The Future of Work and Learning Brief
Issue 33 | April 12, 2023
This issue kicks off a series of focused briefs that examine recent innovations in education and the workforce. This first issue covers news about work-integrated learning (WIL) which are programs that allow students to gain on-the-job experience as they learn.
Student benefits and concerns
WIL lets students explore potential careers and fields. High school students can use WIL opportunities to assist with their choices after high school: do they want to study at post-secondary or enter the workforce, and what careers do they want to pursue. Post-secondary students can engage in professional development opportunities such as those that provide first-hand research experience.
For example Rocket Lab, the University of Victoria’s 2023 choice for International Co-Op Employer of the Year, allows students to work on rocket launches. One student told UVic News “I was tasked with testing hardware for a big upcoming mission and was responsible for connecting with other design and test engineers to meet that goal. The rocket launched a few months after I returned to Canada.”
Students used to classroom environments may find the shift to WIL challenging. Anxieties could include self-doubt or “imposter syndrome,” concerns over securing prestigious internships, and fears that the work experience might not be relevant to the student’s preferred career.
Employer opportunities and risks
As businesses face an increasingly competitive labour market, WIL opportunities lay the groundwork for future talent attraction and retention while filling current talent needs. However, employers don’t necessarily see immediate benefit to their bottom lines, in part because “the results and cost savings of internship programs are long-term” wrote Ahva Sadeghi, co-founder and CEO of Symba, in Forbes. Sadeghi added that internships should be integrated into the larger, corporate “talent pipeline” with data-tracking mechanisms that would allow business leaders to see short-term and long-term benefits, in onboarding and turnover costs for example, in line with other talent strategies.
WIL across industries
BioTalent Canada released Driving the Potential: BioTalent Canada’s biosciences and healthcare student work placement achievements, an impact report on their Student Work Placement Program. Since 2017, the wage-subsidy program placed over 11,000 students in leading biotechnology organizations across Canada, providing valuable on-the-job training and work experience. Thirty per cent of employers said the program created new positions while 40 per cent indicated the program may have led to the creation of new positions. Of students surveyed 97 per cent said they felt “better positioned to secure employment in their field” and 98 per cent of employers said they would participate in the program again.
Toronto Community Housing (TCH) and Unity Health Toronto have launched The Next Surgeon program, which exposes high school students living in TCH to cardiac surgery as a career path. The program aims to address the underrepresentation of those from marginalized communities with 25 students from Grades 10 to 12 selected for technical training, teamwork and mentorship from doctors who grew up in similar communities.
As Canada faces a shortage of cybersecurity staff, a work-integrated learning pilot developed by Australia’s Canberra Cyber Hub and the Digital Skills Organisation may provide an interesting model. The program addresses the cybersecurity skills gap by offering a Power Skills Bootcamp, micro-credentials and intern-employer pairing.
Capilano University’s Entrepreneurship project provides students with free workshops, work-integrated learning job opportunities and mentorship from entrepreneurs in residence. The program aims to relieve the pressure on students as they decide their plans after graduation while also introducing them to a variety of disciplines to encourage diverse ways of thinking and understanding.
Interest in organic and regenerative farming has led to increased popularity of farm internships, including those offered at Capella Meadows in Ontario. These internships provide hands-on training and mentorship while also paying an hourly wage and providing room and board. Here in the West, the Young Agrarians Prairie Apprenticeship Program provides a similar experience. Farm owners provide aspiring farmers opportunities to gain skills and knowledge that match their ecological and regenerative values while living on the farm and earning a stipend.
Each semester New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering Vertically Integrated Projects program offers hundreds of students interdisciplinary research and professional skills development opportunities. The program welcomes interested students, regardless of their grade level or major, and helps to address three common problems in undergraduate research – disciplinary siloes, limited development opportunities, and restricted engagement between faculty and students.
Schools and post-secondary institutions in Saskatchewan and other parts of Western Canada faced with the challenge of incorporating artificial intelligence into education may also benefit from WIL opportunities. Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy uses generative AI to enhance experiential learning for pharmacy students. The school is now planning to incorporate ChatGPT technology into its existing platform, designed to train pharmacists in the Management of Oral Anticoagulant Therapy. The incorporation of ChatGPT is expected to enhance the assessment phase of the course by offering streamlined communication between learners and the software.
Calgary’s Rundle Park has integrated virtual reality experiential learning into the classroom. Employers can also use the technology as part of their student employment initiatives. TD Bank launched a VR Co-op and Intern Pilot program that allows over 100 interns to participate in immersive programming, regardless of their location. The programs offer collaborative experiences such as networking sessions, leadership panel discussions, innovation challenges and lunch and learn presentations.
- Construction is now underway on the Sts’ailes First Nation-owned Sts’ailes Community Care Campus in B.C. The centre will “provide a blend of contemporary medical care and culturally appropriate health and wellness services to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” according to a Vancouver Sun report.
- McCain Foods announced $600 million to expand its food processing facility in Coaldale, Alberta and will use fully renewable energy and a water recycling system. The company says the move will “double the size of its local workforce,” pushing it from 225 to 485 employees, Lethbridge News Now reports.
- Saskatchewan’s recruitment of Filipino nurses continued with a second mission in March which resulted in 236 conditional job offers. See the March issue of the Future of Work and Learning Brief for more on the opportunities and challenges facing international healthcare workers and recruitment efforts.
- The Manitoba government recently released its Manitoba Labour Market Outlook which projects 114,300 job openings between 2022 and 2026. New jobs will account for 36,200 positions while 78,100 openings will be due to replacement demand with 56 per cent requiring post-secondary education.
- The First Nation School Board in the Yukon will receive $35 million from the territorial government over the next 15 months “for operations, maintenance and the development of language and cultural educational programs” according to the news release. The announcement comes ahead of the 2023-2024 school year when the number of FNSB schools will go from eight to 11.
- The federal government announced $7.6 million over the next five years for the Northwest Territories “to strengthen the competitiveness, innovation, and resiliency of the agriculture, agri‐food sector” in the territory. Reygan Solotki with Food Secure Canada told attendees at the recent Grow NWT Agrifood Conference “I always laugh about people asking how much sunlight is required because they have this idea that there’s not enough in the North.” The region can experience 24 hours of sunlight in the summer and 14-16 hours of sun in spring and fall.
This issue of the The Future of Work & Learning Brief was compiled by Stephany Laverty, Janet Lane and Ethan Johnson. If you like what you see, subscribe to our mailing list and share with a friend. If you have any interesting stories for future editions, please send them to .