Course overview

Immigrant and refugee youth in Canada – despite high levels of educational attainment – tend to experience higher unemployment rates and are more likely to be found in low-skilled, low-wage work than their Canadian-born counterparts (Shields and Lujan 2018; Statistics Canada 2019; Turcotte 2019). 

In 2021, World Education Services (WES) and the Canadian Council of Youth Prosperity (CCYP) established a partnership to explore this issue, forming a National Roundtable on Workforce Development for Immigrant Youth. Together, they hosted a National Town Hall on Immigrant Youth Workforce Development in February, 2022 to hear the firsthand experiences of immigrant and refugee youth and additional relevant stakeholders. The resulting report drew upon those findings and on a broad review of research and data on immigrant youth in the labour force. In 2023, WES mobilized this knowledge throughout the sector and also used it as the foundation for its own strategy and programming for immigrant and refugee youth.

Upon completion of the course, learners will be able to:

  • Describe the systemic obstacles experienced by immigrant youth throughout their time in Canada’s education system and how these challenges lay the groundwork for future difficulties accessing the Canadian labour market;
  • Explain why immigrant and refugee youth’s high rates of academic success is not translating into opportunities in the Canadian workforce;
  • Employ a range of potential solutions to the cumulative disadvantages experienced by immigrant and refugee youth.

This uMetropolis course developed by WES and Metropolis Institute lays out and expands upon the findings of this report, examining the disconnect between immigrant and refugee youth’s high rates of academic success and the challenges they face when entering the labour force. Module 1 provides an introduction and context, defining key concepts and setting the stage for deeper exploration in subsequent modules. In Module 2 we will delve into the initial settlement and educational challenges faced by immigrant youth, covering issues related to language skills, academic disparities, mental health, and discrimination. We will also explore challenges specific to various immigrant youth subgroups. Module 3 focuses on the transition from academic success to employment, discussing work-integrated learning, social capital, and personal insights from immigrant youth. Finally, Module 4 serves as a conclusion, summarizing the course and offering actionable recommendations for enhancing immigrant youth integration into the Canadian workforce. Throughout the course, real-life narratives and supplementary readings provide valuable perspectives on the aspirations and obstacles faced by immigrant youth, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and innovation in this endeavor.

Partners and contributors

We acknowledge the generous contribution of the following experts to this course (listed in order of first appearance):

  • Dr. Susan M. Brigham, Professor, Faculty of Education, Mount Saint Vincent University;
  • Monamee Ishika, Manager, WES Gateway Program;
  • Dr. John Shields, Professor, Department of Politics and Public Administration, Toronto Metropolitan University;
  • Javad Soltan, Program Manager of the Chance to Choose project, S.U.C.C.E.S.S;
  • Hannah Walsh, Facilitator, Immigrant Youth Employability Project, ISANS;
  • Kelly Frame, Coordinator of The Immigrant Youth Career Exploration Project, ISANS;
  • Mark Patterson, Executive Director, Magnet.

We would further like to acknowledge the following immigrant youth for their candor in sharing their own experiences and challenges (listed in order of first appearance):

  • Anukriti Randev;
  • Mehrnaz Haghverdi;
  • Prabhpreet Singh Bassi;
  • Volodymyr Burlachenko;
  • Praise Mugisho;
  • Farheen Meraj.

This course draws on a range of sources. A bibliography of these sources can be found here.

Target Audience


  • Settlement service providers (SPOs);
  • Civil servants whose work engages with immigrant youth;
  • Organizations that work on behalf of immigrants and immigrant youth.


Bilingual: English and French

Course Evaluation

In order to complete this course, participants must complete a series of modules to demonstrate their competence over course material. After engaging with course materials, participants will complete a short quiz for each module. Completion of the entire course will require answering a short essay question.