International Economic Development Council awards Gold Rank to Queen’s Career Apprenticeship: Kingston

Image via QCAK website.

Kingston Economic Development Corporation (Kingston EcDev) has won a Gold Rank for its Queen’s Career Apprenticeship: Kingston, a project in the category of Partnerships with Educational Institutions from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) 2021 Excellence in Economic Development Awards Program.

The honour was announced on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, during the IEDC Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, and sees Kingston as the first Canadian city to win in this category. This is also the first time that Kingston EcDev has won an IEDC gold award.

“Addressing workforce challenges and retaining young talent in our community is critically important to Kingston’s immediate and future needs. This unique program, which was piloted in Kingston, has realized tremendous success with a value proposition equally important to the community as it is to students,” said Donna Gillespie, CEO of Kingston Economic Development Corporation. “This award shows the importance of collaboration with post-secondary institutions to address gaps in the community.”

The Queen’s Career Apprenticeship: Kingston program is a privately funded, one-year, salary paid, career apprenticeship that helps new graduates jump-start their careers and gain experience while helping small businesses attract and retain highly skilled talent in Kingston, according to a release from Kingston EcDev. Arts graduates apply to local companies; companies receive four months of funding towards the graduate’s salary, and successful applicants have a guaranteed full-time job for at least one year.

“It has been amazing to see this program grow over the last three years and exciting to see other universities nationwide have adopted similar apprenticeship programs,” said Dean Barbara Crow, Faculty of Arts and Science at Queen’s University. “Experiential learning is a key piece of the university experience and has a direct impact on our students’ ability to source jobs while benefiting the local economy by ensuring these Queen’s students remain within the Kingston community.”

“We have businesses that need talented people, and we have talented arts grads that need jobs, but there is a gap between those two things,” noted Gillian Watters, Kingston Economic Development Corporation’s Board Chair and Director of Programs at KEYS Employment Services. “This program provides a real career opportunity for arts graduates and helps with mentoring support and funding incentives. It’s a win-win for employers and for graduates and a huge win for Kingston.”

IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. Twenty-five award categories honour organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities. According to the release, awards are judged by a diverse panel of economic and community developers, following a nomination process held earlier this year. IEDC received over 500 submissions from 4 countries.

“The winners of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the best of economic development and exemplify the leadership that our profession strives for every day,” said 2021 IEDC Board Chair and Invest Buffalo Niagara, President, and CEO Tom Kucharski. “We’re incredibly honoured to recognize the outstanding organizations that received this year’s Excellence Awards. This year, more than ever, has presented opportunities to innovate, impact, and progress the cities, neighbourhoods, and communities around us. Each of this year’s recipients represents the best of the economic development profession and exemplifies the ingenuity for fellow economic developers to aspire to in the years to come.”

“The Gold Rank award is affirmation of the successful partnership between Kingston Economic Development Corporation and Queen’s University Faculty of Arts and Science. Leaders Donna Gillespie, CEO of Kingston Economic Development and Dean Crow focused on innovation and positive outcomes for their respective stakeholders. This award validates the critical importance of both full-time employment upon graduation for new graduates and communities attracting and retaining young talent,” said Alan Rottenberg, Program Founder and Venture Capitalist.

Rottenberg, an Ottawa-based philanthropist and venture capitalist, saw how hard it was for his sons and their friends to find an employer willing to invest in them as recent arts graduates. Rottenberg, an arts grad himself, decided to do something about it by piloting the program in Kingston in 2018, according to the release. The program has seen great results for the employers that participated as well as the community. Kingston EcDev said that since its inception, the program has launched over 40 careers in Kingston and has generated more than $2.5 million in payroll. Kingston is the first community to host a program like this, though today, eight other Canadian communities are taking notes and working with Rottenberg and his Canadian Career Apprenticeship Initiative, according to the release.

“I started my career as an apprentice almost three years ago and it has been a tremendous opportunity for me to grow. This program is an incredible way to understand the full impact of what arts students have to offer to Kingston employers,” said Nour Mazloum, Communications and Events Officer for Kingston Economic Development Corporation. “We have world-class employers; we have some of the brightest minds graduating from Queen’s. When we can put them together, great things happen in our community.”

“‘Where/how do I get experience if no one is willing to hire me?’ is an all too familiar question,” added Chandra Erickson, Experiential Learning Coordinator, Faculty of Arts and Science. “Most entry-level positions ask for experience creating a common hurdle for new graduates during their initial job search. This program bridges the gap, providing meaningful first work experience(s) and keeping our graduates in Kingston.”

For more information and to participate in the Queen’s Career Apprenticeship: Kingston program visit

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