EDMONTON (CUP) — International students may soon have better chances of finding employment, as the federal and provincial governments are working together to help foreign students apply for work visas that would allow them to find jobs off-campus.
Alberta Advanced Education Minister Dave Hancock explained that a proposal is currently in the works.
“The Alberta government is in the process of finalizing an agreement with the federal government that will allow international students to work off-campus,” Hancock said.
At present, international students are only allowed to find employment on campus; many of the University of Alberta’s 2,200 international students work as research assistants or support staff, while others have found positions working at businesses on campus.
Hancock, however, feels that giving foreign students in Alberta the opportunity to work with companies off-campus will provide an advantage for both the students and the province.
“Having these 6,000 international students work off-campus jobs during the school year, Christmas breaks or summer holidays is a mutual benefit”?it helps the students get the work experience they need, and enhances Albertans’ understanding and appreciation of other cultures in the workplace,” Hancock said.
While federal funding for the project has not yet been finalized, Hancock is hopeful that the program will be in place by spring, which means international students can find employment somewhere other than the U of A campus over the summer semester break.
However, Doug Weir, director of International Student Services, warned that it’s still only a proposed plan, and nothing concrete has been set in motion yet. This type of program has been announced in the past, he explained, and despite student anticipation, has been stalled before. Furthermore, it still requires federal funding and approval before international students can begin working off-campus.
Even so, Weir said that the administration would be supportive of such a program if it did become a reality.
“Once there is a program, the university will be behind it. It will do what it needs to do to facilitate international student participation in the program,” Weir said.
Hooman Hosseinkhannazer, an international Master’s student from Iran who is studying mechanical engineering at the U of A, thinks the program is important, and can give international students real-world experience in their field of study. “Many of the people who come here are grad students, and they’re already qualified to do these jobs,” he said. “I’m pretty sure that the experience you get while working and going to university at the same time is a really good experience. You can get really good feedback from the job and use it in class.”
Hosseinkhannazer went on to say that many other countries have programs that allow international students to work off-campus in addition to their studies.
He said that having opportunities at higher income employment, which is usually the case when job options broaden, can help international students deal with the costs of tuition, which are much higher than for Canadian students.
“I’m really positive about it, and I hope they do it,” he said, adding that the program would likely encourage foreign students to study in Canada. “If I can work in Australia, or in Germany, I guess I can work in Canada too,” he concluded.