State of the Ecosystem
The State of Work Integrated Learning

The State of Work Integrated Learning

Embracing everyone

Krista Pawley
Krista Pawley
Founder, Wavemakers

In 2023, Canada's Innovative Work Integrated Learning (I-WIL) landscape, enriched by Venture for Canada's leadership, celebrates diversity and inclusion, crucial for nurturing the country's future innovators.

As a co-founder of Wavemakers, a new addition to this vibrant ecosystem, our program introduces an outsider's enthusiasm and curiosity to the field. Wavemakers, the first national work-integrated learning initiative delivered entirely in virtual reality, focuses on inclusivity, aiming to make meaningful WIL experiences accessible and engaging for students facing barriers to inclusion.

A recent highlight that exemplifies the impact of these programs is the significant enrollment of students from diverse backgrounds in I-WIL initiatives, with Wavemakers itself seeing nearly 90% of participants identifying with one or more diversity attributes. This statistic signifies progress towards more inclusive learning experiences and the potential for these experiences to enrich Canada's entrepreneurial landscape.

Over the next decade, my vision for I-WIL centers on expanding access and further developing transferable skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, and a growth mindset. These are essential in a world where job roles continuously evolve, emphasizing adaptability and lifelong learning.

Venture for Canada's role in fostering a community where innovation and inclusivity flourish has been pivotal.

As we mark Venture for Canada's 10th anniversary, it's clear that your commitment to collaboration and partnership has significantly contributed to creating a supportive I-WIL ecosystem.

To the entrepreneurial community and all those who support Venture for Canada, your engagement is crucial in shaping a future where every student can thrive, reflecting our collective ambition for a diverse and innovative Canada.

Embracing shifting priorities

Andrea Giles
Andrea Giles
Executive Director, Co-Operative Education Program and Career Services - University of Victoria

The landscape of WIL is changing.

We’re seeing significant shifts in our students' values and priorities, and we’re responding to this in terms of how we deliver our programming. From an increased focus on access, inclusion, equity, diversity, and decolonization to responding to the TRC’s Calls to action and aligning our way forward with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we are listening.

We are very proud to see a continuous increase in the number of Indigenous students participating in our co-op and career-focused programming at UVic—111 Indigenous students participated in co-op last year. Our team includes a dedicated Indigenous co-op coordinator who works with students to find culturally relevant hands-on learning opportunities. Additionally, we’re working hard to support students who identify as having a disability or mental health challenges so that they can access WIL—we had 145 placements by students who self-identified last year. In doing so, we are better serving our entire community.

I am excited to see a continued focus on equity, diversity, inclusion and access for all students. We must be flexible and responsive and listen to our student’s needs because they are changing faster than ever. We also want to continue to develop diverse forms of WIL, such as opportunities like community-engaged courses, career preparation courses, and more. We also want to play our part in helping to prepare employers for an incoming generation of employees who are bringing new priorities and ways of being in the world of work.

Embracing collaboration

Dana Stephenson
Dana Stephenson
CEO & Founder, Riipen

In 2023, Canada's Innovative Work-Integrated Learning (I-WIL) program continued to adapt to the evolving work and education market, standing out as a crucial link connecting academic learning with real-world work experiences.

This model is designed to fulfill the unique needs of both learners and employers by creating a workforce prepared with a combination of technical and durable skills, including communication and critical thinking. I-WIL champions inclusivity by addressing barriers faced by learners from underserved communities, ensuring equitable access to work-integrated learning opportunities and promoting a more inclusive education and workforce landscape.

I-WIL is poised for further evolution as we look ahead. Plans are in place to forge stronger collaborations across government, educational institutions, business associations, and economic development groups. The goal is to support the development of new and innovative education and training programs to meet the dynamic needs of a versatile workforce.

This future vision includes the integration of micro-credentials and work-integrated learning experiences aimed at bolstering small and medium-sized enterprises by providing them with the necessary tools to enhance productivity, drive innovation, and contribute to the economy by creating jobs that would not exist otherwise.

New "earn-and-learn" approaches will be employed to engage learners who might otherwise encounter obstacles and maximise their learning and career outcomes.