Yosabeth Agonafer came to Canada in 2018 from Ethiopia with plans to pursue chemical engineering at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John.
But the transition became difficult when she tried finding a job in this country and realized she needed some new skills, particularly in the use of social media.
Now in her fourth year of university, Agonafer has her eye on becoming an entrepreneur and starting her own company one day.
In the meantime, she's using her experience in the New Brunswick job market to help other international students succeed.
Agonafer is interning with the Saint John Newcomers Centre this summer as a program co-coordinator with Skills Up for Success.
Launched this week, Skills Up for Success was developed by the centre and UNB.
"It's kind of like a package for international students," Agonafer said. "It generally prepares you for the Canadian market, and it starts with personal branding, to effective communications, to job market skills."
The centre is offering the program to 20 international students, including some studying outside Canada, teaching them "soft skills" such as social media and video chatting.
The program also includes crafting a resumé, interview skills, and how to communicate better through public speaking.
Samah El Maghlawy, who teaches business at UNB and also works with the newcomers centre, said the centre had noticed that digital and soft skills were sometimes a struggle for newcomers because of cultural or linguistic differences.
Not everyone has access to the same technology, so the virtual program is an effort to bridge those differences, El Maghlawy said.
"We felt that the gap and the need for training on soft skills for international students in particular … wanting to find meaningful employment in Saint John."
These may be skills that are overlooked in importance but are foundational for a wide range of jobs.
"We felt that it would be a great help to give them a head start to give them a boost course or training in soft skills, as we like to call it power skills."
El Maghlawy said some students in the program are learning remotely from countries like Egypt, China, India and Brazil.
Learning from afar
Rodrigo Matos, who lives in Brazil and is a prospective UNB student, was invited to participate in the Skills Up program to better prepare himself for when he can get to New Brunswick to pursue his studies.
The program has gone well for Matos. He's already landed a job interview as an IT developer after revamping his LinkedIn profile to get the attention of one company.
"This is the first interview but I'm really happy."
UNB has 100 students in its master's of business administration program, 90 of whom are international students. Annually the university accepts 350 international students in undergraduate programs, and while many say they want to stay and work in New Brunswick, only 25 per cent land jobs.
"This is a missed opportunity," El Maghlawy said, and there are plans to expand the program beyond the 20 international students by establishing branches in Fredericton and Moncton.
"We were not sure what to expect when we started this program, but the level of involvement of the international students, volunteers, instructors. … their contribution was really impressive."