As one of 18 current delivery partners for the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP), the release of The Impact of Work-Integrated Learning on Student Success and the Canadian Economy was a cause for celebration at Magnet.
Having acted as delivery partners for the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP) since 2019 and 2017 respectively, Magnet and the Information & Communications Technology Council (ICTC) have engaged in ongoing research, in collaboration with six other delivery partners,* to better understand the program’s impact. Following an earlier impact report from 2022, this report added to a growing evidence base for SWPP’s positive economic impact for students and Canadian businesses.
From the greater spending power that students attained through paid opportunities to the boost in productivity enabled by the fact that many employers hired students full-time following their placement, SWPP’s success is a testimony to the importance of investing in talent development initiatives that bridge the gap between academics and the workplace.
While SWPP was an economic boon to employers, students, and local economies, it shouldn’t be lost that greater access to work-integrated learning (WIL) also offered students an important avenue for personal growth and to increase their employment readiness, thereby reinforcing the importance of accessible quality WIL experiences.
As detailed in Section I of the report, existing research has highlighted the impact of quality WIL experiences on student self-efficacy and adaptability. The latter is particularly important, as students can now expect to enter a labour market where they’ll not only change career paths multiple times, but continually engage constantly evolving challenges, technologies, and cultural expectations throughout their working lives in a way previous generations never did.
Some of the research cited in the report made the following conclusions regarding WIL:
ESDC’s own 2022 survey of SWPP participants found that, “Students reported they improved ‘work-related skills,’ including time management, critical thinking, problem solving, and oral communications (ESDC).”
Based on this body of existing research, Magnet and ICTC to conclude that, “Participating in WIL has been shown to be associated with higher grades, preparing students for career success, informing them about their chosen careers, and increasing their self-efficacy and adaptability.”
Research has certainly made a strong case for WIL’s potential to bolster adaptability and human skills in students in addition to self-awareness and a sense of civic engagement. These have always been valuable skills, but the current moment has increased the urgency of making these skills part of young Canadians’ career and educational development.
Indeed, participants across regional roundtables hosted by the Future Skills Centre and Conference Board of Canada identified adaptability as one of the most important social and emotional skills needed for career success alongside communication, critical thinking, interpersonal skills, and leadership.
As Canada’s economy sits at the intersection of labour shortages and a growing demand for digital and human skills among new workers, we hope that policy makers, employers, and post-secondary institutions recognize the value of SWPP in providing a pan-Canadian solution for more students to realize their full potential and enter the workforce with a strong foundation for long-term success.
Given that work-integrated learning is often the domain of STEM fields of study, fields which can often be male dominated, we commend Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC’s) action in expanding the eligibility for SWPP to include post-secondary students in all disciplines and incentivizing employers to hire students from underrepresented groups. In doing so, SWPP has offered a greater diversity of students the opportunity to build those important human skills and position themselves for future success.
ESDC has previously highlighted the notable number of SWPP participants who identified as members of an underrepresented group (57% of placements from 2017-2020) and the fact that the program reached participants across all provinces and territories.
We’ve also previously discussed and lauded the fact that SWPP provided an important lifeline to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and saved many students from a disruption in their education and career development. We should also recognize from a more macro perspective that SWPP has immense potential to align the skills of graduates with the changing needs of work and the labour market. As human skills become more in-demand, quality WIL experience shouldn’t be a “nice to have,” but widely available for students across Canada with an emphasis on reaching participants that don’t typically benefit from WIL.
By incentivizing more employers and post-secondary institutions to take part in WIL the way SWPP has, we’re not just driving economic benefits, but establishing the roots of the adaptable, resilient workforce Canada needs.
Employment and Social Development Canada. (2022, May 31). Evaluation of the Student Work Placement Program [Education and awareness]. https://www. canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/ corporate/reports/ evaluations/ student-workplacement.html
Martin, A.J., and M. Rees. “Student Insights: Developing T-Shaped Professionals through WorkIntegrated Learning.” International Journal of WorkIntegrated Learning, vol. 20, no. 4, 2019, pp. 365-374.
Purdie, F., Ward, L. J., McAdie, T. M., King, N., & Drysdale, M. (2013). Are work-integrated learning (WIL) students better equipped psychologically for work post graduation than their non-work-integrated learning peers? Some initial findings from a UK university. Asia-Pacific Journal of Co-operative Education, 14(2), 117–125.
*This report was produced in collaboration with ECO Canada, Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium, BioTalent Canada, Electricity Human Resources Canada, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and TECHNATION