Workplace integrated learning

Workplace integrated learning

< Back to Articles | Topics: Trends

Contributors:

Jennifer Weatherhead, Director of Training and Market Development, Sandler Training

Entering my first year of the business program at Mount Saint Vincent University, I had a well-intentioned plan: complete my undergrad with an honours average, write my Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and then apply to law school.

However, what transpired took me by surprise.

At the end of my second year, I began Workplace Integrated Learning (WIL) in the form of a Cooperative (Co-op) Education program: a 16-week paid, work term providing direct links between educational learning and practical industry experience. Over the duration of three placements, my classroom knowledge, coupled with hands-on learning, shifted my interest to marketing — a very different discipline than law.

Co-op is one area of WIL that is driving relationships between post-secondary schools and the business community by providing students with learning opportunities like internships, field experience, applied research projects and service learning.

Many schools across Canada offer WIL, including ones here in Nova Scotia. At the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), students can combine service to the community with learning through class projects. At Saint Mary’s University, students can venture to international markets to integrate into a business culture. Dalhousie University MBA students have access to industry-level professional training using practical application.

These post-secondary schools, amongst many others, partner with industry to enhance traditional curriculum-based learning with a link to transfer classroom knowledge to practical application.

As a post-secondary instructor, I have always felt that even with all the strategies I utilized to bring the business environment to the classroom, there’s no substitution for practical application gained with a live company.

It’s certainly great for the student, but what’s in it for the company? The initial thought of having the additional headcount can seem daunting to most employers. Is there budget for this new position? Who will manage the student? What work will we have them do and will there be enough to keep them engaged? Do we have time to spend with the student? Is the timing right for our organization?

Although those are valid concerns, our youth unemployment rate is creeping
higher than the national average — even though we have a greater share of graduates with high education and skill requirements, according to the OneNS dashboard.

There are many reasons for employers to participate in a WIL program:

  • You’re tapped into a funnel for entry-level positions, which reduces future recruiting costs
  • You and your employees will gain knowledge from a generation of learners who are in touch with today’s technological landscape — full of fresh insight and new ideas!
  • It’s a great opportunity to trial a student with limited risk in a permanent hire
  • You can improve your corporate image by supporting educational development and the future workforce for Nova Scotia
  • You can develop industry-specific skills and knowledge to enhance the pool of candidates for future human resource requirements
  • Lower costs and new energy to execute a key project or area of discipline requiring short-term attention

In the end, there are several avenues and reasons to employ a student at the post-secondary level. Financially, it is an investment for the future — and in some cases, the budget is NIL which is a bonus for access to a skilled individual.

Although I wrote my LSAT as planned, I never became a lawyer. In retrospect,
WIL saved me years in a professional career that was not the right fit for me.

Jennifer Weatherhead is the Director of Training and Market Development at Sandler Training, a globally-recognized sales and leadership training organization. She has also taught at the post-secondary level and is an active coach in community sports.

< Back to Articles | Topics: Trends

Stay Connected

Sign-up to receive important updates on Halifax Chamber events, Member benefits and advocacy news.

Business Awards Nominations