This article is the latest in 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.
Better academic performance, greater confidence about post-graduate employment opportunities and, most importantly, extra money in the bank.
What student wouldn’t want more of all three?
These meaningful benefits – as well as many others – are all outcomes of participation in work-integrated learning opportunities through the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP).
Launched by Economic and Social Development Canada (ESDC) in 2017, the SWPP provides eligible employers with wage subsidy funding when they hire a post-secondary student for a quality, paid work-integrated learning experience.
Updated research from Magnet and the Information & Communications Technology Council (ICTC), in collaboration with six additional partners,* demonstrates the scope of the positive impacts the SWPP delivers for post-secondary students, employers, and the Canadian economy.
Magnet and ICTC are two of 18 active SWPP delivery partners across Canada.
Beyond the value of the work experience itself, the research shows that students who participated in the SWPP earned approximately $1,038 per month in additional financial benefit from the program. In every placement period since April, 2022, this has added up to students earning an approximate total of $84.1 million per program period.
SWPP earnings allowed thousands of Canadian students to benefit from disposable income they wouldn’t otherwise have had, especially during the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the money earned may have been spent on food, rent, tuition, and other living expenses, helping stimulate the overall economy.
Other students may have used their SWPP earnings to pay off loans or debts, invest in stocks and bonds, or to save for the future.
According to the report, a majority of the students who benefitted from SWPP earnings would not have been able to access paid placements without the program. Less than a quarter (24 percent) of employers surveyed said they would have hired a student if not for the SWPP’s wage subsidy funding.
As such, the SWPP was “an important lifeline” for employers and students alike during the pandemic. The program allowed businesses to keep investing in talent, while giving youth the opportunity to develop and grow, even in a time of economic challenges.
The report also finds that students who completed a SWPP placement felt more confident in their ability to find work after graduation. Feedback from across a range of student disciplines found that participating in WIL enables young people to develop the qualities, workplace knowledge, and mindset necessary for successful careers.
According to the research, WIL is associated with “higher grades, students being better prepared for career success, better informed about their chosen careers, and improved self-efficacy and adaptability.”
In feedback to surveys that informed the report, students who participated in the SWPP reported higher self-assessments of their skills and abilities in collaboration, adaptability, creativity, and innovation.
Importantly, employers tend to agree that work placements play a key role in “cultivating the understanding necessary for workplace success.” According to research cited in the report, employers say students who’ve completed multiple co-op placements have “developed skills essential to their careers and industry.”
This was backed up by ESDC’s 2022 review of the SWPP, which found that nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of employers who hired through the program would consider offering their student-employee a long-term role.
Another benefit of the SWPP is the extent to which it facilitates placements at small and medium-sized businesses, a multitude of employers who are the lifeblood of Canada’s economy. As SWPP participant Michael Alves found, placements at smaller organizations often give student hires greater visibility, more opportunities for hands-on work and additional responsibility, and improved potential for mentorship.
While studying at Toronto Metropolitan University, Alves turned freelance work with a GTA-area start-up into a SWPP-funded position, then landed a full-time job with the same business.
“A lot of students will go straight into huge companies that can afford to take as many interns as they want,” Alves told Magnet in December, 2022. “But there’s so much value in the companies that are smaller teams and still learning, that don’t know what they don’t know, because you can be a part of that conversation. It is a little stressful at times, but it’s super, super valuable in terms of growing as a professional and evolving from a student to a real-life adult person.”
Ultimately, the research offers further evidence of how the SWPP provides a pan-Canadian solution for more students to realize their potential and enter the workforce with a strong foundation for success.
“Young people are destined to play a critical role in shaping Canada’s future, driving vital change and innovation in the years ahead,” Magnet Executive Director Mark Patterson said. “Continuing to provide targeted support that helps young people grow and develop into contributing members of our labour market is an economic imperative for Canada.”
*Additional research support was provided by ECO Canada, Electricity Human Resources Canada, Ontario Chamber of Commerce, BioTalent, Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium, and TECHNATION.