This article is part of a series highlighting the findings of The Impact of Work-Integrated Learning on Student Success and the Canadian Economy, which explores the positive impacts of the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP). Here, we explore the importance of incentivizing student hiring as a way to bolster local economies and address challenges like demographic change and the growing demand for human skills.
Since Magnet assumed its role as one of 18 delivery partners for the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP), thousands of employers have been incentivized to hire more than 40,000 students and counting for work-integrated learning (WIL) placements through Magnet’s instance of the program alone.
Many employers retained the students they hired in more long-term roles. In just as many cases, however, students who participated in the program took the skills they developed during their placement to other employers, industries, or regions following graduation.
While employers in both scenarios benefitted from fresh perspectives, enthusiasm, and updated tech-related skills that students brought to their organization, they were also acting as community pillars by helping students build foundational skills they would eventually take elsewhere. Paid positions offered through SWPP were also instrumental in assisting students to obtain extra earnings and spending power during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The willingness of so many employers to take on the shared responsibility of developing young talent, introducing them to in-demand skills, helping them grow their networks, and preparing them to fill roles in growing sectors and those facing waves of retirement should be incentivized and celebrated.
The benefits of SWPP and its positive return on investment were outlined in the recently published The Impact of Work-Integrated Learning on Student Success and the Canadian Economy, led by Magnet and ICTC with support from six additional SWPP delivery partners (ECO Canada, Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium, BioTalent Canada, Electricity Human Resources Canada, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and TECHNATION). The report builds on a previously published impact report and adds to the collective understanding of SWPP’s economic impact.
As part of Magnet and ICTC’s research, employers surveyed indicated a positive experience with SWPP and the students they hired. Still, it’s critical to understand that the program’s impact and benefits generated for employers were made possible through an innovative combination of policy, technology, and partnership.
As we’ve discussed previously, WIL is essential as Canada transitions to a workforce that prizes adaptability in addition to human and digital skills. It’s not just an imperative for individuals but Canada’s economy.
Employers, however, often lack the capacity to identify and hire young talent. Traditionally, to hire students, employers would have to build relationships with university and college co-op offices across their region or Canada to share job opportunities regularly. In addition, the cost of hiring new talent also serves as a barrier for some employers, especially small and medium-sized enterprises without dedicated human resources capacity.
The combination of time and cost might mean lost opportunities for students and employers. In fact, less than a quarter (24 percent) of employers surveyed would have hired a student without the support provided through SWPP.
In the case of SWPP, delivery partners, government, industry, and post-secondary institutions understood that developing young talent was a shared responsibility. Through joint efforts between these stakeholders, employers were able to access reliable funding for student hiring and technology to more easily identify and hire the right student talent for their businesses.
More than just a wage subsidy, SWPP represented an effort to bridge the gap between employers and student talent through technology and additional capacity.
Developed in partnership with Orbis, the Outcome Campus Connect platform enabled employers to create one job posting and target students across more than 125 post-secondary job boards based on skills, program of study, location, and more. Outcome Campus Connect addressed the aforementioned challenge of building individual relationships with co-op offices and managing postings and applications across several platforms.
Along with the promise of reliable funding, the platform itself was an investment that drove greater uptake of SWPP and enabled the program to have its desired effect of building talent pipelines for businesses, connecting students with valuable experience, and supporting economic growth.
For employers especially, not knowing that they have a way to hire students and that funding will be available in the long term removes the incentive to engage in student hiring.
Beyond Outcome Campus Connect, the Outcome Adjudicator tool allowed delivery partners to effectively administer the program’s wage subsidy, manage applications, communicate with applicants, and deliver required reporting to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
Bringing delivery partners together on one platform also allowed for the sharing of applicant referrals, ensuring that employers had a consistent experience interacting with different delivery partners and could still access wage subsidies if a particular partner was at capacity.
SWPP’s success was made possible by the willingness of employers to engage with the program. Small businesses being able to hire students can have a significant impact on the local community and the Canadian economy as a whole. Still, they may only sometimes have the capacity to hire students.
Building an infrastructure and appropriate incentives for employers is therefore crucial. This infrastructure includes reliable funding, tools that reduce the time and effort needed to make hiring decisions, and systems to ensure efficient program delivery and a positive experience for employers.
As with many challenges related to Canada’s constantly evolving labour market, nurturing youth talent is complex and requires investment and effort from diverse stakeholders. SWPP demonstrates the importance of collective action and its impact in addressing these complex challenges.