man listening to webinar

Non-profit uses online training to reach rural learners

Most literacy organizations and not-for-profits can agree that when it comes to resources, they are extremely limited – whether it be time, staff and volunteers, or money. Delivering high-quality programming can be a struggle with such limitations, but technology is making it easier to reach more people in a cost-effective manner.

COVID-19 has practically forced every organization to leverage technology in order to stay afloat. Those who haven’t yet been able to leverage technology to deliver programming – for whatever reason – have now been forced to quickly adapt.

One not-for-profit in Newfoundland and Labrador has had to adapt to online programming for components of the program that would normally be delivered in person. International Education Newfoundland and Labrador (IENL) is an industry association focused on advancing international education in the province. The Atlantic Canada Study and Stay™ NL Program is a pilot project funded by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) in collaboration with International Education Newfoundland and Labrador, Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) and College of the North Atlantic (CNA).

Ying Zhang, who works for IENL and runs the Atlantic Canada Study and StayTM NL Program, says the online programming has been vital in reaching a rural population. In Newfoundland and Labrador, about 50 per cent of people live in rural locations.

“Many of the students in our program are spread out across the province, and some of them are already working full-time,” she says. “By providing online programming, we can offer more flexibility and even allow people to access it in their own time.”

Atlantic Canada Study and Stay™ NL Program provides training and support in the areas of immigration, entrepreneurship and employment, with the ultimate goal of retaining international students in the province after they graduate. The program aims to recruit students in their final year of studies, just before graduation, although oftentimes they work with new graduates as well.

Ying says a lot of international students struggle to find work despite being qualified at a Canadian university. She says there are several barriers, particularly cultural barriers and transferable skills, which are sometimes difficult to identify in an interview.

IENL is one of the latest organizations to take part in Activate Learning, a literacy and essential skills program exclusively designed for the unique population of Newfoundland and Labrador. Activate Learning provides various programming in the areas of financial, health, workplace literacy and essential skills training. Ying jumped at the opportunity to deliver one of the UP Skills for Work workplace literacy workshops, which focuses on soft skills.

“The online workshop that we delivered through the Activate Learning program was really well received by our participants,” says Ying. “The focus of the workshop was on motivation and so it helped our students understand the importance of soft skills in the workplace.”

Ying further says that soft skills, such as teamwork, confidence and time management, are often cultural and therefore international students may not understand their significance to an employer. Through the Activate Learning program, she hopes that students will be able to improve upon these soft skills and use their training to land meaningful employment in the province.