WIL in Action

Canada’s businesses and post-secondary institutions are teaming up to support high-quality education and to better prepare students for their future careers. These stories highlight the innovative work-integrated learning experiences happening in fields of study – from biology to communications, engineering to event management – across the country.

Right now, about 60 per cent of Canadian students have some form of work-integrated learning (WIL) experience: our goal is 100 per cent.

For more about work-integrated learning in Canada, read our report.

Types of work-integrated learning (WIL)

Institutional partnerships

blue

Activities or programs designed by a school to achieve specific industry or community goal. Examples include:

  • Applied research projects: Students taking on real-world projects, often with industry partners as clients and the students as service providers.
  • Service learning: A range of activities intended to provide equal benefit to the service provider (the student) and the recipient (the community) while maintaining a focus on learning.
Structured work experience

red

Built by schools, this kind of WIL introduces students to the world of work as part of their post-secondary program. Examples includes:

  • Co-ops: Periods of study alternate with work placements, offering students a structured approach that integrates their studies with work experience in a related field.
  • Internships: Work experiences, typically lasting a year or more, at or near the end of a study program.
  • Mandatory professional practices: Work arrangements required for a professional license or designation.
  • Field experiences: Placements and work-related experiences that prepare students for professional or occupational fields, but are not required for a professional license.
Systematic training

green

A type of WIL where most learning is done in the workplace. It includes apprenticeships, a combination of in-school training for a skilled trade or occupation, and on-the-job workplace training.

New kinds of WIL

purple

These emerging types of work-integrated learning focus on innovation in the digital economy. Examples include:

  • Incubators and accelerators:  Originally geared towards entrepreneurship, these have expanded to include social initiatives.
  • Bootcamps and hackathons: Popular venues for computer programmers and app designers to develop and showcase their skills.

“I’ve put in so much during such a short amount of time.”​

“I’ve put in so much during such a short amount of time.”​

Two thousand, eight hundred. That’s about how many culverts Sydney James inspected during a summer that saw her driving all around Saskatchewan. As an engineering technology student at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, much of Sydney’s classroom work related directly to the experience she gained through her work placement at the Department of Highways.   “After a…

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The co-op experience: from hazy direction to paved career path

The co-op experience: from hazy direction to paved career path

 “The more you put in, the more you get out.” These wise words, imparted to a young Matthew Cohen back in his summer-camp days, continue to influence the third-year Bachelor of Commerce student many years later. Recently selected as a Top Co-op Student of the Year, Matthew reveals that he…

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“As co-op students, we’re hungry to prove ourselves.”

“As co-op students, we’re hungry to prove ourselves.”

A marketing class in her third year at the University of Waterloo had Amy Zhou wondering, “Is this actually how they approach solving problems in the real world?” During a co-op term at Microsoft, she found the answer. “You learn so much when you’re thrown into an environment where instead…

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“Having work terms means that I’m not going into the industry or career path blind – I’ve built up hands-on experiences.”

After winning a high school robotics competition, Bo Chiasson knew that his future would involve technology – he just wasn’t sure what, or where. Now in his final year in the Instrumentation and Engineering Technology Program at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Bo says that the hands-on experience of multiple work terms have…

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“Interning opened my eyes to the kind of skills employers need”

“Interning opened my eyes to the kind of skills employers need”

As a post-graduate political science student at the Munk School of Global Affairs, Andrew Aulthouse focuses on issues such as innovation, governance and diversity. As an intern at RBC, he’s investigating how those same factors impact business. “RBC was looking for someone who could jump into a project and approach…

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An intensive work term in Canada’s petroleum heartland

An intensive work term in Canada’s petroleum heartland

Co-op student, Dia Rahman abandoned her Waterloo comfort zone and reaped the rewards of an amazing work term in Calgary. Now in her final year of an environment and business co-op program, she just finished what she describes as the biggest highlight of her career so far: a work term at…

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Two internships are better than one for this McGill student

Two internships are better than one for this McGill student

Vanessa Jones graduated in the spring of 2016 with a degree in software engineering from McGill University. During her degree, she did two paid internships in Montreal, one in software quality assurance at Matrox and the other in software development at Autodesk. See how these experiences transformed her career:  …

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Nursing students support Fort McMurray evacuees

Nursing students support Fort McMurray evacuees

Second year nursing students from the University of Calgary gained hands-on experience in their own backyard when the campus became a home-away-from-home for hundreds of Fort McMurray wildfire evacuees last spring. Fifteen nursing students, together with professionals from social work, psychology and medicine, were available to assess the needs of…

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Fighting cyber security with the world’s most famous computer

Fighting cyber security with the world’s most famous computer

Co-op students from the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Engineering join a year-long research project with IBM to improve cyber security. Students work closely with the company’s security experts and the IBM Watson computer. They teach the cognitive computer platform the nuances of security research findings and how to discover…

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Cleaner water in the works, thanks to Algonquin College students

Cleaner water in the works, thanks to Algonquin College students

Four Algonquin College students have tackled a complex environmental issue affecting the Muskrat Lake Watershed. On Dec. 6, Algonquin College’s Waterfront Campus in Pembroke held an Applied Research Day to give students in the Environmental Technician (E-Tech) Program the opportunity to showcase their work. The teams of young researchers worked…

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Centennial College hosts 36-hour hackathon

Centennial College hosts 36-hour hackathon

Centennial College recently hosted a 36-hour hackathon at the college’s Wearable, Interactive and Mobile Technology Access Centre in Healthcare (WIMTACH). Fourteen Software Engineering Technology – Interactive Gaming students worked in four teams to create games using the Unity platform. Students were guided throughout the process by professors from the Software…

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Applying research for a win

Applying research for a win

A student applied-research project, completed by 4 graduates of SAIT’s Software Developer program, won the research poster award at the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency’s inaugural Traceability Symposium. They worked with Sherry Yang, a software developer with SAIT’s Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) department, on a capstone project called “Chuckwagon…

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Students change lives through applied learning

Students change lives through applied learning

A memorandum of agreement signed between Saskatchewan Polytechnic and Habitat for Humanity, Prince George is changing lives through applied learning opportunities. The MOU outlines a goal of having carpentry students build five houses in five years as applied research projects.   Throughout the seven-week program, 12 students are responsible for…

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Improving factory ergonomics through a business and post-secondary partnership

Improving factory ergonomics through a business and post-secondary partnership

A partnership between Ford Motor Company and the University Windsor is using technology that resembles a contemporary video game. The goal is to make assembly lines safer for workers and more efficient. Through the Mitacs Accelerate project, three students work with kinesiology professor Joel Court and Ford’s technicians in assembly…

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Discovering the startup world through co-op

Discovering the startup world through co-op

A new co-op program at the University of Ottawa is giving students a taste for entrepreneurship. These co-op placements are aimed at helping students who may not be ready to start their own business gain experience working at a startup. In early 2017, half a dozen students are expected to…

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RBC Amplify: A unique and intensive summer internship program

RBC Amplify: A unique and intensive summer internship program

This past summer, 32 post-secondary students from across the country participated in RBC Amplify, a unique, four-month student internship where RBC executives take an active role in developing student talent to achieve a strategic goal. Students are tasked with coming up with innovative solutions to complex business challenges. They work…

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SAIT incubator nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit

SAIT incubator nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit

Enactus SAIT is a place where students create community focused projects that foster their entrepreneurial spirit. The incubator is made-up of SAIT student leaders, faculty members and business people. Trades students recently got a leg up in acquiring the skills and knowledge to start their own business. Under Train the…

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1000 students from around the world Hack the North in Waterloo

1000 students from around the world Hack the North in Waterloo

Participants from all over the world including university students from Canada converge at the University of Waterloo over a weekend to create, connect and experiment. Hack the North is an opportunity for students to problem-solve by creating software of hardware like websites, apps, and robots. Throughout Canada’s largest hackhaton, tech…

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First attempt at consulting wins top student project award

First attempt at consulting wins top student project award

Three Business Operations students from BCIT won the APICS Fraser Valley Chapter Award, beating out more than 20 other applied-research student projects. The students worked as consultants with Craftsman Collision, a collision repair business with 38 stores across Canada and the United States.   Over four months, they spent a…

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Student interns from Microsoft Vancouver come together and experiment

Student interns from Microsoft Vancouver come together and experiment

University students studying computer science, design & human computer interaction, and related fields join Microsoft Vancouver for a 16 week internship like no other as part of Microsoft’s Garage Internship Program. The intensive program centers on building apps for Microsoft’s newest platforms and devices and is described as an official…

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Hands-on learning at Algonquin’s power plant

Hands-on learning at Algonquin’s power plant

A new partnership between Algonquin College and Siemens Canada is creating hands-on applied learning experiences for close to 30 students. The school’s new one-year energy management graduate certificate program uses practical training to teach students the fundamentals of energy. Through a public-private partnership, students at Algonquin examine renewable energy solutions….

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After-school program increases civic participation

After-school program increases civic participation

Earlier this year, students in Psychology, Child and Youth Study, and Education hosted a homework support program for Syrian refugee children. Student volunteers, with the support of faculty, hosted weekly drop-in sessions for children at nearby Duc D’anville Elementary School, during which they provided help with school work and helped…

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No ordinary school of medicine

No ordinary school of medicine

Medical students at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) take part in a rare community focused mandatory professional practice. NOSM serves as the faculty of medicine for Lakehead University and Laurentian University and uses an innovative model of community-engaged medical education and research. Northern Ontario’s unique cultural makeup of…

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Helping people with disabilities explore the outdoors

Helping people with disabilities explore the outdoors

Students from the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program built a one-of-a-kind vehicle empowering individuals with limited mobility to independently navigate off-road hiking trails. They worked with Alberta Parks and the Easter Seals Camp Horizon, which specializes in outdoor adventures for youth and adults with special needs. MET students are required to…

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Industry-relevant training at the Impact Centre

Industry-relevant training at the Impact Centre

The Entrepreneurship Skills Program of the University of Toronto’s Impact Centre teaches students interested in entrepreneurship the basic skills and knowledge relevant to working with a new venture. Through interactive workshops, the program teaches students a variety of skills required to thrive in the business world such as: Communications and…

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Canada’s largest paid internship program leaves lasting impressions

Canada’s largest paid internship program leaves lasting impressions

The Professional Experience Year (PEY) is the largest paid internship program in Canada. In 2014-2015, over 720 students participated in full-time work placements lasting one year or more. Engineering student, Cassandra Rosen from the University of Toronto describes her PEY at the Pickering Nuclear Generation Station as nothing short but…

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Designing homes to help seniors age in place

Designing homes to help seniors age in place

A team of 11 students at the Faculty of Environmental Design crafted a 400-square-foot laneway house for senior citizens. The Age-in-Place Laneway Project, a community-based applied-research project, brings together students and medical researchers from the University of Calgary, Homes by Avi a leading homebuilder in Calgary, the Alberta Real Estate…

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SAIT Polytechnic adopts first-of-its-kind 3D learning

SAIT Polytechnic adopts first-of-its-kind 3D learning

SAIT polytechnic has recently adopted 3D simulated learning for many of its programs and apprenticeships. 120 students studying Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) and over 2,500 apprentices enrolled in the Electrician Apprenticeship trade are exploring course curriculum through a 3D simulated environment. 3D learning has been described as the future of learning…

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Working with the next generation of startups

Working with the next generation of startups

The Science Engineering Technology Summer Internship program at the University of Toronto’s Impact Centre gives undergraduate science and engineering students – in any discipline – the opportunity to work with innovative startup companies out of the university. Students work with graduate students, recent graduates, and alumni who are actively trying…

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