What's in it for you?

Today's new workforce faces challenges requiring practical skills and a variety of experiences to adapt to changing labour market needs. By participating in Work-Integrated Learning opportunities, you'll be exposed to different experiences and workplaces. Through these placements, you'll build your portfolio of skills and connections to successfully prepare you to tackle real-world problems and become competitive in your job search.

Businesswomen mentoring student On Computer In Office

Mentorship is emerging as one of the most critical elements in advancing quality WIL opportunities in Canada. There are many benefits for the mentee, the mentor, and for organizations that encourage mentorship. But employers from across Canada say there is insufficient support when it comes to training their staff to have the skills necessary to coach and mentor young staff.  

Our immersive mentorship training course is targeted at providing supervisors and staff - across sectors - with the skills needed to foster a positive WIL environment. 

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.

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. 

With some schools calling their programs “co-ops” and others calling their programs “internships”, spotting the difference can be hard.. 
Generally, the major difference between most co-op and internships programs is that co-ops usually consist of alternating academic programs and paid work terms. Throughout the course of their time in school, a student might take three or more co-op placements at different companies or organizations, with the expectations for the student rising at each subsequent placement.
Internships are usually a “one-and-done” model, with a student doing one internship during their time in school. An internship might last 12 to 16 months, during which they become more comfortable with the work and take on more responsibilities.
That being said, there are a few co-op programs that function more like internships: students take multiple work terms back-to-back with the same organization. In Canada, a not-for-profit organization,  Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL) accredits co-op programs that meet their criteria. 

Sharing your reflection can be a great way to initiate a conversation with your supervisor about what you’ve been enjoying working on thus far, or areas of work you’d like to explore. While your supervisor may be assessing your performance during and after your work placement, sharing some of your takeaways can be beneficial as long as it stays positive and solution-driven. Opening up this channel of communication can reinforce your relationship with your supervisor and lead to new opportunities and new directions.

Try to answer these questions during and after your placement in order to assess yourself and reflect on your experience:

  • What was my biggest personal take away from my work placement?
  • What was my most significant accomplishment during my work placement?
  • What was my most significant challenge during my work placement?
  • What skills have I learned from my work placement?
  • What areas could I improve on for my next work placement or professional experience?
  • How does this work placement fit into my career path/journey?