Through the partnership of business and academic leaders, the Business/Higher Education Roundtable has launched a series of initiatives targeted at supporting young Canadians as they move from school to work. Initiatives focus on tackling specific programs, bringing together the expertise of Roundtable members to develop and scale-up projects.

What is work-integrated learning?

The definition of work-integrated learning (WIL) differs a little from each college, university and
polytechnic.  Adding to the confusion,  “work-integrated learning” is often used interchangeably with other, similar terms
such as “work-based learning,” “practice-based learning,” “work-related learning,” “vocational learning,” “experiential learning,” “co-operative education,” “clinical education,” “internship,” “practicum,” and “field education”. However, many of these terms are also used to describe specific types of work-integrated learning. This inconsistency can lead to funding and administrative problems, and create confusion among employers and students over objectives and expectations.

BHER advocates for the following broad definition of WIL, compatible with the definition used by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario:

Work-integrated learning is the process through which students come to learn from experiences in educational and practice settings. It includes the kinds of curriculum and pedagogic practices that can assist, provide, and effectively integrate learning experiences in both settings.

What "counts" as WIL?

BHER identifies 9 different types of WIL:

  1. Apprenticeships
    A combination of in-school training for a skilled trade or occupation, and on-the-job workplace training.
  2. 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.
  3. Applied research projects
    Students taking on real-world projects, often with industry partners as clients, and the students as service providers.
  4. 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.
  5. Incubators and accelerators
    Intended primarily to promote entrepreneurship, but the scope of their services has expanded in recent years
    to include social initiatives. Qualified applicants may receive funding, supervision, and mentorship from experienced practitioners.
  6. Bootcamps and hackathons
    Popular venues for computer programmers and app designers to develop and showcase their skills. These events are widely seen as a more
    practical alternative to university computer science programs, and more responsive to industry demands. But the quality of instruction varies markedly due to a lack of oversight and regulation.
  7. Internships
    Work experiences, typically lasting a year or more, at or near the end of a study program.
  8. Mandatory professional practice
    Work arrangements required for a professional license or designation.
  9. Field experience
    Placements and work-related experiences that prepare students for professional or occupational fields, but are not required for a professional license.