Editor’s Note: Almost every program at St. Clair attempts to provide some sort of “real world”, practical experience in its curriculum – either in the form of the clinical placements for Health Sciences and Nursing students which actually play a role in determining their academic progress, or (at the very least) some sort of internship with evaluations by work-placement supervisors.
This educational element now carries the acronym “WIL”, standing for Work-Integrated Learning.
There are several difficulties associated with incorporating WIL opportunities into academic offerings, however.
Many enterprises with unions have contractual problems with offering full-scale job-placements because of the perception (or the reality) that the use of students may usurp the employment of “real” workers.
On the flip-side of that argument (sort of), some student advocacy groups argue that many internships should, in fact, be subject to the payment of wages for the students. Otherwise, those critics contend, some employers may end up using (“exploiting”) the students as “free labour”.
The chief difficulty with instilling WIL in widespread fashion is precisely because educational institutions are trying to develop it in widespread fashion. Hundreds of colleges and universities – and even some secondary schools – are seeking placements for hundreds of thousands of students, but they are pounding on the doors of a finite number of potential placement-taking employers.
Take, for instance, programs such as Diagnostic Sonography or Respiratory Therapy at St. Clair. Hundreds of students apply for those programs every year, yet enrolment is capped at just 25 (or so) new, incoming students annually. Why? ... Because those programs may exist at a few other schools too, with their several dozen students, yet there are only so many hospitals and clinics in Ontario that are capable of offering a sufficient number of supervised placements to accommodate that “academic demand”.
Thus, in addition to developing such curriculum items as suitable textbook lists and lecture topics, one of the biggest challenges associated with developing new postsecondary programs – and delivering existing ones – is finding “WIL-ing participants” (excuse the pun) to provide workplace experiences to students.
That being said, everybody connected with education endorses the WIL philosophy:
• Employers are constantly harping about their new employees not possessing sufficient “hands-on, practical, real-world” skills, and they think WIL opportunities would address that concern (especially in Science, Technology-and-Trades, Engineering and Math-related occupations – the so-called STEM field);
• Educators want to provide WIL as a built-in component of programs, both because of its innate teaching/learning value, and because it’s an attractive marketing-and-recruitment scenario for prospective students; and
• Students say WIL is essential to break the vicious circle which customarily arises when they’re trying to launch their post-graduation careers: “I can’t get a job because I don’t have the experience, but I can’t get the experience if I don’t first have a job”. In-school WIL – as an entry on one’s resume – fulfills the demand for prior experience in the minds of many employers.
All of this is a preface to a recently announced federal government initiative to foster WIL – and, it is hoped, expand WIL opportunities. And here’s the info about that ...
Contributed by the Federal Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
When postsecondary students get the chance to learn on the job, they build career skills, gain real-world experience and forge the connections that help them get great jobs when they graduate. The Government of Canada plays an important role in helping provide such opportunities to young Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Yet this work cannot be done alone. We need to work with business, educational institutions, third-party education delivery agents, and foundations to create a stronger workforce that responds to what Canadian businesses need to scale up and grow.
On July 25, during a panel discussion at the George Brown College Chef School, Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced that the government will invest $17 million to support the work of the Business/Higher Education Roundtable (BHER). The Minister also called on Canadian businesses to create more work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunities for students.
BHER will create 44,000 WIL opportunities per year by 2021–22. It will achieve this by engaging businesses of all sizes as well as organizations in Canada that have not offered student positions before. BHER will support these businesses and organizations by providing them with tools – including cost-of-WIL calculators, partnership guides and evaluation mechanisms – to help them understand the value of WIL, as well as information on how to find candidates with the skills they need.
As part of Budget 2019, the government committed to ensuring, within ten years, that every young Canadian who wants a work-integrated learning opportunity can get one. Over the last four years, the government has made real progress toward building Canada into a nation of innovators, recognizing that it is the skills and creativity of our people that create opportunities and grow our economy.
Canada is well positioned to be a world leader in work-integrated learning. Since 2015, the government has invested more than $1.1 billion, including Budget 2019 investments of more than $798 million, to forge new WIL partnerships with innovators, expand the Student Work Placement Program, and fund the work of BHER.
Budget 2019 proposed to:
• support the creation of up to 20,000 new student work placements per year by 2021–22 by investing $631.2 million over five years to expand the Student Work Placement Program;
• support the creation of an additional 20,000 work-integrated learning opportunities per year by 2023–24, through partnerships with innovative businesses, by investing $150 million over four years; and
• support the Business/Higher Education Roundtable to act as a convener to bring together key partners to further strengthen the work-integrated learning environment and create an additional 44,000 student work placements per year by 2021–22, through an investment of $17 million over three years.
Originally launched in 2017, the Student Work Placement Program was already delivering:
• up to 10,000 paid student work placements in science, technology, engineering and math, as well as business fields, helping build stronger partnerships between employers, polytechnics, universities and colleges, through an investment of $73 million over four years (Budget 2016);
• up to 1,000 student work placements in the field of cyber security, as part of the National Cyber Security Strategy, through an investment of $8.3 million (Budget 2018); and
• up to 500 new student work placements in the field of artificial intelligence through an investment of $3 million over three years.
Under the Student Work Placement Program:
• 3,600 student work placements have been created to date, with 48 percent of them for first-year students and students from under-represented groups; and
• 1,253 employers — 88 percent of which were small and medium-sized enterprises — and over 130 postsecondary education institutions have participated to offer student work placements across Canada.