What's in it for you?
Today's employers need talent with practical experience and future-relevant skills. Establishing Work-Integrated Learning opportunities in your workplace will bring you a variety of advantages. From a fresh pair of eyes, to different skill sets and direct access into top talent pipelines, you'll connect with students bringing diverse experiences and knowledge to your organization.
Beyond technical skills, employers are often interested in assessing a student’s social and emotional skills. Instead of relying exclusively on rating scales to assess critical thinking, communication, or other in-demand social and emotional skills, consider using evidence-based assessment frameworks. An international review of social and emotional skill assessment frameworks has identified the following widely used and accepted psychometric measurement tools:
- Emotional and social competency inventory (ESCI)
- Emotional quotient inventory (EQ-I)
- Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT)
For more information on these tools, review the assessment resources section of our strategies document.
It depends on your relationship with the student and how much you achieve in each meeting. Workplace supervisors typically check-in with students once a day, though some find it easier to check in once a week and some meet multiple times per day. Regardless of how often you check in, ensure you give yourself the time to build trust and open lines of communication with students undertaking a placement at your organization.
- Integrate student self-assessment when appraising performance: Student self-assessments will help ensure that the student feels they have a role to play in the assessment process and provides the employer with a well-rounded perspective of the student’s performance. This involves requesting students to conduct an either written or oral self-evaluation that an employer can review and verify as is appropriate.
- Integrate feedback from multiple sources: To ensure evaluations of student performance is fair, inclusive, and comprehensive, supervisors are advised to gather the insights of others who have interacted with the student, including employees, managers, and student peers.
- Conduct regular check-ins: Check-ins during the placement are important for ensuring that students remain on-track and engaged. Frequent check-ins are all the more necessary for remote or e-WIL opportunities that many employers have pivoted to as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic or otherwise.
Learning outcomes should provide detail on what students will achieve, value and/or know by the end of their placement. When developing learning outcomes with students and academic supervisors, keep the following in mind:
- Learning audience: Who are the learners? What are their learning needs and career goals?
- Learned behaviors: What will students be able to do at the end of a placement? What will they know about your industry, program of study, and/or career?
- Context for learning: Where will the learning take place at your organization? What context should be kept in mind when describing learning outcomes?
- Degree: Realistically, with consideration for the type and length of the WIL placement, how much will students be able to achieve?
Depending on the type of WIL student you are supervising, you may need to consult more-or-less with post-secondary programs and/or provincial/territorial training authorities:
- If you are supervising post-secondary students undertaking a structured work experience, you should discuss program level learning outcomes and requirements with the student’s academic supervisor.
- If you are supervising apprentices undertaking on-the-job training, you should review program requirements, tasks, and related learning outcomes for the apprentices under your supervision. You can find out more information about training standards by contacting your provincial/ territorial apprenticeship authority.
The role of the workplace supervisor varies significantly across types of WIL — supervisors of apprentices may have more formalized responsibilities than supervisors of interns, for example. In general, a workplace supervisor is responsible for working alongside the academic supervisor and the student to negotiate the student’s workplan and duties. They typically help with onboarding, while ensuring the student has access to required technical equipment, as well as ongoing supervision and mentorship throughout the placement to contribute to an overall evaluation of the student’s performance.
Assessment in the context of work-integrated learning (WIL) is the process of evaluating student competencies within a professional environment. Assessment is a fundamental part of WIL to ensure students apply academic learning and gain the skills they require to be work-ready.
- The managing of expectations goes two ways: both the mentor and the mentee should know what to expect from the experience, and from each other.
- This includes clarity around desired objectives, and the establishment of a plan to meet those objectives, including how progress will be tracked and success will be evaluated.
- Expectations on the part of the academic and workplace supervisors should also be clarified before the student arrives. Who is responsible for what and when?
- The sooner these discussions take place, the better. In other words, these conversations should happen at the beginning of a WIL experience.
- Poor mentorship is worse than no mentorship. Not everyone is cut out to be a mentor. Identify those who have strong human skills (i.e. social and emotional skills), and provide them with the resources they need to be effective.
- Recognize the success of mentors and reward it accordingly.
- Relationships take time to develop. Scheduling check-ins and providing time for unstructured conversation can help. This might include conversations about how the student is feeling.
- Draw on “human skills” and competencies like active listening, communication, and empathy to help the student articulate their feelings and concerns.
- • Mentors should also ask for feedback throughout the duration of the WIL experience (i.e. not just at the end). Is the student enjoying the experience? Are there activities they’d like to be included in? Would they prefer more or less frequent check-ins? What could the mentor do differently? Questions like these remind the student that the mentor is also learning from the experience and help contribute to an environment where both parties feel comfortable openly communicating and providing feedback to one another.
Some FAQs at a glance
There are many different types of Work Integrated Learning opportunities. Work placements span a range of sectors and types — from co-op placements with alternating academic terms and paid work terms, to apprenticeships to applied research projects — and more. There are also emerging types of WIL, including bootcamps and “micro” or very short-term placements. All placements must provide value to both the employer and the student. The work must be meaningful and mutually beneficial. Work placements should reflect the student’s field of study and provide ample opportunity to apply and develop relevant skills. To find the type of WIL best suited for your organization’s needs, see Types of WIL.
Depending on the discipline, students can do a variety of tasks. Students learn skills, software and tools that may be used in your organization, and they’re looking for real world experience in which they can apply those skills. Students can be hired for varied lengths of time from a couple weeks to 18 months. Depending on the length of time spent at your organization, they can work on short or longer term projects, solve new or existing problems, and fill labour gaps as needed. To find the length and time commitment your organization can demand from students, see Types of WIL.
Work-integrated learning is a win for employers and for students. Work-integrated learning (WIL) placements offer a number of important benefits for employers. Employers acquire new knowledge and access to skilled talent. Quality WIL opportunities also drive innovation, enhance productivity, and help companies to compete in a changing economy. Students benefit from practical work experience, skill development, enhanced learning, and developing insights about future career paths. For more information, see Benefits of WIL.
For specific examples of skills and tasks students can do, see University of Alberta’s Common Work Term Tasks for Civil Engineering, and Université de Moncton’s 1-pagers on competencies for different co-op programs.
Employers can support meaningful, quality learning experiences by following some key principles. The following is a brief overview of the roles and responsibilities of employers.
- Offer a work integrated learning placement that relates to the position posted and the student’s field of study
- Provide accurate and detailed information on job responsibilities, compensation and benefits
- Make onboarding the student a priority
- Set clear learning goals, expectations and structure
- Provide ongoing supervision, feedback and mentorship at regular intervals
- Monitor progress, and provide formal/informal feedback to the post secondary institution.
- Treat the student as an employee and member of the team
- Provide the student with relevant training and development opportunities
- Communicate “unwritten rules” and expectations; for example dress code, work space etiquette, communication in meetings, use of personal devices
As an employer, you are expected to also pay students fair wages. Student salaries depend on the type of work assignment, location, sector and the student’s experience. Compensation should be clearly communicated from the start and recognize the impact student placements have on lowering your overall compensation costs and the value they bring to productivity and innovation. Salaries should be paid in accordance with the Employee Standards Act in your province. Your organization may be eligible for tax credits or funding depending on your province.
More information about the responsibilities of an employer can be found on Western’s Internship Program Employer Responsibilities, and UMBC’s Employer Responsibilities: Internships. For more information on suggested salary guidelines by discipline see University of Concordia’s Salary Guidelines.
Diversity and inclusion is good for people and good for business. Employers are increasingly recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusion in recruiting and retaining the skills and talent they need to thrive in a changing economy. A diverse workforce can help drive innovation, improve market share, and increase access to talent. People want to work for organizations that demonstrate excellent employment practices.
Learn more about the case for diversity from the Government of Canada’s Case for Diversity.
Diversity and inclusion efforts are not separate from other sound employment practices, a commitment to diverse hiring is just one component. For diversity practices to be meaningful, employers must also create an inclusive work culture. An open and inclusive workplace culture in which everyone feels respected, valued and safe offers a number of social and economic benefits. Employee retention and engagement, productivity, increased market share and access to a wider talent pipeline are just some of the benefits of an inclusive workplace.
Race, ethnicity, disability and sex are common factors in diversity initiatives, but it is also important to consider sexual orientation, gender identity, and age when striving towards inclusion because they are often overlooked. Incorporate a comprehensive definition of diversity that applies to all hiring practices, including student work placement programs. Include your commitment to diversity and inclusion in all employee materials, job postings and policies. It’s also important to get senior leaders involved in workplace inclusion initiatives and commit to eliminating barriers.
Ceridian outlines six ways to support diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Read the full article here:
- Be aware of unconscious bias
- Communicate the importance of managing bias
- Offer diversity and inclusion training
- Acknowledge holidays of all cultures
- Make it easy for employees to participate in resource groups
- Mix up your teams
Explore all FAQs for employers
Explore all FAQs for employers
Learn how you can benefit from Work-Integrated Learning
Learn how you can benefit from Work-Integrated Learning