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Sheridan boosts support for international students through Work Study

Newsroom authorby Alex DemedeirosMay 5, 2023

Alejandra Sanabria Bernal is an international student from Colombia studying in the Advertising and Marketing Communications program at  Sheridan’s Hazel McCallion Campus. She began her first semester in 2022, arriving in Canada on New Year’s Day. Since then, she has been working non-stop.

“I didn’t have a summer break, I just went straight into three semesters in one year,” she says.

Alejandra wants to make the most of all her program has to offer, but acknowledges that can make it hard to have enough time to work. Luckily, January of 2022 also happened to coincide with expanded opportunities for students through the Work Study program.

Thanks to support from the ScotiaRISE program – Scotiabank’s 10-year, $500-million initiative that aims to promote economic resilience among disadvantaged groups – in early 2022 Sheridan was able to expand the number of student positions available to international students with financial support from the Work Study program.

Each year, approximately 1,500 Sheridan students take up a variety of student positions. The Work Study program helps support these positions financially for students who meet specific eligibility criteria including demonstrating financial need. Students work in areas such as research, IT, and campus services. Expanded Work Study funding targeted specifically at international students opens the door to more opportunities on-campus by encouraging more departments to offer positions.

“Work Study offers a tremendous avenue for us to support international students with opportunities to gain Canadian work experience while making connections with their peers and the campus community.”

– Kristen Harper, Interim Manager, Financial Aid & Awards at Sheridan College

In the Fall of 2020, Sheridan set aside its own funds to begin a pilot project to create an International Work Study program. Employment with the College plays a crucial role in allowing international students to connect with the larger Sheridan community, support themselves financially, and gain work experience so they can apply their classroom learning directly.  The popularity of the International Work Study program was quickly proven, and thanks to Scotiabank’s support, employment opportunities have increased with 125 international students being hired over two years.

“Work Study offers a tremendous avenue for us to support international students with opportunities to gain Canadian work experience while making connections with their peers and the campus community,” says Kristen Harper, Interim Manager, Financial Aid & Awards at Sheridan. “This program has been incredibly successful, and I’m truly thankful to Scotiabank for supporting our efforts to expand the Work Study program to more international students.”

Alejandra first learned about working on campus not long after arriving at Sheridan. While attending student orientation, Alejandra overheard a conversation about Sheridan Works – the website where on-campus jobs can be found. She soon found the position of Student Ambassador in the Office of the Registrar, applied, and was accepted.

Since then, Alejandra has tackled other student roles. Last August, she began working in the gym at the Hazel McCallion Campus as a Customer Service Representative, with the support of the International Work Study program.

Alejandra says as a full-time student, being supported by Work Study offers the unique benefit of having her work hours scheduled around her class timetable. She explains that if she had to find an off-campus job, and then try to match up the hours herself, “there would be so much stress.”

On-campus employment also gives students the chance to engage with Sheridan’s community on a more personal basis, something research has shown is particularly important to help international students feel welcomed in campus life.

“Work Study provides financial support …. it makes it so much easier to find a position.”

– Artem Gusev (Computer Systems Technology – Software Development and Network Engineering, 3rd year)

That’s something Artem Gusev has experienced firsthand. Originally from Russia, he is a third-year student in the Software Development and Network Engineering program at Davis Campus. He first worked at the front desk at the Davis Campus residence. His other position was with the Sheridan Screen Industries Research and Training Centre (SIRT). Artem says working in these roles built up his people skills and allowed him to connect with peers. He also says that if he were not eligible for Work Study, his chances of finding work would be “significantly reduced.”

“It's great that Work Study helps provide financial support to hire students. It makes it so much easier to find a position,” he says, adding that he hopes to work as a junior programmer, and his Work Study positions have provided him with a way to practice and refine his personal skills.

Alejandra says she hopes more international students will be encouraged to apply for Work Study. “(We need to) let more people know that on-campus employment is an option because it's really stressful to find a job,” she says.

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