A foot in the door

CFB Esquimalt first and only military base in Canada to host unique Federal Internship for Newcomers program

Etsuko Shibata

After a year spent pounding the pavement in the frustrating hunt for steady work, Isaac Rosas Bermuduz got his big break with a good news email and phone call from CFB Esquimalt.

Rosas Bermuduz and his wife were overcome with emotion.

“A great relief, let me tell you,” Rosas Bermuduz said of securing casual administrative employment at the base’s Fleet Maintenance Facility. “I immediately called my wife. We started crying. It was a great blessing.”

The Victoria resident, who arrived from Vera Cruz, Mexico almost six years ago, was one of two newcomers to Canada hired last October as part of the new Federal Internship for Newcomers program.

CFB Esquimalt is the first and only Canadian military base to try the program, spearheaded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada in Ottawa.

The base found its candidates through the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, which helps immigrants, refugees, new Canadian citizens and visible minorities with everything from settling in society to finding work.

The internship allowed Etsuko Shibata to leave behind her retail job in Victoria and return to the office administration field she enjoyed before moving from Nagoya, Japan eight years ago.

Today, she processes some of the 1,500 travel claims generated annually by some of the 1,200 civilians at the maintenance facility.

“Before I had experience, but employers are looking for local experience in Canada,” Shibata said.

The interns have exceeded their employer’s expectations.

“They want to be here. For us it’s been the cream of the crop,” said Peggy Maher, administrative services supervisor at the Fleet Maintenance Facility.

“We went into it thinking, ‘Well, we’ll see what happens,’ but I would encourage any (federal department) to go for it,” the Saanich resident said. “If this is what the program is, I’d be willing to do it again and again and again.”

In September up to four more interns may be hired to work at the base in such fields as computer science and logistics.

“It’s just a very good success story for us to say we can do this again,” said Margot Cutcher, the West Coast navy’s human resources business manager.

“It’s been such a win-win in that it showed us that newcomers with some work experience and opportunity can thrive in our workplace, and at the same time it feels good to give someone some work experience.”

It is also important for the Department of National Defence to be a diverse workplace.

“We have to reflect the Canadian population so this is an important piece of that,” Cutcher said.

Though his internship will come to an end in early May, Rosas Bermuduz is optimistic about the future, having gained in-depth experience in records management and specialized computer training.

“With the programs that we’re learning, the cross-cultural training that we have, certainly some letters of reference and the contacts and networking, it’s a different standpoint from where I was before,” he said.