Students throughout British Columbia will have access to as many as 3,000 new co-op and work integrated learning (WIL) opportunities in 2021-22, thanks to new funding and a focus on bolstering placements affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted youth employment prospects, including reducing the number of co-op and work integrated learning placements available to students. We are investing in these opportunities to help students access the hands-on experiences they need to launch their careers,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. “Helping employers throughout the province offer co-op and work-integrated learning opportunities is good news for business and great news for students.”
The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training is investing $5.5 million in one-time funding to expand co-ops and WIL programs. In total, 46 projects at all 25 public post-secondary institutions in B.C. are being supported, including:
- UBC-Okanagan, University of Northern BC and Thompson Rivers University will build on work underway to support employers in Interior and northern communities to hire students for 130 WIL placements.
- Emily Carr University of Art + Design will create 30 WIL placements for students to work with employers in Vancouver’s False Creek Flats and Downtown Eastside.
- University of Victoria will create 60 or more co-op work terms for students with disabilities who face great challenges in finding and retaining placements.
- Coast Mountain College and College of New Caledonia will create more than 100 WIL placements in partnership with local chambers of commerce to create the Connecting the North: Northern WIL Hub Project.
“B.C.’s competitive advantage is its people, and by investing in skills training, we are supporting our economic recovery and building long-term prosperity,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “Lifelong learning is key to building the sustainable workforce B.C. needs to address labour shortages now and in the future. This commitment to skills training will open up more opportunities for good jobs that help make communities thrive.”
This funding is in addition to a one-time $9-million investment in 2019 that supported more than 70 pilot projects to expand co-op and WIL opportunities for post-secondary students, including Indigenous students and students with disabilities. The funding supported a range of activities, including employer consultations and recruitment, supports for targeted employers/students, and program design and development.
Education and life-skills training are important for people seeking jobs. The 2019 B.C. Labour Market Outlook forecasts more than 860,000 job openings that will need to be filled over the next decade. Of those job openings, 77% will require some level of post-secondary education or training.
- All 25 public post-secondary institutions offer some form of WIL in the form of co-ops, internships, practicums and community service learning.
- In 2020-21, there were 14,318 co-op work placements at 16 public post-secondary institutions, involving more than 6,800 employers who paid more than $174 million in student wages.
- This was a 14.8% decrease from 2019-20, or a loss of almost 2,500 co-op placements, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other forms of WIL were also affected.
- Co-op placements are concentrated in engineering (30% of placements in 2020-21), administration/business (17%), science (13%) and computer science (19%).
- Students studying in B.C. can find co-op placements anywhere, but most are placed within the province (89% in 2020-21), generally in their local region (78% in 2020-21).
Christa Clay, student, master of design, Emily Carr University of Art + Design –
“This work-integrated learning project with Recycling Alternative has offered me the opportunity to contextualize my research and studies on the ground, alongside community members and practitioners. I feel so grateful that I have been able to establish meaningful relationships and networks that I can already see will continue to strengthen as more chances to collaborate emerge in the shared goal of building more resilient and sustainable futures for this community.”
Louise Schwarz, founder and co-owner, Recycling Alternative –
“The opportunity to work directly with design students from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, in this ‘real-world,’ off-campus operating model, delivers considerable value and benefit to our organization in terms of external communication and storytelling that we would not have otherwise had the capacity to develop and share. This project helps increase visibility and awareness of our work and its circular impacts.”
Michael Chahal, student, child and youth care, Douglas College –
“What I’ve most appreciated about my child and youth care practicum is the chance to look at social systems through an anti-oppressive lens. At Qmunity, I work closely with queer youth as a facilitator, and I'm doing research to build a database of programs that support them. I noticed that not many programs exist for South Asian queer youth, so I'm talking to young people to learn more about their needs. Participating in this practicum has changed the way I view work culture and practice, as well as expanded my view of what child and youth care practitioners can do.”
Sandhu Awrinder, student, hospitality management, College of the Rockies –
“With the help of co-op, I was able to learn about actual hospitality skills like teamwork, leadership, time management and customer relations. We applied our knowledge in practical situations and learned communications skills and how to attract customers.”
For a backgrounder with details on new co-op and work integrated learning projects funded: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Co-op_WIL_Projects.pdf
For translations: https://news.gov.bc.ca/25854#translations