Expanding the Scope of Work-Integrated Learning with Accelerate Her Future

June 21, 2022

Accelerate Her Future (AHF) is a career accelerator providing tailored programs for self-identifying Black, Indigenous and racialized women to launch their careers in business and STEM while building networks of solidarity and action.

Dr. Golnaz Golnaraghi, Founder and President of AHF, began working with Riipen in the Summer of 2021, submitting a number of different projects to the Level UP remote internship program. She was able to partner with five students who worked on projects focusing on digital marketing, research and analysis, establishing an ambassador program and onboarding.

“The ability to bring on students helped us build capacity as a small startup with a limited operating budget,” says Golnaz. “Our philosophy is ‘nothing about us, without us’ which means centering the voices of our community in our work. It is essential for us to ensure we have students and those transitioning from postsecondary into their first careers as part of our team and community consultations or design sessions we hold. We benefited from the students’ brilliant minds, fresh ideas, and perspectives, while also providing them with work-integrated learning experiences and mentorship.”

Bringing a sense of community to research

“I think the main takeaway was just the power in community,” shares Deborah Eliezer, a Commerce student at MacEwan University who worked on a Level UP research project with AHF. “Through my research and working with the AHF team, I've definitely found how valuable it is to have people with similar shared experiences in your circle. It’s been an amazing addition to my life.”

As part of her Level UP project with AHF, Simran Bakshi, an Honours Bachelor of Science Student at Western University, conducted a literature review that analyzed the experiences and barriers that Black, Indigenous, and women of colour face in post secondary STEM programs.

Simran shares, “The lack of safe spaces for Black, Indigenous and women of colour and that they’re needed desperately in postsecondary institutions. As a woman of colour myself in a post secondary institution, I find that these conversations aren’t there.”

In her previous experience, opportunities for intersectional research have been hard to come by and so working with AHF was a breath of fresh air. “I really think I can carry over this experience to other research opportunities I pursue in the future. This project really solidified my passion for research - I've never loved it as much as I did after working on this project.”

As a result of their stellar work for AHF, both Deborah and Simran were hired by Golnaz after completing their Riipen projects.

A blossoming partnership

After the success of AHF’s Level UP projects, Golnaz was eager to further explore the possibilities of collaborating with Riipen. AHF subsequently submitted an application for the Ontario Skills Development Fund in partnership with Riipen to expand access to opportunities and work-integrated learning to more women across the province.

Flash forward to the launch of AHF’s Virtual Career Accelerator, a 16-week program designed for Black, Indigenous and women of colour residing in Ontario. The program provides comprehensive career readiness modules, three technical upskilling tracks, small group mentorship and career coaching, health and wellness educational sessions, and project-based experience hosted on the Riipen platform that offers a paid stipend.

“It felt like there was a lot of alignment with Riipen. We speak a common language around the priorities of the program,” says Golnaz. “These are the kind of partnerships and collaborations that we love and I think really makes it a win-win for everyone when it's very reciprocal and respectful and ultimately for the right reasons.”

Thank you to Golnaz, Deborah and Simran for sharing their experience on Riipen. To learn more about how you can get started with the Level UP remote internship program as a student or employer, visit the website here. ‍Stay up to date with the latest in higher education, experiential learning, and the future of work, subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter, The Riipen Report.

Riipen Level UP program is funded by the Government of Canada's Innovative Work-Integrated Learning (I-WIL) Initiatives program. The opinions and interpretations in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Canada.