After graduating from the University of Ottawa, Pierre Diop began his job hunt in the summer of 2013. By that fall, he was pretty discouraged. “I had sent out dozens and dozens of interviews, but they said I wasn't experienced enough." Then he saw an online posting for the Career Launch Program offered by RBC.

“I was saying to employers ‘give me a chance’,” he says. “And that’s what Career Launch is all about. It gives you a chance.”

RBC’s Career Launch Program, unique in Canada, helps talented young people to gain valuable work experience at a time of high youth unemployment.

The program, which started with Diop’s cohort in early 2014, hires 100 young people annually from a wide variety of backgrounds and employs them at the bank for a one- year paid internship, including three months at one of RBC’s charitable partners. After that, the next step is up to each person. Some apply for a position at RBC, while others return to the job market in their chosen field, hugely bolstered by their experience and by RBC on their resume.

We refer to it as breaking the 'no experience, no job' cycle.

- Susan Uchida, Vice President Learning

“We refer to it as breaking the ‘no experience, no job’ cycle,” says Susan Uchida, Vice President, Learning, at RBC. “The program focuses on university and college graduates up to age 24 who are having difficulty transitioning from school to work.” Uchida stresses that the program is not “a talent sourcing strategy” for RBC, although many from the first-year cohort – including Diop ended up successfully applying for jobs with the bank after they finished in January 2015.

“The program is about giving the 100 associates experience,” says Uchida. “Our goal is to help them develop the skills, the confidence and the network to pursue their chosen career path with greater success. In the latter half of the program we start working with them on their resumes, we support them in terms of their interests, and we really try to help them learn to effectively present themselves.”

In their year, associates rotate through a six-month period in a local RBC branch as a client advisor, or teller, where they learn the fundamentals of client service and branch banking as a foundation. This is followed by a three-month placement at a charitable organization which RBC arranges, and a final three months at RBC head office in Toronto, using professional skills from their original field of study.

“I feel like a new person,” says Dionne. “I have been mentored and guided a lot. I’m much more confident. And I have been able to create a network and will be able to leverage these contacts as I look for my next opportunity.” Diop, meanwhile, is now working in an RBC branch as a banking advisor. Like Dionne, he feels the experience has given him much more confidence and has educated him about working life. “In the beginning I was naïve and had big dreams,” he says. “Now, I am a well-trained adult and I have big goals.”

Reproduced with permission from the announcement magazine for Canada's Top 100 Employers (2017), published November 7, 2016 in The Globe and Mail. © 2016 Mediacorp Canada Inc. and The Globe and Mail. All rights reserved.

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