Smiling volunteers holding donation box 

Volunteering and Other Ways to Get Canadian Experience

As soon as you come to Canada, it’s a good idea to find a volunteer job where you can learn and practice your English. Children learn English faster because, from their first days in Canada, they find themselves in the school system that pushes them to communicate (listen, speak, read and write) in English. If you want to make progress as fast as children, make sure you get a volunteer job that you have to go to (like kids’ school) four or five days a week. Make sure that you don’t have an opportunity to speak your first language at your volunteer job.

Volunteering is a way of life in Canada! It is common, it is normal and it is VALUED.

12.7 million people in Canada volunteer. That’s 44% of the population 15 years or over. Many organizations in Canada rely on the help of volunteers. In the year 2013, people spent more than 2 billion hours volunteering.


Where can you volunteer? Usually people volunteer at non-profit and charitable organizations (for example libraries, schools, hospitals, food banks, seniors’ homes, places of worship, festival organizations, etc.)

Find volunteer opportunities at


How much time? Time commitment: your choice. You can find:

–  one-time opportunities (work 3-5 hours and it’s done)

– 1 to 6 months opportunities (for example 2-3 hours a week)

– 6 months or longer (2-3 hours a week)


How to apply for a volunteer position?

You need to have a resume. They will invite you for an interview and ask for references. Volunteering is unpaid but it is a JOB, so you will need to: be punctual, reliable, committed, professional, enthusiastic, willing to learn and respectful. These are the usual expectations in Canada for any job.


Why immigrants volunteer?

  • to practice English
  • to get Canadian work experience
  • to learn Canadian work culture
  • to build network (meet new people, make friends and job contacts)
  • to get Canadian references for future work
  • to adapt and adjust to life in Canada faster


How to choose where to volunteer?

If you are looking for a job, try to get a volunteer position in your professional field (for example, if you are a medical professional, find a position at a nursing home, or, if you are a teacher, look to help with something at a school).

Choose something you care about (for example children, young people (youth), health, plants, etc.)

Think: what skills do I want to learn while I’m doing this job? Many skills are transferable (you can use them in other jobs).


Your volunteer experience is your WORK EXPERIENCE so include it in the “Work History” section on your resume.


Other ways of getting Canadian experience

Practice Firms

Practice firms are training programs (8-12 weeks). “Employees” work regular hours, attend meetings, write reports and communicate. You learn about Canadian work practices and learn business terminology. You get references from supervisors of the training.

These programs are run by non-profit organizations or colleges and are funded by the government. Fields are various, including Accounting, Financial services, Sales, Marketing, etc.

For more information and to find out who is eligible, go to CPFN website



Internship program is a period of practical, supervised, on-the-job training. You apply for the positions you are interested in. Internationally qualified professionals are eligible.

For more information:



Co-op is an opportunity to volunteer your time with an organization so that you can apply your skills and gain Canadian experience in your field.

Co-op usually has an academic (school, study) part in the beginning where they teach you about resume and other things you need for employment.

Co-op helps you to connect with a company where you want to volunteer. You must have education and experience from your home country.

Look up the local co-op programs in you area.


Comprehension Questions:

1. How can a volunteer job help you learn English?

2. Should you add your volunteer experience to your resume?

3. True or False? :  Applying to a volunteer job is similar to applying to a paid job. ?

4. What would be a good volunteer position for somebody who is looking for a job in the medical field?

5. What are some other ways of getting Canadian experience? Who can use them?


Discussion Questions:

1) Do people in your first country volunteer? If yes, what are the reasons they do it?

2) Have you ever volunteered before?

3) Many organizations in Canada rely on volunteers. Does this fact surprise you?

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