by Meredith Dault
July 11, 2011
When Elizabeth Allen first arrived as an undergraduate student at Queen's in 2003, she had no way of knowing it was a city where she'd be putting down roots. But by the time her first summer rolled around, she knew she didn't want to head back to her hometown in Calgary. "After my first week of summer in Kingston I was hooked," she laughs. "A lot of my friends were going back to their big cities, but I was happy staying through the summer - it was just a case of finding the right job opportunity, which is I think the case for a lot of students."
Allen, who has called Kingston home ever since, is part of the business development team at the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO), an organization that supports business attraction, growth and retention, and does tourism marketing for the City of Kingston. She now spends her days supporting employers and helping candidates (including recent graduates) find work opportunities in the city -- whether it's a summer gig, or a more long term employment.
"I believe there is a perceived lack of opportunities in Kingston, " says Allen with a warm smile, "but we're working hard to dispel that myth. So we are trying to increase the awareness of our diverse private sector economy. We have a strong public sector, but we also have a growing private sector, with lots of opportunities for students once they graduate, as well as during their studies."
Allen, who studied sociology and international development as an undergraduate, worked as student support staff in the university’s School of Business while she earned her degree. Upon graduation, she found a job as a program coordinator with The Entrepreneurship Centre at KEDCO. “I was responsible for organizing workshops and events, and also for the promotion of KEDCO’s programs and services to the local community,” she recalls. “It was a great opportunity right out of school.”
But Allen knew she was ready for another challenge, and in September of 2008 decided to head back to Queen’s for a Master’s degree in Industrial Relations. A 12-month program, Allen knew the experience would set her up for more job opportunities. “I always say my sociology degree was a great start,” she says, “but it didn’t necessarily give me a straight career path. I used my Master’s as an opportunity to identify my strengths and improve my weaknesses.”
A year after graduating she returned to KEDCO - this time in her new position with the business development team. “My responsibilities are within the labour market development portfolio,” Allen explains, “and that involves a variety of activities - from helping employers promote opportunities and connect with candidates, to the recruitment of healthcare professionals, the creation of career leadership groups and working with HR professionals to integrate labour market initiatives.” Most significantly (considering her own attachment to the city), she works to promote Kingston as a place to live and work.
Thanks to a recent partnership between Queen’s and KEDCO, Allen now spends two days a week working at the Career Services office on campus. “I am really trying to represent local employers, and am working to bring local economic development into what career services offers,” she says. Recent initiatives have included a Work in Kingston Day career fair, and a job shadowing program that provides opportunities for students to spend time in different workplaces. “We are also working on more internships and work-study programs,” she says. “We want more opportunities for students to take their learning into the workplace.”
At the same time, Allen says that KEDCO staff meet with about 300 locals employers a year. She says many had been “identifying a struggle to find qualified candidates for their positions.” With regards to the KEDCO-Queen’s partnership, Allen says that her role is in trying to get “employers on campus, and getting students off campus.” Ultimately, she says, it works benefits everyone. “Students get real-world experience, and employers get solutions to their problems. We just want to see more of it.”
Allen says that studies indicate that students who spend their summers in Kingston are more inclined to consider it a place to live and work. “There is a feeling of community here that students are looking for,” she says. “As someone who came here to go to school and decided to stay, it’s been an amazing thing to help promote. I’m living what I’m talking about!”
To book at meeting with Elizabeth Allen at Career Services, send an email to email@example.com
For work opportunities in Kingston visit Live & Work in Kingston.