Business and post-secondary leaders celebrate major investments in preparing students for the workforce

Thousands of Canadian students will find the pathway from the classroom to the workforce much easier to navigate, thanks to a major commitment by Toronto region businesses and post-secondary institutions. Earlier today, leading financial services companies, universities and colleges announced an ambitious plan to provide 10,000 work-integrated learning placements by the end of 2020.


A joint initiative from 10 members of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance (TFSA) and seven universities and colleges, the program – ASPIRE – seeks to help students transition from post-secondary to the workplace while also addressing industry-identified skills gaps.


ASPIRE is the first in a series of pilot programs initiated by the Business/Higher Education Roundtable (BHER) to reach its ambitious goal: for 100 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students to have some form of relevant work experience before they finish school.


“ASPIRE embodies one of our fundamental goals,” said Anne Sado, President of George Brown College and co-chair of the Business/Higher Education Roundtable. “Rather than having institutions and businesses head out on their own, working collaboratively combines the unique strengths of each partner to build rigorous, scalable programs that reflect what students need.”


For employers, the benefits of work-integrated learning – which includes co-ops, internships, and capstone projects, among other placements – are clear.

“Years ago, as a student in the University of Waterloo’s co-op program, I learned first-hand the value of applying what I learned in class to a real-world environment,” said Dave McKay, President and Chief Executive Officer of RBC and leader of BHER’s work-integrated learning taskforce. “Now, I see the incredible business value that students contribute, including the ability to rapidly think through new challenges. This is very much an investment in our future.”

For more information about the ASPIRE program, visit

About the Business/Higher Education Roundtable

Launched in 2015 by the Business Council of Canada, the Business/Higher Education Roundtable represents some of Canada’s largest companies and leading post-secondary institutions. Composed of leaders from the private sector, universities, colleges and polytechnics, BHER works to support young Canadians as they transition from education to the workplace, strengthen research collaboration between industry and institutions, and help Canadian employers as they adapt to the economy of the future. His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Canada’s Governor General, serves as BHER’s Honorary Patron. Learn more at

About the Toronto Financial Services Alliance

The Toronto Financial Services Alliance is a public/private organization with a mandate to enhance and promote the long-term competitiveness of Toronto as a top 10 international financial services centre. Its membership encompasses core financial services companies – banks, brokerages, investment fund managers, insurance companies, pensions – as well as partner sectors accounting, law and education. Established in 2001, TFSA is a collaboration involving three levels of government, the financial services industry and academia. For more information, please visit