Work is changing and so is WIL. Important new WIL types, like virtual projects, micro placements, and competitions are emerging alongside traditional models, like co-ops and apprenticeships. Why? To fill gaps in the WIL ecosystem, to respond to the needs of a broader employer base, and provide access to more opportunities, especially for under-represented students. 

The core purpose remains the same: to provide value to students (e.g., to improve learning, employability, and personal development) and employers (e.g., access to new talent, new ideas, and the opportunity to grow and diversify their workforce). BHER endorses and supports all forms of quality WIL across Canada. 


Traditional models of WIL

  1. Applied Research Projects: Students are engaged in research that occurs primarily in workplaces, including: consulting projects, design projects, community-based research projects.
  2. Apprenticeship: An agreement between an apprentice and an employer who is willing to sponsor the apprentice and provide paid practical experience under the direction of a certified journeyperson in an appropriate work environment. Apprenticeships combine about 80% on-the-job experience with 20% classroom training and depending on the trade takes about 2-5 years to complete. Both the workplace experience and the classroom training are essential components of the learning experience.
  3. Co-operative Education (co-op alternating and co-op internship models): Co-op consists of alternating academic terms and paid work terms. Co-op internship consists of several co-op work terms back-to-back. In both models, work terms provide experience in a workplace setting related to the student’s field of study. The number of required work terms varies by program; however, the time spent in work terms must be at least 30% of the time spent in academic study for programs over 2 years in length and 25% of time for programs 2 years and shorter in length.
  4. Entrepreneurship: Allows a student to leverage resources, space, mentorship and/or funding to engage in the early-stage development of business start-ups and/or to advance external ideas that address real-world needs for academic credit.
  5. Field Placement: Provides students with a part-time/ short term intensive hands-on practical experience in a setting relevant to their academic discipline. Field placements may not require supervision of a registered or licensed professional and the completed work experience hours are not required for professional certification. Field placements account for work-integrated educational experiences not encompassed by other forms, such as co-op, clinic, practicum, and internship.
  6. Internships: Offers usually one discipline-specific, supervised, structured paid or unpaid, and for academic credit work experience or practice placement. Internships may occur in the middle of an academic program or after all academic coursework has been completed and prior to graduation. Internships can be of any length but are typically 12 to 16 months long.
  7. Mandatory Professional Practicum/Clinical Placement: Involves work experience under the supervision of an experienced registered or licensed professional in any discipline that requires practice-based work experience for professional licensure or certification. The practicum is generally unpaid and, as the work is done in a supervised setting, typically students do not have their own workload/caseload.
  8. Service Learning: Service Learning, also known as Community Service Learning (CSL), integrates meaningful community service with classroom instruction and critical reflection to enrich the learning experience and strengthen communities. In practice, students work in partnership with a community-based organization to apply their disciplinary knowledge to a challenge identified by the community.
  9. Work Experience: Intersperses one or two work terms (typically full-time) into an academic program, where work terms provide experience in a workplace setting related to the student’s field of study and/or career goals.


Emerging WIL Models

Emerging WIL models include innovations or variations upon traditional models (e.g., shared apprenticeship models). They also include novel forms of WIL that fall outside the traditional categories and WIL types, but that increasingly create opportunities for students who have been traditionally under-represented in WIL, owing to their location, equity group, or diploma/degree program. Examples of emerging WIL include (but are not limited to) the following: 

  • Micro-placements: Students work individually or in teams for short periods between two and ten days.
  • Online projects or placements: Students undertake remote WIL placements or projects and interact with supervisors on a variety of digital platforms. 
  • Incubators and start-ups: Students participate in a workspace, access mentorship and other supports to explore the development of a new business. In other cases, students are placed or undertake projects for a start-up business. 
  • Shared apprenticeship models: Apprentices are guided through the stages of their apprenticeship and may rotate between employers during their on-the-job training. Shared apprenticeship models may be led by unions, employer consortia, and/or third-party intermediaries. 
  • Consulting: Students work individually or in teams to offer consultancy services to businesses. Consulting services may be offered by interdisciplinary teams that include experienced professionals alongside undergraduate students at participating post-secondary institutions. 
  • Performances: This model will specifically seek to provide well-defined opportunities with articulated learning outcomes for students from programs who are looking to pursue performance-based professions. 
  • Field schools: This model engages postsecondary students in experiential, place-based, and interdisciplinary learning related to their creative or artistic practice. 
  • Interdisciplinary research-based internships: This model engages postsecondary students in undertaking interdisciplinary research for a lead investigator at their institution and/or at a host organization. Students should be engaged in boundary learning at the intersection of their discipline and another field of study (e.g., arts students working on science projects or vice versa).  
  • Hackathons/competitions/events: Students are engaged in short, industry-partnered sessions that allow them to apply their learning to solve challenges and/or learn more about industry needs and build connections.