Business, post-secondary leaders celebrate unprecedented federal investments in preparing Canadian students for the workforce

Ottawa, ON

Students studying at Canadian colleges and universities will see a significant boost to their skills training and work experience, thanks to historic commitments made in the 2019 federal budget. Today’s graduates face greater challenges when entering the job market, owing to emerging economic and technological changes. Meanwhile, employers are searching for people with the right skills.

Recognizing these challenges, the Business Council of Canada launched the Business + Higher Education Roundtable (BHER) to help Canadians navigate the transition between school and work. Since 2016, BHER has led the charge for 100 per cent of post-secondary students to have a work-integrated learning (WIL) experience, such as an internship, apprenticeship or field study, before they finish school. In September 2018, the heads of 25 national associations joined BHER to call on the federal government to invest in WIL.

Unveiled today in Ottawa, the budget signals the government’s commitment to ensure that everyone young Canadian who wants a work-integrated learning opportunity should get one.

Budget 2019 contains multiple measures to prepare students for the workforce, including:

  • An additional $631.2 million over five years, starting in 2019, to expand the existing Student Work Placement Program to all students, regardless of discipline;
  •  A new investment of $150 million over four years, starting in 2020, to create partnerships with innovative businesses; and
  • $17 million to support the Business + Higher Education Roundtable to convene partners such as businesses, post-secondary institutions, not-for-profits and other levels of government. This will also include funding for a platform to better connect students, schools and employers.

Together, these investments will help make significant progress towards BHER’s goal of ensuring that within the next decade, all post-secondary students gain the work experience they need to launch their careers. Hitting this goal requires the creation of about 150,000 new placements per year – an achievement only possible if business, higher education institutions and government work together.

Beyond the significant support for Canada’s students, BHER is encouraged to see Budget 2019 offering proactive support to help working Canadians upgrade their skills. These measures include a new Canada Training Benefit, EI training support, and further consultations with provinces and territories.


Dave McKay, CEO of RBC and BHER co-chair

“Today’s budget is a very positive investment in the transformation of post-secondary education in Canada through the commitment of federal support for work-integrated learning programs, including funding for the Business + Higher Education Roundtable (BHER).

The government’s commitment will help build stronger bridges between classrooms and workplaces and signals a new approach that will see Canadian employers, educators and governments working more closely together than ever. As Canada needs to create about 150,000 more work-integrated learning placements each year, the challenges – and opportunities – are too great for anyone to do it alone.

As co-Chair of BHER, I look forward to continuing to work closely with our key business and higher education partners to ensure Canada has a well-prepared, well-educated and highly skilled workforce that’s fit for the next decade and beyond.”

Meric Gertler, President of the University of Toronto and BHER co-chair

“To prepare Canada’s youth for a dynamic workforce it’s important that we embrace work-integrated learning for post-secondary students through programs such as internships, co-ops, and applied research projects. The commitments made in Budget 2019 will support Canada’s talent pipeline by expanding opportunities for hands-on learning and enabling students to build the competencies needed to thrive in the evolving global economy.”

Anne Sado, President of George Brown College and BHER co-chair

“Over the past three years, BHER members and our partners have been working on the ground to boost the number of work-integrated learning programs, and to help make them more accessible to all students. These investments will drive down the cost of participation, allowing more small and medium-sized employers to take part.”

Marc Parent, President and CEO of CAE

“Il est impossible d’innover sans investir dans nos employés : en leur fournissant les bons outils, en les aidant à parfaire leurs compétences et en les encourageant à adopter de nouvelles approches. Je suis fier d’être membre de la Table ronde du milieu des affaires et de l’enseignement supérieur depuis 2015 et d’avoir été l’un des premiers témoins de ce que les entreprises et les écoles peuvent accomplir lorsqu’elles unissent leurs forces. Le budget 2019,

qui met l’accent sur l’apprentissage intégré en milieu de travail, aidera à combler l’écart entre ce que les étudiants apprennent à l’école et ce dont ils ont besoin pour réussir sur le marché du travail. En raison de la révolution numérique, tous les travailleurs devraient être en mesure de bénéficier de l’apprentissage tout au long de leur vie pour s’adapter aux nouvelles réalités, entre autres au moyen de l’apprentissage intégré en milieu de travail.”

“We cannot be innovative without investing in our employees. This includes providing them with the right tools, helping them hone their skills and encouraging them to adopt new approaches. I am proud to have been a member of the Business + Higher Education Roundtable since 2015 and, as such, to have been one of the first to witness what companies and schools can accomplish when they join forces. The 2019 budget, which focuses on work-integrated learning (WIL), will help fill the gap between what students learn in the classroom and what they need to get ahead in the workplace. As the digital revolution moves forward, all workers should be able to take advantage of lifelong learning to be able to adjust to new realities, through WIL and other activities.”

Linda Hasenfratz, President and CEO of Linamar Corporation

“Rapid technological change is impacting jobs across all industries, and Canadian employers are working alongside colleges and universities to help prepare students with the skills they need. Work Integrated Learning is a key enabler of that training for students entering the workforce, as are re-skilling programs for those already in it. It’s good news to see that the federal government understands how these skills challenges impact Canada’s economy, and is eager to play a role in helping industry find people and people find jobs.”

Faisal Kazi, CEO of Siemens Canada

“Canada’s success as an investment location is built on our talent pool. In a globally competitive, technologically advanced world, connecting the ingenuity of our colleges and universities with the experience of employers will help make all Canadians prepared for the challenges of the future. I applaud the investments made in Budget 2019, and look forward to working alongside BHER members to turn these commitments into action.”

Cheryl Jensen, President of Algonquin College

“The challenges facing Canadians when it comes to their jobs are no different than those facing people around the world. Students and learners from across the country must navigate a changing environment: one that calls for both highly developed technical skills and the capacity to integrate these skills in different situations. It’s very good news that the federal government, through Budget 2019, is ready to invest in our future through initiatives such as work-integrated learning.”

Larry Rosia, President and CEO, Saskatchewan Polytechnic

“Through my role with the Business + Higher Education Roundtable, I’m a first-hand witness to how industry sectors are being disrupted and how skill requirements are changing. As the world of work evolves, higher education has to keep pace. The federal government’s investments will help students across Canada move between school and work, helping them develop skills throughout their lives.”

About BHER:

Launched in 2015 by the Business Council of Canada, the Business + Higher Education Roundtable brings together the CEOs of some of Canada’s largest companies and the presidents of leading post-secondary institutions. BHER works to assist young Canadians as they transition between school to work and to help employers and workers adapt to the economy of the future. Learn more at