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This Summer Travel, Work and Improve your French!

The YMCA Summer Work Student Exchange (SWSE) is a six-week program that offers youth ages 16-17 the opportunity to gain paid work experience, practise their second official language skills, and discover another community within Canada. 

Applications are open for the 2025 summer exchange program!  

About the Program

The YMCA Summer Work Student Exchange (SWSE) program offers youth ages 16 and 17 the opportunity to:

1. Travel

Travel and live in a new community where you will stay with a host family; while your family hosts the incoming youth

2. Work

2. Work

Gain work experience by being provided with a paid summer job in the public sector or with a non-profit organization. This will give you a chance to contribute and make an impact in communities across the country

3. Language

3. Learn a Second Official Language

Learn and practise your second official language as you will be in a community where the second official language is spoken

Program Eligibility


In order to register for the program, you must meet the following eligibility criteria: 

  • Be 16 or 17 years old at the start of the program 
  • Live in Canada and be eligible to work in Canada
  • Your family must be able to host a youth from another community during the exchange — but if this is a barrier, let us know and we will work with you to find a solution 
  • Must be enthusiastic and excited to try new things, learn and grow


Safety of youth, staff, hosts and community partners is at the core of our principles, and a priority in program planning and execution. To ensure high standards of safety, we follow a meticulous process including: 

  • A rigorous training process for all staff with a detailed focus on policy and procedures, working effectively with youth and supporting mental health concerns 
  • Criminal record checks for all staff and host families 
  • Robust requirements for workplace safety standards 
  • Staff chaperones accompany all group travel

The aim of the program is to balance youths’ abilities to engage in critical decision-making, while providing healthy boundaries that support development and safety. This is done by: 

  • Coming up with group collective agreements in the first week of the program and making sure participants understand the importance of following them to ensure their comfort and safety 
  • Having program-wide policies on curfew, respecting diversity and activity attendance
  • Equipping local staff with tools to foster open, non-judgmental communication with youth
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Program Fees

The program covers the cost of travel to and from the host community and expenses related to activities run by the local coordinator. Each host family is responsible for providing food for three meals a day.

There is a $200 CAD registration fee payable at the time of acceptance. If this fee presents a barrier to a youth’s ability to participate, it can be waived. We can also work with participants and families to establish a payment schedule.

Personal expenses and transit costs to and from work are the main expenses for program participants. For concerns related to these expenses please contact us.

History and Funding


SWSE first started in the summer of 1996 and has been organized through the YMCA of Greater Toronto since 2007.

SWSE was developed with program goals to increase understanding of Canada among Canadian youth, develop second official language skills, deepen appreciation of difference and diversity, and create possibilities for youth to gain valuable employment experience.

SWSE is funded by the Government of Canada, with partnership support from Via Rail.
Government of Canada logo.
          Via Rail Canada logo.

SWSE Inquiry Form

Thank you for your interest in YMCA Summer Work Student Exchange (SWSE). 

Please complete our inquiry form below and someone will contact you soon!

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