What is Work-Integrated Learning?
Work-integrated learning (WIL) is a model and process of curricular experiential education which formally and intentionally integrates a student’s academic studies within a workplace or practice setting. WIL experiences include an engaged partnership between an academic institution, a host organization, and a student. WIL can occur at the course or program level and includes the development of learning outcomes related to employability, personal agency, and life-long learning. Source: CEWIL Canada
In BC, all 25 public, post-secondary institutions offer WIL – search by visiting our institution pages, or search for specific program areas and discover where they’re offered in BC. For tips on working with WIL students, visit our Employer resources.
Types of WIL
Applied Research Projects
Students participating in applied research projects solve workplace problems in partnership with community organizations or industry. Solutions to these problems are typically generated through consulting, design, community-based research, or some combination of all three. Students typically spend 2-8 months working on the applied research project.
Apprenticeship is an agreement between a student (an apprentice) who wants to learn a skill and an employer willing to sponsor the apprentice and provide paid related practical experience under the direction of a certified journeyperson. Apprenticeship combines about 80% at-the-workplace experience with 20% technical classroom training, and depending on the trade, takes about 2-5 years to complete.
Co-operative Education consists of alternating academic terms and paid work terms in a workplace setting related to the student’s field of study. The number of required work terms varies by program; however, the time spent in work terms must be at least 30% of the time spent in academic study for programs over 2 years in length and 25% of time for programs 2 years and shorter in length.
Entrepreneurship allows a student to leverage resources, space, mentorship and/or funding to engage in the early-stage development of business start-ups and/or to advance external ideas that address real-world needs for academic credit.
Field placements provide students with an intensive part-time/short term hands-on practical experience in a setting relevant to their subject of study. Field placements may not require supervision by a registered or licensed professional and the completed work experience hours are not required for professional certification.
Internships offer discipline specific (typically full-time), supervised, structured opportunities that can be paid or unpaid. Internships may occur in the middle of an academic program or after all academic coursework has been completed and prior to graduation. Internships can be of any length but are typically 12 to 16 months long.
Mandatory Professional Practicum/Clinical Placement
Mandatory practicum/clinical placements are conducted under the supervision of an experienced registered or licensed professional in any discipline that requires practice-based work experience for professional license or certification. Practica are generally unpaid and, as the work is done in a supervised setting, typically students do not have their own workload/caseload.
Community Service Learning integrates meaningful community service with classroom instruction and critical reflection to enrich the learning experience and strengthen communities. In practice, students work in partnership with a community based organization to apply their disciplinary knowledge to a challenge identified by the community.
Work Experience intersperses one or two work terms (typically full-time) into an academic program, providing experience in a workplace setting related to the student’s field of study and/or career goals. Similar in many ways to co-op, the primary difference is the amount of time during an academic program spent on work terms.
What WIL Students Do For You
Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) students can offer so much to your organization, whether it’s taking on a one-off research project, developing a safety plan or user manual, managing your social media channels, handling accounting duties, plus so much more.
At ACE-WIL, we often hear about how businesses have benefited from hiring students. But don’t take our word for it! Read on to hear directly from employers and students about how students positively contributed to various businesses and the types of roles they played in achieving this.
These stories were collected as part of Impact 2020 – an initiative to showcase how WIL students made a difference during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As an Interactive Arts & Technology student studying at Simon Fraser University, Anna was able to put her design skills to use working at a local start-up. During her first month, she designed a set of presentation deck templates for use within the company, and she saw her coworkers, department leads, and CEO make use of them throughout her eight months of working there. In her own words, while “it was a simple project. . . I received feedback from coworkers that it was easy to use and decreased their workload.”
As part of a Selkirk College Applied Research Project on rural climate resilience, Alexandra hoped to encourage household emergency preparedness in various communities throughout BC. She reached out to local influential leaders through e-mail and Zoom and then using social media and community-based social marketing, she was able to successfully convince three pilot communities to make emergency evacuation plans and build home preparedness kits.
Camosun College co-op student Chloe worked for a small event-planning and production company and easily adapted to the shift towards planning small versus large weddings during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was also able to take on various communications duties, such as managing their social media accounts and writing for their blog.
An employer hired a University of British Columbia-Okanagan Computing Science Co-op student as a Web Developer to support an idea for a web application at the workplace. Although direction for him was not always clear, he made significant progress with little-to-no support from the ideation stage to an actual web application. He exceeded all expectations from the group and after leaving the project, the employer continued to receive excellent feedback on the work he completed.
Arslan, an international student studying Media Arts at the University of the Fraser Valley, successfully completed an internship where he was able to combine his previous project management skills with the design and technical skills learned throughout his degree. He worked on numerous external and internal communications projects, including publications, blog posts, website redesigns, social media posts and video releases.
Working for a small high-tech company, University of British Columbia-Okanagan student Will was able to help show how different products his employer built were actually performing in the field, using data analysis techniques and visualization tools to create dashboards for several teams. These dashboards featured important metrics in a visual way that made them easy to understand and helped the business gain valuable insights to guide decisions about improvements.
A Vancouver Island-based insurance company hired Royal Roads University MBA international student, Anil, for an accounting internship, in which they excelled. The supervisor commented that Anil “quickly exceeded our expectations in a challenging industry and demonstrated sound initiatives to improve our processes and procedures. As a CPA, I have trained and supervised many employees over 30 years, and this ‘student’ is probably the sharpest one I have had the pleasure to work with.”
Working for a local company that makes an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic wrap, University of Victoria Business Co-op student Nichole’s supervisor remarked that while she had hired students previously, this student in particular was exceptional. She worked incredibly hard every day and, very quickly, her personality shone through. She brought an entirely new perspective to the business and the people on the team and used her skills to positively push her supervisor to create and do things that her small business would not have done otherwise. She was innovative, creative and helped them think of new possibilities every day.
Ray from Selkirk College spent four months working as a GIS Data Analyst, helping forestry businesses become more innovative in quantifying the volume and biomass of wood residue by using drones and GIS.
Khusbu, a Royal Roads University student in the Master of Global Management program, completed an internship for an employer who commented that she “wore multiple hats, from a market researcher, a marketing campaign associate, a video analyst, to a blog writer. She also became a strategist when she developed and implemented an agent engagement strategy” for the organization.
Douglas College student Saveen was hired on by a Lower Mainland robotics firm as a supply chain planner. As part of her duties she was able to create a detailed user manual for the software, as well as a step-by-step guide for the Finance department, both of which helped in preventing future errors from occurring.
Responding to the impacts of the pandemic, three international students completed a mandatory practicum as a part of their Global Hospitality and Tourism program at Capilano University. Together, they conducted research to explore various tourism opportunities in particular areas and created an inventory of helpful resources.
Get started with a WIL student
Are you ready to bring a WIL student on board? We can help. We have tips for recruiting, accessing funding, and even how to manage students remotely. Check out our employer resources >
Are you a student? With hundreds of WIL programs at public post-secondary institutions across BC, you’re sure to find a program that matches your goals. Explore WIL programs >