Canadian paid internships in high-demand fields: background information

The Challenges:

Although Canada boasts high levels of post-secondary achievement, the transition for students to a first job can be challenging. Young graduates often lack opportunities to gain the workplace experience and skills necessary to find and retain jobs. In addition, too many Canadian graduates find themselves unemployed or underemployed, while employers are searching for skilled workers.

In fact, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has identified skills shortages as the number one barrier to Canada’s competitiveness. According to the latest Help Wanted report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, there were approximately 296,000 job vacancies in the fourth quarter of 2013, including vacancies due to the shortage of qualified labour.

Initiative to Provide Youth with Internships in High-Demand Fields:

Recognizing these challenges, on May 2, 2014, Canada announced an initiative to strengthen youth employment programming by dedicating $40 million towards supporting up to 3,000 paid internships for post-secondary graduates between 2014 and 2016. These internships, which will last between six and 12 months, will provide youth with real-life work experience in high-demand fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the skilled trades.

Of this amount, up to $30 million would be provided to the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) as part of its Youth Employment Program (YEP). This will go towards supporting youth internships in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) undertaking technical research and development projects. The remaining $10 million, which will be delivered through Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)’s Career Focus Program, will also provide post-secondary graduates with real life work experience in high-demand fields. For the Career Focus Program, a call for proposals will take place later in the year.

The support being announced in Economic Action Plan 2014 for this internship initiative is part of Canada’s Youth Employment Strategy (YES).


Benefits of this announcement include:

  • Providing post-secondary graduates with experiences and opportunities to help them succeed in the job market in their field of work now and in the future;
  • Helping employers fill jobs and address the shortages in high-demand fields; and,
  • Ensuring that young Canadians are fully contributing to the Canadian economy.

Service Programs:

Youth Employment Strategy (YES)

YES is Canada’s umbrella program to help young people, particularly those facing barriers to employment, get the information and gain the skills, work experience and abilities they need to make a successful transition into the labour market. YES is a horizontal initiative involving 11 federal departments and agencies. The initiative is comprised of three program streams: Skills Link, Career Focus, and Summer Work Experience. Employers and organizations can apply for funding to offer employment opportunities to young people under these program streams. Since 2006, YES has helped more than 555,000 young people develop skills, to the benefit of the Canadian economy.

For additional information, visit:

Youth Employment Program – National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP)

The NRC-IRAP’s Youth Employment Program (YEP), which is delivered under YES, provides financial assistance to innovative small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Canada to hire post-secondary science, engineering, technology, business, and liberal arts graduates. Graduates work on innovative projects within the SMEs environment and may participate in research, development and commercialization of technologies. In addition to meeting the needs of innovative SMEs, this program facilitates the transition of highly-skilled young people to a rapidly changing labour market.

YEP was created in 1997, and since 2006, NRC-IRAP has provided approximately $73.7 million in direct financial support to SMEs which resulted in 5,146 internships.

For additional information, visit:

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) – Career Focus Program

Established in 2003, ESDC’s Career Focus Program is delivered under YES. It provides funding for local, regional, and national enterprises and organizations to design and deliver a range of activities that enable youth to make more informed career decisions, develop their skills and benefit from work experiences. The program aims to help facilitate youth transition into the labour market.

Career Focus aims to:

  • Increase the supply of highly qualified workers;
  • Facilitate the transition of highly-skilled young people to a rapidly changing labour market;
  • Promote the benefits of advanced studies; and,
  • Demonstrate federal leadership by investing in the skills required to meet the needs of the knowledge economy.

Since 2006, the Career Focus Program has helped over 26,000 youth acquire skills to help them transition into the labour market.

For additional information, visit:

Other Support to Connect Youth with Available Jobs:

The Government of Canada invests over $10 billion annually to support post-secondary education, which includes providing students with financial assistance such as Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants, and specific programming targeted to First Nations and Inuit students.

Support for Apprentices:

The Apprenticeship Incentive Grant and Apprenticeship Completion Grant are taxable cash grants that encourage Canadians to pursue and complete apprenticeship training in designated Red Seal trades. As a result of these grants, apprentices could be eligible to receive up to $4,000, which can be used to pay for tuition, tools or other expenses.

The Government of Canada also offers a tax credit to enterprises to encourage them to hire apprentices, as well as a tax deduction for apprentices and tradesmen to help cover the cost of new tools.

Through Economic Action Plan 2013, the Government of Canada introduced measures to support apprentices and the skilled trades. This included encouraging the use of apprentices in federal construction and maintenance contracts and infrastructure projects, working with the provinces and territories to harmonize apprenticeship training and certification, and examining the use of practical tests as an assessment in certain skilled trades.

Economic Action Plan 2014 also introduces the Canada Apprentice Loan to provide apprentices registered in their first Red Seal trade with access to interest-free loans of up to $4,000 per period of technical training. This initiative will help more apprentices to complete their training and encourage more Canadians to consider a career in the skilled trades.

For additional information, visit:

Post-secondary Education:

The Government of Canada provides a range of support – including Canada Student Loans and Canada Student Grants – to help young Canadians pursue and save for their post-secondary education, in order to acquire the skills and training they need to succeed in the job market.

For additional information, visit:

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