Toronto, Canada

Career Bridge Internships a Win-Win for St. Michael’s Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital

September 9, 2013

Structured internship program allows hospital to assess skilled immigrants for permanent jobs

When Mehmet Bahar started as a Career Bridge intern at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, he had no idea it would result in a job offer six months later.

A recent immigrant from Turkey with a Master of Engineering degree and project management certification, Mr. Bahar redesigned the hospital’s environmental auditing process, which measures hospital cleanliness – from wards to kitchens to surgeries. The result? Improved communication between the hospital supervisors performing the audits and the employees responsible for cleaning the different areas. In three short months, the average audit score improved by 15%.

Because of his success on that project and others during his internship, as well as his education and training, the hospital offered him a six-month contract position as project manager in its environmental services department.

Bridging the skilled immigrant gap

Skilled immigrants are often at a disadvantage in the labour market. Their international work experience is undervalued. A 2005 Statistics Canada study shows that only 40% of skilled immigrants are working in the occupation or profession for which they were trained. This makes structured internships for skilled immigrants a particularly positive initiative with benefits for both employers and interns. Newcomer professionals prove themselves in a respectful and encouraging environment and gain the confidence to search for work in their fields. Employers facing a skills shortage find qualified candidates.

Since 2004, St. Michael’s Hospital has worked with Career Edge Organization to participate in its Career Bridge paid internship program for internationally educated professionals (IEP). Career Edge pre-screens applicants and ensures they have a mentor and a coach. All interns have at least a bachelor’s degree (assessed by a Canadian credentials evaluation agency) and three years of international work experience in their field.

The structured program is an attractive way to tap into diverse talent in a city where almost 50% of its population is born outside of Canada. This makes finding global talent a priority, explains Kevin Kirkpatrick, manager of recruitment at St. Michael’s.

“Our executive vice presidents have a philosophy that they wanted to be supportive and reflective of our patient population,” he says. “When an EVP [executive vice president] says we’re going to commit and align resources to this program, that’s the true driver.”

Projects provide clear objectives to measure success

Each year the hospital sets aside funding for six to eight interns who are placed throughout the hospital. The paid internships range from four months to one year in length, though the majority of placements at St. Michael’s are four months long.

All the interns are assigned to at least one project for the duration of their internship. This ensures there are objective goals against which to measure the interns’ progress and skills.

“We get really talented people through the program and we get a really good idea of their skills by the time the internship ends,” says Mr. Kirkpatrick. “It’s very much a win-win. The IEP gets access to Canadian work experience and we get access to strong candidates who can be considered for available positions.”

Launching new professionals

Since St. Michael’s Hospital began working with the Career Bridge program, it has sponsored more than 45 internationally educated interns. About half were hired after their internships finished. The program has benefited the hospital by enhancing an important part of its human resources strategy: the recruitment and retention of internationally trained professionals.

“Managers and their teams get to work with a skilled professional with global experience that brings diversity, creativity and innovation to workplaces in Canada,” says executive vice president and chief administrative officer John King. “For us, it improves access to learning experiences, while delivering great work. And we get more than our money’s worth from these individuals because they’re hard working, keen and driven to succeed.”

Involving interns in the hospital’s general orientation program for all new employees has helped to ensure their success by making them feel part of the hospital community. Those who start at the beginning of the year can also take part in the hospital’s IEP Transition and Integration Program, which runs from January to June. This program was originally created in partnership with the Government of Ontario and Citizenship and Immigration Canada to support the integration of IEPs who are already employed by the hospital. The program includes an orientation and transition program for IEPs; workshops for mentors and managers to increase their knowledge of IEPs’ experiences and challenges; and a corporate IEP balanced scorecard for continuous improvement and evaluation.


The IEP Transition and Integration Program was a highlight of Mr. Bahar’s internship at St. Michael’s. He found it a very useful way to become familiar with the hospital’s culture and practices. All employers should offer this kind of program to help newcomers learn about the workplace culture and be successful in their new jobs, he believes.

In addition to the Career Bridge and the IEP Transition and Integration programs, St. Michael’s offers two more ways to assist immigrant job-seekers: a newcomer volunteer program and support for internationally educated nurses. In recognition for innovative programs that “help newcomers make the transition to work life in Canada,” the hospital earned the Best Employers for New Canadians award in 2013, for the sixth year in a row.

Making it Work for You:

  • Tap into skilled immigrant talent through structured internship programs that pre-screen internationally educated professionals.
  • Assign interns projects with clear goals and expectations that can be used to objectively measure success and determine if an intern would be an asset to the organization in a permanent role.
  • Executive support, including financial support, is essential to creating a cohesive corporate vision that values a diverse workforce that includes skilled immigrants.

For this Good Idea contact:

Kevin Kirkpatrick, St. Michael's Hospital
30 Bond Street
Toronto, Ontario, Canada,
M5B 1W8