and then later on getting hired.

– What stands out as some of the unique experiences that, you know, can you think of a few students where you say that you can recall that they had a great experience? And what was it about that experience?

– Definitely. I can think of two students specifically who came to me quite early in their study term, and they both had quite a lot of work experience. One of them was from Mexico, and the other one was from Colombia. They had great work experience, they had great English, but they were having a lot of trouble finding work. And I found it was because they didn’t really know how to sell themselves to the Canadian workforce, or how to convey that in their resume, because I think there are cultural differences between a Mexican resume and a Canadian resume. So the first thing we did was I worked with them on their resumes. We revamped it completely in terms of formatting and how it presents, but we kept all of their accomplishments and workplace achievements intact. And then one of the students ended up working at NuYugen. He’s still working there. He’s taken a double diploma at Tamwood. So he’s working there during his five-month break, and the CEO is so happy with him. The other student, he had a background in hospitality, but he was really interested in breaking out into something a bit more in the administrative side, kind of in an, let’s say an office environment. So I worked with him on his interview preparation, on his cover letter, on his resume, of course, and he managed to find full-time work at a major consulting firm.

– Wow, that’s fantastic. What do the students do when they finish at Tamwood? You mentioned one has done a double diploma, meaning he finished his diploma, and then extended and took another program, or he’s going to take another program. And you mentioned the five-month gap. And I think you’re referring to the fact that if a student adds a program, either at Tamwood or at one of our Pathway partners, they’re allowed to take a break, right, in programs of up to five months and work full-time. I guess when they finish with us, in that case, they’re continuing to work. And then they’ll continue while they study in the second diploma. Is that right? Yeah.

– Mm-hmm. Exactly, yeah.

– And what about the students that don’t continue at Tamwood? What have you heard of some of those students doing when they graduate and complete the Tamwood program?

– You know, first of all, I actually think quite a decent chunk of students decide to do a second diploma at Tamwood. So I would say about, yeah, 25% of students stay for an extra year. They take advantage of that break, and they learn another essential skill with another program, or many essential skills. Some of our students get sponsored by their workplace employees. So that is a really exciting thing. It’s basically when a workplace tells the Canadian government that this employee that they have could not possibly be replaced by a Canadian employee, and that they would like to actually formally sponsor them to be able to stay in Canada to work longer. And of course that is such a great way to then apply for PR later, for permanent residency, when you’ve accrued enough work time in Canada. Depending on the country of origin, some students apply for a working holiday visa, which is also a great opportunity. You don’t need a workplace contract to apply for that. You can just go ahead, and then look for work or keep the work that you have. So in those cases, the students stay in their workplace. And then other students are interested in joining our Pathways program because they would like to stay in Canada, but actually go more into the academic side. And so the Pathways program is a great option for them. And so they go ahead and do that.

– And when you say Pathways program, you’re referring to then transferring into a public college?

– Exactly, yes.

– Yeah, because Tamwood, I mean, has negotiated agreements that allow students who complete programs at Tamwood to transfer those credits into a public institute and get admission with advanced standing so they don’t have to repeat the same course again and pay for it again at a public college. You’re right. I mean, that allows students to stay longer, work longer, but also get another credential, diploma or degree, and eventually qualify for a post-graduate work permit. Well, Alisa, what would you, any final words you’d like to share with people listening who might be interested in coming to do a work and study program? And any last words of advice or suggestions?

– Well, I just wanna start off by saying I think it’s an amazing opportunity and adventure. I have lived abroad myself, and I loved it. And it really helped me not just grow as a person, but develop professionally, develop personally. So I think it’s a really, really awesome, brave, amazing thing to do. So right off the bat, I think that about every student. Secondly, I would say it’s important to keep an open mind. Even though, you know, Canada is a very friendly, multicultural place, there are obviously cultural customs when it comes to resumes and workplace attire and job interview skills. And that even though you may have had some experience in your home country, it doesn’t mean it’s quite the same here. But, you know, that’s why I’m here, and that’s why Tamwood is here to support you on that. And thirdly, just remember that you get out of it what you put into it. And if you’re coming to school and you’re meeting with me, and you’re working hard to make your resume and your cover letter as good as possible, chances are you’re gonna have an amazing experience, you’re gonna meet some great employers, some great coworkers, some great students and teachers, and you’ll have an awesome time in Canada, whether it’s for a year or whether it’s for life, right?

– That’s great. So inspiring. I wanna go back and be a student.

– I know. Me too. Yeah, same.

– Well, thank you so much, Alisa, for your time today.

– Thank you for having me.

– It’s great to see you. Okay, take care. Bye-bye.

– Take care. Bye-bye.

– That’s all for this week’s episode of Work and Study in Canada, brought to you by Tamwood Careers. Tamwood is a private education company operating career colleges in Toronto, Vancouver, and Whistler, Canada. Tamwood offers popular work and study programs in fields like business, hospitality and tourism, digital marketing, web design, UX, UI, and entrepreneurship. International students who study with Tamwood gain valuable work experience in Canada, and start on a pathway to a successful career and immigration to Canada. If you’d like more information about Tamwood and its programs, visit our website: You can also check out our videos on YouTube and connect with us on social at Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.