For Social Services Employers

Program Background

The Bridging Program for Internationally Educated Social Work Professionals (IESW) is an award-winning, leading-edge program designed to enhance the employment prospects of social work professionals. It includes relevant courses, supportive mentorship, and challenging work placements. The placements are with well-established social service agencies across the entire Greater Toronto Area, in social work settings such as mental health, substance use, child welfare, and more. The placements are in collaboration with employers who are committed to address issues of systemic barriers, diversity, and inclusion.

The design and implementation of the IESW Bridging Program is based on first-hand knowledge obtained from the following:

Each of these three sources is described in more detail under the heading Knowledge Sources, below.

Knowledge Sources

Community Based Research Project

Research funded by Canadian Heritage, Human Resources Skills Development and the Faculty of Community Services at Toronto Metropolitan University led to a report titled Examining Systemic and Individual Barriers to Visible Minority Social Workers in Mainstream Social Service Agencies (PDF). This research, conducted by Access Alliance Multicultural Community Health Centre and Toronto Metropolitan University documented evidence of systemic and individual barriers faced by internationally educated and Canadian educated social workers, and made recommendations on how to eliminate these identified barriers.

In 2005 the IESW Bridging Program received funding to assist internationally educated social work professionals to gain employment in the social service/human service sector in Ontario. The research report cited above became instrumental in defining the program’s vision to work with both employers and internationally educated social work professionals in order to

  • Reduce barriers to the employment of internationally educated social work professionals in positions that reflect their level of education and experience, and
  • Prepare such professionals for employment and career mobility in Ontario’s social services sector.

Network for Internationally Educated Social Work Professionals

This network was initiated in 2003 by Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services and is currently managed by the IESW Bridging Program. There are now over 1,200 subscribers to the email list, which is used to circulate information about job postings, professional development opportunities, community events, and conferences. To join the IESW Network, please contact us by email.


Currently, mentoring is offered to those enrolled in the certificate program or have completed the non-credit course, CVSW 901 - Introduction to Social Services in Ontario.

Becoming a mentor/coach is an excellent way employers can help IESWs pursue a successful career. Contact us by email if you wish to become a mentor/coach.

How to Create Equitable Employment Practices: Guide for Internationally Educated Social Workers

This guide (PDF) poses questions and offers suggestions to help social service organizations become employers of choice for internationally educated social workers (IESWs). The material in this guide can be adapted to create strategies for the inclusion of other equity-seeking groups, such as Aboriginal peoples and people with disabilities.

How to Use This Guide

Human Resources staff, hiring committees, diversity committees, and supervisors in a variety of social work settings can use this guide as a quick reference tool. You can:

  • bring the guide to meetings to promote reflection and discussion
  • photocopy selected pages to share with colleagues
  • use it to orient new supervisors and help with problem solving
  • keep it visible and alive, adding new ideas that emerge from experiences in your organization

Agency Opportunities

Learning Opportunities for Participating Agencies

Throughout the year, IESW Bridging Program workers and other staff from Toronto Metropolitan work with participating agencies to develop and offer a variety of workshops and events for agency staff who are involved with the program.

Opportunities for Social Service Agencies

Involvement in this project has many potential benefits for participating agencies:

  • As mock interviewers, mentors/coaches, your staff have the opportunity to synthesize and share their knowledge and skills while learning more about the social work practice and perspectives of internationally educated professionals.
  • As a placement site, your agency can demonstrate its support for inclusion and diversity in the social work profession and further its equity and access mandate. As well as developing staff’s leadership and supervisory experience and professional development.
  • As hosts for site tours, your agency can help foster an understanding of your mandate, client issues, and work to a group of future social work professionals.
  • As guest speakers, your staff strengthen the connections between the field, the university, and internationally educated social work professionals.
  • As employers your agency gains access to a wider pool of qualified and experienced professionals who are ready to help meet staffing requirements.
  • As agency committed to professional development, your staff and managers have access to educational materials and workshops and opportunities to participate in curriculum and program planning.

Placement Positions

Social work agencies that offer student placements help an internationally educated professional launch a successful career in their new home.

Some significant benefits include the following:

  • Increasing the diversity of your organization and the social services field.
  • Boosting your staffing requirements with talented, knowledgeable newcomers who are eager to work and brings new perspectives to your team.
  • Enhancing your ability to provide culturally competent service that’s responsive to new and emerging communities.
  • Promoting access and equity in the social work profession.

If you’re interested in becoming a leader in our innovative bridging program, please contact us today.

Phone: 416-979-5000, ext. 4095

Contact Us

Phone: 416-979-5000, ext. 4095