Work-integrated learning in the post COVID-19 World

The Conference Board of Canada, 35 pages, December 23, 2020
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There is strong potential to be realized in increasing the participation of small and medium-sized employers (SMEs) in Canada’s work-integrated learning (WIL) programs. Due to several barriers exacerbated by COVID-19, SMEs face an uphill battle in realizing the potential of WIL to meet their talent needs. Overcoming these barriers will be crucial to realizing quality placements for Canadian post-secondary students.

Document Highlights

  • Small and medium sized business owners report that their top four barriers to implementing WIL include:
    • Insufficient staffing resources to supervise and mentor WIL students
    • Financial constraints, coupled with a lack of accessible funding to alleviate these constraints
    • Recruitment challenges, particularly a lack of human resources support to navigate complex systems
    • WIL program inflexibility and misalignment with SME needs
  • COVID-19 has created new barriers to the successful implementation of WIL, including limited digital infrastructure and teleworking capacity at SMEs, as well as new safety considerations.
  • Business owners report COVID-19 related financial, safety, and remote working constraints to engaging post-secondary students in 2020.
  • Despite complex barriers to SME participation, alternative WIL programs show promise for engaging SMEs. They integrate promising financial support, stakeholder engagement, and program design elements that show potential for reducing barriers to SME participation in WIL programs.

Table of Contents


  • Key findings
  • The role of WIL in Canada’s structural policy response to supporting SME’s
  • Reducing barriers to SME participation
  • Advancing the quality of remote and alternative WIL opportunities
  • Emerging models of WIL to respond to SME business and skills needs
  • What needs to happen next?

Appendix A—Methodology

Appendix B—Bibliography

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