Example of a Work Experience
During his four months working at a not-for-profit, Amir used his experience as a graphic design student to develop infographics and materials that followed the organization’s brand guidelines. The goal: for the rest of the team to be able to use Amir’s materials after he went back to class.
Benefits to Employers
- Fill short term staffing needs
- Help shape the industry’s incoming workforce
- Significant funding available to reduce labour costs of students
- Strengthen brand reputation among students
Are you an employer who wants to work with students? Contact us here.
Benefits to Students
- Have more flexibility than a standard co-op, and gain experience without extending the length of your program
- Earn an income while completing your degree
- Network and develop lasting connections within industry
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.
One big difference between co-op and work experience is the relationship between the employer and the school. Co-op programs are usually structured more formally, and allow for more feedback between a business and a university or college. This can allow for a longer term relationship, in which employers’ feedback about student performance can be incorporated into the curriculum. Co-op programs, including accredited programs, also provide a roadmap for employers on how to build WIL into their organizations, have structured feedback and assessment, and clear guidelines for hiring.
The reality is, however, that not all post-secondary schools have co-op or internship programs. Work Experience is a form of WIL that fills these gaps. In this case, employers trade the benefit of more flexibility (timelines; student assessment; start and end dates) with the challenge of not having as much support or a roadmap for how to implement WIL in their organization.
Certain types of WIL are sometimes called “micro-WIL.” This generally refers to forms of work-integrated learning, such as applied research projects and field studies programs, that are less than a full academic semester (e.g. are shorter than about four months.) These short bursts of work-integrated learning still expose students to the realities and pressures of the workforce, but are less immersive than full time WIL, such as an internship, co-op or apprenticeship.