Industry, academia, and government working together to transform education

Toronto, ON

When Sarah Roberts, a third-year student at Western University, decided to major in mechanical engineering, she wondered how to apply her engineering skills to healthcare problems. Through her experience as a new product development intern at a Canadian-based medical device company, she’s learned how.

Sarah is one of many post-secondary students navigating a changing labor market. According to research by the Business Council of Canada, employers recognize that they expect more from new graduates entering the workforce than they did five years ago. With global change and emerging technologies, Canada’s future depends on equipping young people with the skills they need to succeed in a competitive world.

Acknowledging this, The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced $17 million to the Business/Higher Education Roundtable (BHER). Since launching in 2015, BHER members and partners have pushed hard for 100 per cent of students to have some form of work-integrated learning (WIL), such as a co-op, internship, apprenticeship or applied research project, before graduation.

Federal funding will be used to:

  • promote the value of WIL;
  • strengthen a broad network of partners to advance WIL; and
  • create 44,000 new WIL opportunities over the next three years.

BHER’s approach to skills development emphasizes collaboration, with a particular focus on engaging small and medium-sized Canadian businesses and organizations that have never offered student positions before. To create new opportunities, BHER will build tools, such as cost-of-WIL calculators, partnership guides, and evaluation mechanisms. Beyond this, BHER will help companies understand the value of WIL, bring together industry and academic institutions, and help connect students and employers.

Above all, BHER’s work will provide students with job-ready skills, while helping Canadian businesses develop the talent they need.


The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development

“Canada’s continued prosperity depends on young Canadians getting the education and experience they need to succeed. Young Canadians are talented, ambitious and hard-working, however making the transition to the workforce can be difficult. Helping young people succeed in the workplace will not only help them gain valuable experience, it is fundamental to growing our economy and strengthening our middle class for years to come. That is why our Government is proud to support the work of the Business/Higher Education Roundtable.”

Meric Gertler, President of the University of Toronto and BHER co-chair

“The federal government’s commitment to work-integrated learning is welcome news for those of us working hard to ensure our students have the skills, knowledge and abilities they need to succeed.”

Dave McKay, President and CEO of RBC and BHER co-chair

“The age of digital transformation is upon us, and employers, educators and government have a shared and urgent responsibility to better link workplaces and classrooms together to develop our workforce for the future. I know first-hand that work-integrated learning is invaluable to helping students better understand how their education translates to a meaningful career, while also driving growth and success for businesses that tap into their innovative thinking.”

Sarah Roberts, mechanical engineering student at Western University and current intern at Trudell Medical International

“My work in the classroom will be enhanced by my experience as a new product development intern at Trudell Medical International. Applying my mathematics and engineering principles into real life problems has been enriching, rewarding and I have learned the importance of empathy and understanding the patient’s perspective in creating the best design.”

Anne Sado, President of George Brown College and BHER co-chair

“As rapid technological advancements transform virtually every industry, the intersection between a strong economy and a skilled workforce has never been more pronounced. For the sake of job seekers and employers alike, we need to ensure that Canadians are building the skills they need to fill key roles in emerging and evolving industries.”

Val Walker, Executive Director, BHER

“At the Business/Higher Education Roundtable, we know how vital skilled young people are to Canada’s continued global competitiveness. The commitments made by the Government of Canada recognize that investing in work-integrated learning is a smart move that reaps major rewards: students get hands-on, relevant experience while they learn; employers gain access to the skills and innovation mindset of young talent; and post-secondary institutions build stronger connections with industry and their broader communities.”