Finding Your Voice, Knowing Your Rights responds to the unique needs of newcomer youth by exploring the intersectional vulnerabilities of being young, a newcomer, an English language learner, and a new-to-Canada worker.
It has been clearly documented that newcomer youth face challenges accessing their safety and labour rights in the workplace. This can contribute to their early exit from the labour market due to injury, or prevent their full and equitable, integration into Alberta’s labour force.
This two-year research project worked directly with youth in two capacities, as research participants contributing to the co-creation research plan and as research assistants supporting the research team, as well as community partners, employers, and English language learning instructors.
Finding Your Voice, Knowing your Rights addresses issues of safety and equity while improving workplace integration for newcomer youth, who are also English language learners (ELL). Through collaboration and community-based research methods, the project researched and piloted a suite of resources, including a mobile / app resource, designed to complement existing language and labour market integration services.
The research plan guiding Finding Your Voice, Knowing Your Rights fosters a socially innovative approach with an aim to improve newcomer youth’s experiences in the labour market. It is based in an evidenced-based understanding of the various stakeholders’ perspectives and experiences, followed by engaging youth, employers, and service providers in the co-creation of solutions.
- Phase 1 -Knowledge Co-creation and Data Collection
- Phase 2 and 3 - Toolkit creation and pilot
- Phase 4- Toolkit Knowledge Mobilization (including sharing the co-creation process/roadmap)
Guided by Social Innovation
By incorporating social innovation principles, our four-phase project design brings together cross-sector, multi-disciplinary and sometimes unexpected partners to learn, create, and pilot a solution building on existing knowledge that often remains isolated from each other:
- English language learning and bridge-to-work programming: provides skills learners need to get a job but does not extend to include what happens in the workplace.
- Employers: understand their legal responsibilities but are often unaware of the intersecting barriers that impact young newcomers’ enactment of their rights and responsibilities.
- Workers: bring their experiences and perceptions of safety and rights in the workplace which may not be congruent with Canadian law and workplace culture.
While all three perspectives are key to ensuring safe and equitable workplaces they seldom come together. By taking these often disparate perspectives and bringing them together, the project employs the expertise of each player to create a holistic approach to understanding and addressing the issues.
Notably, the project embodies the social innovation principle of working with intended audience to co-create and prototype a solution. It ensures the project remains grounded in the workers’ and employers’ real-world, lived experiences. Through cross-sector networks, online / app-based toolkits, and workshops the project will be sustained beyond the two-year project plan.
The School of Global Access research team's work is set apart by its collaborative, community-based approach. Finding Your Voice, Knowing Your Rights provides the team an opportunity to work with both campus and public partners.
Alberta Workers' Health Centre (AWHC) brings a rights-based lens to workers’ health and safety to our work. Their contribution to the project ensures the research plan (including its methodology, its participant recruitment, and its data collection) and how we implement that plan, respects the worker and their experiences. AWHC develops and delivers worker-focused occupational health and safety information, education, and awareness programming with a specific interest in workers vulnerable to health and safety related issues.
As the project’s technology partner, Bow Valley College instructors and students from the School of Technologies are supporting the development and design of an online platform and mobile application for workers. Software design students were hired. They provided input into the research design, while software development and digital marketing students assisted with development, piloting, and evaluating the tools and resources created.
As an employment sector partner, Sodexo brings the employers perspective to the table. A company representative consulted on design of research themes and questions for employers, and participated in co-creating, piloting, and evaluating the project’s employer and worker toolkits.
Supporting the co-creation research plan, newcomer youth English language workers were engaged and given the opportunity to contribute to all stages of the research, resource development, piloting, and evaluation.
The core of the two-year research plan was in-depth interviews with newcomer youth about their experiences with Canadian occupational health and safety and employment standards. Our lead researcher and research associate conducted the interviews and with their work being supported by a team of Bow Valley College student research assistants (RAs).
During the data collection phase, the team conducted interviews with 18 youth workers, 10 English language instructors, and 10 employers. Participants were recruited from Bow Valley College and the broader Calgary area. All interviews were transcribed and coded, with the codes developed to support identifying and analyzing themes.
Spring 2020 saw the project past its halfway point. Data collection was complete, and the team transitioned to data analysis and the development of planned outputs for 1) workers, 2) language instructors, and 3) employers. This work engaged three School of Technologies classes and the co-creation team. The co-creation team was comprised of four research participants and three RAs who contributed to an ongoing series of nine meetings throughout Fall 2019 and six meetings over Winter 2020. These collaborative sessions saw the co-creation team test research ideas, create small-scale systems maps, engage in data analysis, and plan and hold a peer-to-peer information session. Additionally, the co-creation team provided vital feedback for one of the School of Technology's classes.
A highlight of this project is the integrated learning opportunities provided to Bow Valley College students. Three different School of Technology capstone projects (in software design, software development, and digital marketing) culminated in a mobile app for workers that the research team piloted with newcomer youth workers during Fall 2020.
Learn more about this project:
Our research outcomes told us newcomers are more likely to get hurt on the job, largely due to intersecting factors like age and language ability. To respond to these issues, we created resources to address worker health and safety for newcomer youth workers.
The resource development process was informed by a co-creation activities and pilots that included workers, language instructors, employers, and our project partners as well as a dedicated co-creation team.
There is a resource for workers, for English language instructors, and for employers.
Finding Your Voice, Knowing Your Rights: Workers’ Mobile App
The mobile app is for young newcomer workers with information and resources safe, healthy, and fair workplaces. This includes information and resources related to Occupational Health and Safety and Employment Standards in Alberta. The app is available for both iOS and Android operating systems. It is free and available for download:
App Store | Play
Finding Your Voice, Knowing Your Rights: Instructor Classroom Resources
Understanding of workplace safety and workers’ rights is an important aspect of newcomers’ integration. This collection of course content includes an instructor guide and three workplace modules: 1) physical hazards, 2) psychosocial hazards, and 3) employment standards. Each module includes vocabulary, skill-using, and skill-building tasks as well assessments. The classroom resources are freely available to language instructors. D2L Brightspace copies of the three modules are available by emailing email@example.com and requesting the Finding Your Voice, Knowing Your Rights Digital Class Resources.
- Instructor Resource: Finding Your Voice, Knowing Your Rights
- Module 1: Physical Hazards in the Workplace
- Module 2: Employment Standards in the Workplace
- Module 3: Psychosocial Hazards in the Workplace
Finding Your Voice, Knowing Your Rights: Employer Toolkit
This toolkit aims to help employers respond to youth newcomer worker’s unique needs and to ensure that employers and newcomer workers are better prepared to meet the health and safety challenges of workplaces. The Employer Toolkit is offered free to all employers.