Montreal, Canada

Internships, ‘Canadian’ Experience and Employment

Ville de Montréal

April 14, 2013

Program helps newcomers integrate into the city’s workforce through on-the-job training, mentoring and coaching

New immigrants to Canada face a challenging Catch-22 when trying to find jobs commensurate with their skills and experiences: they can’t get a job without Canadian experience but they can’t get that experience without a Canadian job.

The City of Montreal, the largest employer in Montreal and the surrounding suburbs with more than 25,000 employees, recognized this barrier was preventing many bright and talented individuals from fully participating in the Quebec labour force.

To help newcomers, as well as recent graduates, overcome that barrier and help the City be more reflective of the population it serves, the City launched the Professional Sponsorship Program (Programme de parrainage professionnel) in 2006.

The program has a tripartite funding model. Emploi Québec provides a wage subsidy equivalent to the provincial minimum wage and the City of Montreal tops up the minimum wage to the appropriate compensation level based on the job. The province of Quebec’s Department of Immigration and Cultural Communities finances an annual evaluation as well as the training for mentors and mentees.

How the Program Works

The program includes a six-month paid internship with the City of Montreal and aims to increase the workforce integration of ethnic and visible minorities, who account for nearly 85 % of all participants. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a post-secondary degree or diploma and less than one year of work experience in Quebec in a field related to their education.

The work placements include a wide variety of positions and give participants the opportunity to develop their skills in a stimulating job related to the field in which they trained. One foreign-trained engineer who came to the City as a trainee building inspector intern was paired with an employee who mentored him. After several weeks of coaching and on-the-job training, the intern was able to work successfully on his own and then was hired on a permanent basis after the internship.

The mentoring and training components of the internship program are essential to its success. Not only do new entrants to the Canadian workforce need to learn the technical ins and outs of the job, but they must also learn to adapt to a new workplace culture. To that end, mentors and interns both receive diversity and interpersonal communication training. This training helps them become more aware of their own perception of cultural differences, better understand others and teaches them to communicate using negotiation, mediation and problem solving.


“This program promotes intercultural and intergenerational understanding while promoting careers in Montreal’s public service,” says Mary Deros, a member of the City’s executive committee responsible for diverse communities, at the launch of the sixth internship cohort in September 2011. In addition, the program promotes the exchange of expertise, meets the needs of the workforce and prepares a new generation for skilled, in-demand jobs, she said.

Since the launch of the program in 2006, 269 people have participated in the program. Of those, 156 (58%) have found permanent jobs after their internships. Within this group, 118 (76%) were employed by the City of Montreal.

Update! In March 2013, the city recognized the success of the most recent and seventh cohort of interns to complete the program, bringing the number of interns who have completed the program to 329.  Erika Duchesne, with the City’s executive committee responsible for diverse communities, took the opportunity to thank the mentors without whom the program could not operate:  “Your dedication, your generosity and your commitment to sharing your valuable expertise and experience with the municipality makes me proud to count you among the exemplary employees of the City of Montreal.”

Making it Work for You:

  • Pair new employees, both interns or permanent employees, with a mentor to help them learn the ins and outs of the job and the workplace culture.
  • Focus employment programs on under-represented groups — new immigrants, visible minorities, youth — to tap into new talent, expertise and ideas that will strengthen your city.
  • Work collaboratively with other government partners to fund programs and reduce the financial burden on your city.

For this Good Idea contact:

Nathalie Tellier Conseillère diversité en emploi, Division gestion des compétences et formation, Ville de Montréal
3711, Saint-Antoine Ouest, bureau 100
Montréal, Québec, Canada,
H4C 0C1