Canada goes all in on WIL

BHER is committed to ensuring every post-secondary student has a work-integrated learning (WIL) experience before they graduate from their first diploma or degree. To get there, BHER brought together an unprecedented coalition of educators and employers in 2018 to support our plans. The following year, the Government of Canada made an historic investment in WIL, confirming Canada’s commitment to making our goal a reality by 2028.

BHER is leading the charge by developing tools and resources to help employers create or expand access to WIL; partnering with industry, post-secondary institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and multiple levels of government to build new WIL programs; coordinating local, regional, and national efforts; and tracking and evaluating the outcomes of our work. 

We aspire to:  Create sustainable systems-level change and meaningful WIL ecosystems for Canada’s students, post-secondary institutions, and companies where all students have access to quality WIL and small, medium, and large employers have the tools and resources they need to grow their companies and build more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient workforces. 

Why WIL?

The journey from school to work is different for every student. Many face barriers along the way - barriers that can end up limiting learning outcomes and career pathways. WIL helps to level the playing field and bridge the classroom and the world of work. It helps students develop their skills in real-time, real-world environments. 

WIL builds awareness and networks and it connects soon-to-be graduates with businesses looking to address skills, talent, and innovation gaps. WIL is a way for companies to build a more agile workforce and also one that’s more equitable and diverse. Increasingly, it’s a critical way to help Canada’s businesses adapt to the future and grow. 

Navigating new challenges, responding to shifts, and pivoting, as Canada’s businesses are doing, especially as they recover from COVID-19, means adapting WIL. Traditional forms of WIL, like co-ops and apprenticeships, are more important than ever. But so too are new and emerging WIL models, like micro-placements and competitions, which offer lower-cost and lower risk opportunities for employers to test the value of WIL while still developing students’ skills and creating new talent pipelines. 

Importantly, emerging WIL types create more access and opportunities for equity-seeking groups who face barriers to school and work and who may not have access to more traditional forms of WIL. Research shows that students from rural, remote, and Northern communities, Indigenous students, racialized students, students with disabilities, and newcomers to Canada face additional barriers, which means they have traditionally been under-represented in WIL.

WIL can build career pathways for all students. But that also means providing Canada’s businesses, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), with the tools, resources, and supports they need to create or expand WIL opportunities across the country.

Shifting and Shaping Canada’s WIL Ecosystems

BHER is building connections, collecting evidence, and creating the tools and resources that employers told us they need. We’re working with our partners to advance meaningful WIL opportunities for diverse students in

multiple regions and multiple industry sectors, building employer capacity and infrastructure, while also measuring and evaluating the outcomes of our work.

BHER’s WIL Hub contains resources and tools for employers to explore, invest in, and create quality WIL placements. Our WIL Hub will grow, so check back often. 

The next phase of our partnership development will scale what works in WIL and  create more career pathways responsive to equity-deserving groups and labour market needs. It will also provide opportunities to identify new approaches that build forward-looking, customized, high-quality, accessible WIL.