Helping international students start a career on PEI
by Stacy Dunn
A few years ago, entrepreneur Daniel Ohaegbu, who is a graduate of UPEI, saw firsthand that international undergraduate students and graduates were having difficulty finding work on PEI and were moving away to seek employment opportunities.
“We are hearing the labour shortage exists,” says Daniel says. “However, there seems to be a disconnect between international students and graduates who say they can’t find jobs and employers who say they can’t find workers. We are trying to bridge this gap.”
He founded, and is now the Executive Director of, the not-for-profit Atlantic Student Development Alliance (ASDA). It provides international students and graduates with soft skills and industry-based training, resources, and networks to help them transition into, and become active participants in the labour market.
To date, ASDA has made over 180 connections between international students from Holland College, Collège de l’Île, UPEI, and the PEI workforce. The alliance’s goal is to build a diverse and skilled workforce for employers and build meaningful relationships and employment for international students and graduates.
Three pillars of support
ASDA offers resources and information through virtual networking events, coaching, workshops, training, and needs assessments.
- The Peer Mentor/Networking program helps students develop connections and networks and build relationships beyond the people they already know.
- The Easy Learn program focuses on training, workshops, and coaching.
- The Transitions program matches students to volunteer, internship, and job opportunities.
“We have found students do not have many social connections on the Island, so we are always reaching out to employers for networking opportunities, job leads, and employment opportunities.”
ASDA has made 45 job connections to date. Its members are working in the fields of website development, social media marketing, accounting, and office administration. The alliance has three programs for employers:
- Job Ready Hires: trained and skilled talent have the expertise employers are looking for.
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training: workshops for employers on the necessary knowledge, skills, resources, policies and procedures to support a diverse workforce.
- Graduate Mentorship Program: in partnership with SkillsPEI and Immigrant and Refugee Services Association of PEI, an employment program that helps unemployed recent post-secondary graduates develop new skills and gain work experience in their field of study. A 50 percent wage subsidy is provided to employers to hire and train graduates in 52-week placements.
ASDA recently hosted job fairs at UPEI and Holland College for international students and graduates. “They were well attended; some domestic students were at the event as well. Employers were willing to share knowledge of their companies and their industries.
“We are looking to match employers and international students and graduates, showing how their skills can transfer to many industries across PEI.”