Depending on the discipline, students can do a variety of tasks. Students learn skills, software and tools that may be used in your organization, and they’re looking for real world experience in which they can apply those skills. Students can be hired for varied lengths of time from a couple weeks to 18 months. Depending on the length of time spent at your organization, they can work on short or longer term projects, solve new or existing problems, and fill labour gaps as needed. To find the length and time commitment your organization can demand from students, see Types of WIL.
Work-integrated learning is a win for employers and for students. Work-integrated learning (WIL) placements offer a number of important benefits for employers. Employers acquire new knowledge and access to skilled talent. Quality WIL opportunities also drive innovation, enhance productivity, and help companies to compete in a changing economy. Students benefit from practical work experience, skill development, enhanced learning, and developing insights about future career paths. For more information, see Benefits of WIL.
For specific examples of skills and tasks students can do, see University of Alberta’s Common Work Term Tasks for Civil Engineering, and Université de Moncton’s 1-pagers on competencies for different co-op programs.
Employers can support meaningful, quality learning experiences by following some key principles. The following is a brief overview of the roles and responsibilities of employers.
- Offer a work integrated learning placement that relates to the position posted and the student’s field of study
- Provide accurate and detailed information on job responsibilities, compensation and benefits
- Make onboarding the student a priority
- Set clear learning goals, expectations and structure
- Provide ongoing supervision, feedback and mentorship at regular intervals
- Monitor progress, and provide formal/informal feedback to the post secondary institution.
- Treat the student as an employee and member of the team
- Provide the student with relevant training and development opportunities
- Communicate “unwritten rules” and expectations; for example dress code, work space etiquette, communication in meetings, use of personal devices
As an employer, you are expected to also pay students fair wages. Student salaries depend on the type of work assignment, location, sector and the student’s experience. Compensation should be clearly communicated from the start and recognize the impact student placements have on lowering your overall compensation costs and the value they bring to productivity and innovation. Salaries should be paid in accordance with the Employee Standards Act in your province. Your organization may be eligible for tax credits or funding depending on your province.
More information about the responsibilities of an employer can be found on Western’s Internship Program Employer Responsibilities, and UMBC’s Employer Responsibilities: Internships. For more information on suggested salary guidelines by discipline see University of Concordia’s Salary Guidelines.
We recommended reaching out to a campus career centre, co-op office or equivalent before hiring a student. These centres have significant resources to make the process easier, including:
- Frameworks for how to assess your students,
- Information on grants and wage subsidy programs your business may be eligible for,
- Hiring and onboarding material designed for students,
- Tips for building a WIL program that works best for your organization.
Building a stronger relationship with colleges and universities can have long-term benefits for companies. You can give feedback on the strengths (and areas of improvement) for different programs to make sure that students have the right skills for a changing work environment. We do recognize, however, that sometimes the hiring timelines for employers and for schools don’t match up. When this is the case, we hope that the materials we’ve developed can help fill in these gaps so that both your organization and students can have a meaningful work experience.
Co-op and internship recruitment cycles typically begin 4-8 months before a placement starts, which is when students are thinking about their next term and must sort out where to live if they need to move cities. For example, if an employer wants a student to begin working in May, they should begin advertising the position in February at the latest - especially for employers that don’t live in areas with university or college campuses. Some schools have highly structured recruitment processes for their WIL programs, so be sure to confirm with a school if you intend to hire from a particular program.
Your private-sector company may be eligible for tax credits or funding depending which province or territory your business is located and the type of work-integrated learning placement offered. See the Government of Canada's Provincial and Territorial Corporation Tax page for more information.
A well written and detailed job posting can save you a lot of time and effort in your search for qualified students. Clarity is key. It’s important to understand early on exactly what role you are seeking to fill, the scope of the work, and the required qualifications and skills. Here are a few considerations as you build your job posting:
- Define the role, key responsibilities and required skills and experience. Include a clear job title that matches the role.
- If possible, include core competencies that relate directly to the job. Include a clear job title and an overview of how the role fits within the larger organization and its priorities.
- Avoid jargon and include specifics on salary if possible, how to apply, key contacts and timelines.
- Seek feedback on job postings from your campus career centre if possible.
To learn more about developing an effective job posting, see CEWIL’s How to Write a Job Posting.
The same rules for interviewing apply to non-students and students. The goal of the interview is to understand the student’s experiences, skills and interest in the role. Their student status does not mean you can ask them questions that are inappropriate or illegal. Avoid questions related to citizenship, national origin, race, or ancestry, religion, sexuality or family status. Employers are governed by provincial and territorial human rights laws which are guided by the Canadian Human Rights Act. Consult the Human Rights Agency in your province of territory for more information.
Students with disabilities can be just as or more qualified for a specific position than any other students. While disabilities can take many different forms on a wide spectrum, on average there are no additional costs in taking on a student with a disability. Of 2000 employers surveyed that employed people with disability, 57% had no additional cost, and another 37% had a one time cost of under $500 (Job Accommodation Network).
In general, people with disabilities have higher retention rates. In Canada, across all industries the turnover rate is 49%. For people with intellectual disability or on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, the turnover rate is 7%.
Refer to our Diversity and Inclusion FAQ page to learn how to accommodate and make your workplace accessible to individuals with disabilities.
You can find qualified students with disabilities in the same ways you can find those without disabilities e.g. job postings, contacting your local campus or trade association. However, there are a few things to keep in mind if your organization is seeking to specifically advertise to students with disabilities:
- Make the job posting and interview accessible. See “How do I make the interview accessible for people with disabilities?”
- Engage community disability organizations and post-secondary career resource centres to share job posting with qualified students with disabilities. Many post-secondary institution career departments are more than willing to help employers reach an audience of qualified students with disabilities.
To make the interview process accessible, make sure to adopt and promote inclusive language in all materials including the job description. Include a statement of your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the job description. You can also make the job description available in alternate formats like large print. Before the interview, ask all applicants if they require an accommodation for the interview or for any assessment tests you will be giving as part of the application process. It is important to also give the applicant the format of the interview. During the interview, fulfill any necessary accommodations and ask the interview questions in simple language.
Funding can be found by province to help pay for accommodations people with disabilities may need. For more information, see National Educational Association of Disabled Students’ (NEADS) page on Finding Funding to Accommodate Students with Disability.
International students are, typically, multilingual and can have a high level of cultural awareness and can increase the diversity in your workplace which often brings new perspectives to your organization. Businesses seeking to enter or expand into international markets or who are increasingly noticing their client base is composed of newcomers to Canada often benefit from international students. International students can offer a deeper understanding of cross-cultural communication and may even be able to provide valuable international contacts. Finally, international students often come with a wealth of previous education and experience that could prove valuable to your organization.
Paying an international student works in the same way as paying a domestic student. The regulations for minimum wage and labour standards are the same for international students as they are for all Canadians. The process of paying will be similar as they will have a Social Insurance Number (SIN) with their student work permit.
Students can apply for a work visa for up to three years in length after graduating as long as they have completed a program of at least two years in length. Once they have a work visa, you can hire them like any other employee.
Later, if you wish to keep them on, and they wish to stay in Canada, you can apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment or the employee can apply for permanent residency.