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 prevents their full and equitable, integration into Alberta’s labour force.
This two-year research project will work 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 will address issues of safety and equity while improving workplace integration for newcomer youth, who are also English language learners (ELL). Through stakeholder collaboration and community-based research methods, the project will research and pilot a suite of resources, including a mobile / app resource, designed to complement existing language and labour market integration services.
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 program 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 Creative Technologies are supporting the development and design of an online platform and application for workers. Software design students provide input into the research design, while software development and digital marketing students will assist 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 is consulting on design of research themes and questions for employers, and participate in co-creating, piloting, and evaluating the project’s employer and worker toolkits.
Supporting the co-creation research plan, newcomer youth English language workers will be engaged and given the opportunity to contribute to all stages of the research, resource development, piloting, and evaluation.
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 stakeholder 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 core of the two-year research plan is 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 sees the project past its halfway point. Data collection is complete, and the team has transitioned to data analysis and the development of planned outputs for 1) workers, 2) language instructors, and 3) employers. This work engages three School of Creative Technologies classes and the co-creation team. The co-creation team is comprised of four research participants and three RAs who contributed to an ongoing series of nine meetings throughout Fall 2019 and six meeting 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 Creative Technologies classes.
A highlight of this project is the integrated learning opportunities provided to Bow Valley College students. Three different School of Creative Technologies capstone projects (in software design, software development, and digital marketing) will culminate in a mobile app for workers that the research team will pilot with newcomer youth workers during Summer/Fall 2020.
The project is piloting three resources developed to help respond to the research questions and outcomes. The three resources address worker health and safety for newcomer youth workers. There is a resource for workers, for English language instructors, and employers.
October | November | December 2020
The employer online toolkit pilot will gather feedback on a resource designed to provide employers with information on how to support workplace integration and safety for newcomer workers. Employers participating in the pilot can access the toolkit from now until December 31, 2020. Pilot participants will be asked to fill out a survey and will be invited to patriciate in a focus group after working with the material.
Informed and developed by our project partners, employers, and the co-creation team, this resource addresses youth newcomer worker health and safety needs from the employer’s perspective.
Research shows that due to intersecting factors like age and language ability newcomers are more likely to get hurt on the job. 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 English language instructor course material pilot and the worker’s mobile app pilot will run concurrently. Updates will be shared here in the coming weeks.