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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Youth Force
Youth ... on the Move

By Lauren Breslin
Special to The Sun

When you need experience to get a job, but can't get a job due to lack of experience, what do you do? This is the bind many young people face in the years after college and university. And with more and more workers competing for fewer and fewer positions in the job market, global knowledge is becoming essential.

The "Youth ... on the Move" program -- sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade's (DFAIT) Youth and Academic Mobility Unit for Europe -- offers solutions to both of these dilemmas.

The program provides young Canadians from their late teens to mid-30s the opportunity to gain valuable and rewarding experience while working abroad. This not only allows youth to learn about different cultures, but it also provides them with much-sought-after experience in the global marketplace.

"Similar to most young people today, I was very unsure with the direction of my life," says Neil Cohen, a former "Youth ... on the Move" participant. "The time after university can be difficult for a lot of us. The thought of gaining work experience outside Canada had never once occurred to me until I came across an article about [the program]."

Comprehensive website

The "Youth ... on the Move" website offers information about scholarships, apprenticeships, internships, exchanges and other opportunities to work in Europe, as well as general travel information and tips. The program offers the same services to Europeans wishing to travel to and gain work experience in Canada. Now young people interested in working abroad have all the pertinent information at their fingertips, ranging from regional weather conditions to necessary legal documents.

The specific opportunities are wide-ranging and exhaustive -- approximately 240 different opportunities in 35 European countries. If you are a young artist, you might be interested in the Artists-in-Residence program in Berlin, Germany, where you will produce works of art and share them with the city. Or perhaps you are the outdoorsy type and would prefer to perform renovations, construction, environmental protection and landscaping in Russia. If you're an academic looking to continue your education in Italy, for example, then you can find grants to help you study at a foreign university or obtain a teaching/research internship.

"I had absolutely no idea what was available to me out in Canada, let alone in another country," continues Cohen. "And with the SWAP program helping you along the way, it seemed too good to be true. It was truly the best thing I have ever done."

Success stories

Working overseas has been the experience of a lifetime for many young people. Kristy Mckamey spent well over a year in Sweden, and she came away with more than invaluable work experience. Mckamey says, "I've met a wealth of new friends from the four corners of the world. I've enjoyed getting to know new cultures, new traditions, new holidays and a new language. I've done things I've never done before."

These are but two of the many success stories you can read about at the "Youth ... on the Move" website. But while the stories tend to romanticize travelling abroad, anyone interested in doing so should definitely plan ahead and do plenty of research.

DFAIT provides many helpful suggestions for preparatory actions to take before leaving your home country: learn a little of the native language; learn as much as possible about the company you will be working for; settle all employment conditions and contract points with your new employer; make sure you have all of your required paperwork and, if necessary, vaccinations; work out your accommodations; and make sure you have enough money saved to return home.

For more information on the multitude of opportunities offered and on how to enrol, visit the website at

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