Evidence of meeting #103 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was students.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Norah McRae  Executive Director, University of Victoria, Co-operative Education Program and Career Services
Patrick Snider  Director, Skills and Immigration Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce
Anne-Marie Fannon  Past President, Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada
Kristine Dawson  President-Elect, Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada
Gail Bowkett  Director, Innovation Policy, Mitacs
Judene Pretti  Director, Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education, University of Waterloo

3:50 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Good afternoon, everybody. I apologize for the late start here, so we're going to get going without too much preamble.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Thursday, November 9, 2017, the committee is resuming its study of experiential learning and pathways to employment for Canadian youth.

Today the committee will hear from witnesses on the subject of co-operative education and programs. I promise my bias to the University of Waterloo will not come through too much.

We have with us today, Norah McRae, executive director of the co-operative education program and career services at the University of Victoria coming to us via video conference from Victoria, B.C. I understand you may have a new role—is that public?

3:50 p.m.

Dr. Norah McRae Executive Director, University of Victoria, Co-operative Education Program and Career Services

Yes, it is public. It's not starting until September though.

3:50 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Maybe we can hear about that in a little while.

From the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, we welcome Patrick Snider, director of skills and immigration policy.

From Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada, we have Kristine Dawson, president-elect, and Anne-Marie Fannon, past president.

From Mitacs, we have Gail Bowkett, director of innovation policy.

From the Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education at the University of Waterloo, we have Judene Pretti.

Welcome to all of you. We are going to get right into opening statements.

First up is Ms. McRae. The next seven minutes are all yours.

3:50 p.m.

Executive Director, University of Victoria, Co-operative Education Program and Career Services

Dr. Norah McRae

Thank you very much.

As noted, my name is Dr. Norah McRae, and I am the executive director of the co-operative education program and career services at the University of Victoria in beautiful Victoria, B.C.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities as a contribution to the study on the way in which experiential learning can guide younger Canadians through the transitions between high school, post-secondary, and the labour market.

This brief will focus on curricular work-integrated learning, a form of experiential learning, and the role it plays in supporting the transition of post-secondary students into the labour market.

Work-integrated learning, or WIL, is a model of education that prepares students with the required 21st century skills to succeed in the workforce, and bridges their transition to employment, setting them up for lifelong learning. This educational framework is practised in a variety of forms across the globe, but regardless of the structure or operational details of the program, certain key aspects are common: the authentic and productive nature of the experience and engagement with the workplace; curricular integration of workplace learning and academic learning; student outcomes that lead to employability; and meaningful transformative reflection. Co-operative education, internships, community service learning, applied research, work experiences, apprenticeships, entrepreneurship, clinics, practicums and clinical placements, and field placements are all models of curricular WIL.

In 2016, the United Nations launched 17 sustainable development goals to address and end injustice and inequality around the world in all countries, including Canada. SDG number four is to ensure inclusive and quality education for all, and promote lifelong learning, and can be accomplished through the development of work-integrated learning that addresses the challenges of youth unemployment or underemployment, job loss due to the changing nature of work, and inequitable access to education.

Research indicates that WIL is considered a powerful mechanism for developing employability skills in students. Students transition from post-secondary to workplaces more readily, and employers prefer students graduating from WIL programs. These employability outcomes point to a model of education that creates strong returns on public investment in education and that leads to lower youth unemployment and underemployment.

In the case of WIL that is paid—for example, co-operative education—post-secondary education becomes more affordable as the burden of tuition is ameliorated by salaries earned during the WIL experience. For example, across Canada there were over 70,000 co-op work terms last year, each one earning on average $10,000 per term. This amounts to over $700 million in earned co-op student salaries last year.

Students who participate in work-integrated learning have the opportunity to develop learner agency and autonomy through WIL, which helps students understand their personal strengths and weaknesses in the workplace and beyond. Early exposure to community and industry can help students refine their interests and passions, make informed decisions about study direction and career aims, develop their own professional identity, and develop a professional network of contacts before they graduate from post-secondary education. International WIL experiences that allow for the development of intercultural capabilities and broader world views enhance the competitiveness of Canadian graduates on the global stage. These aspects of WIL help provide students with the capabilities required to adapt to an unpredictable, rapidly changing 21st century future.

The Association of American Colleges & Universities advocates for the integration of high-impact practices such as WIL into the student learning experience. The inclusion of these high-impact practices into student education provides opportunities for historically underserved students to access post-secondary education and increases both student retention and engagement.

As an example, the University of Victoria has a number of WIL programs that work with indigenous students. The LE,NONET program provides indigenous students with community or research internships, and the indigenous co-op program provides indigenous students with support in finding work terms, including those within indigenous communities.

In summary, WIL has many benefits to the academic institution, industry, and students and addresses youth unemployment and underemployment, job losses due to the changing nature of work, and inequitable access to education.

This brief provides a recommendation to the standing committee on ways to provide support and guidance to academic institutions and industry stakeholders to further develop quality WIL programs. There is a need for the following: one, curriculum for students, employers, and practitioners that can be a resource for WIL programs across Canada; two, a Canadian quality assurance framework; and three, innovative assessment of learning outcomes and longitudinal research to understand the impact of WIL on student employability, workplace productivity and innovation, and the ability for students to be the leaders for the future in creating a better world.

While there is evidence that WIL can help to combat youth unemployment and underemployment, more work needs to be done to develop new curriculum and experiences that can better prepare all Canadian WIL graduates with the skills, knowledge, and abilities to adapt to and flourish in global and diverse workplaces. Developing new and innovative WIL curriculum is critical, as a new cohort of students, generation Z, has recently begun entering post-secondary institutions.

Generation Z is the first to have experienced childhood with ready access to digital and Internet technology. The way they learn in the classroom and engage in the workplace is unique compared to previous generations due to their technological proficiency. As such, WIL pedagogy needs to adapt to the shifting needs of students immersed in a technology-based world, as well as the changing needs of the 21st century workplace.

In Canada, we are unique in the world in having an accreditation process for co-operative education. This accreditation, administered through CEWIL Canada, has established a set of quality standards and a quality assurance process for co-operative education programs across the country. As WIL grows, there is a need to establish quality and rigour in programs to ensure desired outcomes. Developing a Canadian quality assurance framework for all forms of WIL is essential and would continue our global reputation of excellence in WIL.

Supporting these recommendations will allow the Canadian community of WIL educators, practitioners, employers, and researchers to make significant strides in building and innovating effective WIL programs. Lasting impact will be realized with educational institutions, students, our graduates, and workplaces across Canada and will benefit Canadian society as a whole.

Thank you.

3:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much. Also, thank you for staying under time. That was great.

We're going now to Patrick Snider, director of skills and immigration policy, at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

3:55 p.m.

Patrick Snider Director, Skills and Immigration Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Mr. Chair, vice-chairs, and committee members, I appreciate the chance to speak to the human resources, skills and social development committee on the issue of work-integrated learning.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and our members are passionate supporters of work-integrated learning and skills development. The future development of the workforce is a major subject of study and a top priority for us. Highly skilled human resources are a driver of business growth and a pillar of Canadian competitiveness. First I will provide a little background on our organization.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is committed to increasing prosperity throughout Canada. We envision a Canada where anyone can start and grow their own business in a competitive and successful economy.

We are a strictly non-partisan organization. Regardless of who is in office, we want to see a Canada that succeeds. Much like political parties themselves, our support comes from the grassroots. We draw our strength from 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade that represent over 200,000 businesses of every size and in every sector in every region of Canada.

Our members have repeatedly told us that skills gaps and the challenge of finding the right workers are some of the biggest issues they face. Work-integrated learning is crucial for bridging those gaps and connecting talented young Canadians to long-lasting, high-quality careers.

That is one reason we published the report, “Skills for an Automated Future”, earlier this year, which examines the question of skills development and changing workplaces. It looks at Canada's changing labour market and offers a number of recommendations for connecting Canadians with jobs.

Our report is based on the best current data, informed by the experiences of employers, educators, and students themselves, which we heard through a series of round table discussions across the country.

We heard unanimous support for students getting high-quality, paid work experience related to their educational programs. Work-integrated learning is key to developing the kinds of skills that will be necessary in the future economy.

Things like professionalism, personal initiative, critical thinking, and entrepreneurship are all skills that are developed on the job. These durable skills will continue to be relevant no matter what technology is adopted or what changes occur to the labour market or our businesses.

Businesses see the value of taking on students for work experience. It supports the hiring process by giving employers and students the chance to test drive positions and people and find the best fit. It is associated with productivity gains and a strong fit between employees and their positions.

Furthermore, the recent meeting of B7 representatives affirmed the importance of the role of business in workforce development. Important roles like supporting inclusive growth, co-ordinating with educators to promote skills that are in demand, and promoting work-integrated learning and workforce retraining opportunities have all been affirmed by not only the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, but our partners throughout the G7 countries around the world.

Many companies are able to successfully participate in work-integrated learning programs. We have heard many examples of success stories in our conversations—large companies from Ottawa to Vancouver and everywhere in-between. However, demand for these positions continues to exceed the ability of employers to provide them in the numbers that they are required.

Government must remember that the vast majority of businesses in Canada are small and medium enterprises that may not have the same resources as our large companies to provide WIL opportunities. Many lack dedicated human resources professionals to be able to apply for the funding and navigate higher education partnerships, or the financial resources to provide temporary employment to learners.

These companies would benefit greatly from the talent, energy, and support of learners. They would also be able to provide a wide range of experiences by giving the perspective of a smaller enterprise. If we want youth to learn entrepreneurship, then there is no better place for them than working with entrepreneurs.

There is a role for government to create incentives supporting paid work-integrated learning positions. Especially for small and medium enterprises, support needs to be accessible and targeted.

Existing programs such as the Canada summer jobs program are important; however, barriers like inflexible timelines for applications or limits on the age of participants can prevent students from making full use of these programs. Streamlining applications, creating more flexible timelines, and offering support to a wider range of students would improve access to these positions.

At the same time, information needs to be gathered and disseminated more effectively. The pathways between education and employment are less obvious today than they have been previously. Data needs to be gathered in more detail to guide students between their educational programs and gainful employment. Many industries are clamouring for workers and particular skills, but students lack reliable information on what those are and how to join them.

We support a move towards more detailed labour market information. Businesses and students require a system that looks at the supply and demand of skills and competencies more broadly, rather than formal qualifications alone.

Last, we would like to remind the committee that work-integrated learning is a competitive advantage for attracting international talent to Canada. We are in a global race to attract the world's best and brightest. Ensuring that students who come to Canada can participate in work-integrated learning will help maintain our position as a hub of ideas and innovation. This can be supported in a number of specific ways.

Allowing international students to be eligible for programs such as the Canada summer jobs program would help students and businesses. Ensuring that student work permits allow international students to participate in co-op terms without obtaining a separate work permit would also help streamline participation. Last, counting time spent in Canada for studies towards citizenship eligibility would speed the process of transitioning to permanent residency.

Those are just a few examples of steps that could help better align work and study in Canada for global talent. We hope that you will take these recommendations into account as you make your report.

Thank you again for this opportunity to speak.

4:05 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you, sir.

Now, from Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada, we have Kristine Dawson, president-elect, and Anne-Marie Fannon, past president.

Welcome to both of you.

4:05 p.m.

Anne-Marie Fannon Past President, Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and honourable committee members, for the opportunity to speak about our association, Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada. My name is Anne-Marie Fannon, and I'm past president. I will share my time with my colleague Kristine Dawson, president elect.

CEWIL Canada represents over 90 post-secondary institutions, universities, colleges, and polytechnics located in every province in the country. Our expertise lies in connecting students to industry and community partners, ensuring quality experiences for all stakeholders. As practitioners, we see on a daily basis the tangible benefits for students who engage in work-integrated learning. They gain real-world experience, develop important transferable skills, build their professional network, develop career clarity, and, in many instances, earn critical income to support their education.

Our employer partners gain access to flexible, cost-effective, student employees, and to a high-quality talent pipeline. Studies done in the U.S. show that student hires make the best source of incoming talent. Former interns receive higher performance appraisals, are promoted faster, and stay longer. When delivered as a true partnership among the student, post-secondary institution, and employer, work-integrated learning is simply win-win-win.

For the past 45 years, our volunteer-driven association has worked to transcend provincial boundaries and have impact at the national level. As Norah mentioned, in 1979, we established an accreditation service which set the standards for post-secondary co-operative education programming in Canada. In addition to setting quality parameters, this led to the establishment of a national definition of “co-op”, which requires, among other attributes, that all work terms in Canada be paid.

CEWIL recently launched a bilingual, national statistics database to collect information on the number of co-op work terms in Canada, including details on location, employer, and salary paid to the student. While we are still working toward 100% reporting from our members, the initial data we've collected on over 112,000 co-op work terms is very promising.

Last year, CEWIL expanded its mandate from co-operative education to all forms of work-integrated learning. With our expanded mandate, we aim to build capacity for Canadian practitioners, creating more pathways to employment for Canada's youth, and establishing national quality standards for all forms of WIL.

In February of this year, CEWIL brought together key stakeholders to engage in a conversation on the future of WIL in Canada. Our event had a broad spectrum of participants, including six ministries of advanced education, the Public Service Commission, StatsCan, ESDC, Universities Canada, CICan, polytechnics, Mitacs, and industry representatives from all of the student work-integrated learning program partners. During that meeting, we explored ways to support the growth of WIL at the national level, including developing common language, data collection, and establishing a national strategy for work-integrated learning. We will continue this work with a second national conversation in Montreal on August 2.

Forty years ago, CEWIL members met with representatives from the federal government to advocate that any federal funds dedicated to co-operative education programming be done with quality and sustainability in mind. We are here to echo that message today. We applaud the federal government's investments in work-integrated learning and encourage further investments that have impact at the system level. While education falls under provincial jurisdiction, the federal government can and should play a role in supporting initiatives that will help build capacity at the national level and better prepare Canada's youth to compete on the global stage.

I will now ask Kristine to share some of our recommendations.

4:05 p.m.

Kristine Dawson President-Elect, Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada

Thank you, Anne.

I would like to highlight a few key elements of the brief submitted by CEWIL Canada to this committee. Our engaged practitioner-members are dedicated to supporting the school-to-work transition and can provide valuable consultation to both this committee and future federal initiatives.

Federal government support is critically required for the creation of a cohesive national strategy to address challenges, identify opportunities, and focus on outcomes associated with WIL. CEWIL is ideally positioned to bring together and facilitate collaboration with a variety of interested stakeholders to strengthen work-integrated and experiential learning across the nation. In 2015, Australia created a national strategy for WIL involving its federal government, business council, chamber of commerce, and post-secondary associations. This is a model that Canada should explore.

Concurrently, Canada needs to build infrastructure to better understand, operationalize, and assess the impact of WIL programs at a national level. Specifically, CEWIL recommends that the government fund the expansion of the the national co-op statistics database to include participation rates in other forms of WIL such as internships and practicums.

CEWIL endorses the student work-integrated learning program operated by ESDC and sees it as an important step towards increasing WIL participation across STEM and business sectors. However, we recommend that the program also provide funding subsidies for not-for-profit organizations and public sector industries, particularly health care and community organizations where WIL opportunities for students are often unpaid. By extending SWILP wage subsidies to the public and not-for-profit sectors, the federal government has the opportunity to introduce systemic change within these industries, encouraging and fostering a culture of paid employment for student workers, as well as providing increased support for indigenous students and students with disabilities, who are disproportionately enrolled in programs that are currently excluded from funding.

While SWILP funds 16-week work terms, one of the challenges of the current design of the Canada summer jobs program is that many positions are only funded for eight weeks, which is not enough time to meet co-op work term credit requirements. It also leaves many students in the arts and humanities, or those who want to engage in community organizations or the not-for-profit sector, either working unpaid for the remaining weeks, or scrambling to secure other employment. Funding summer jobs between eight and 16 weeks would offer the flexibility that students need.

Finally, CEWIL also encourages the government to extend funding support to include a demographic group critical to Canada's economic success, international students. According to the Canadian Bureau for International Education, 51% of international students plan on applying for permanent residence in Canada. Extending funding eligibility to this group would increase their chances of gaining valuable Canadian work experience leading to permanent residency and ultimately their ability to successfully transition into the Canadian workforce driving innovation and prosperity.

Again, thank you for this opportunity. Our membership believes that collectively we can work together to build partnerships for the betterment of Canadian youth.

4:10 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much.

Now from Mitacs we have Gail Bowkett, director of innovation policy.

4:10 p.m.

Gail Bowkett Director, Innovation Policy, Mitacs

Thank you, Mr. Chair, vice-chairs, and all the members of the committee, first of all for leading this study, and for including Mitacs in today's proceedings. It's a real pleasure to be here with all of my colleagues around the table. I think you will find there is a very strong alignment among all of the comments we're here to make today.

I am really pleased to be here representing Mitacs. I hope Mitacs is a name that's familiar to you and that it's an organization you are all familiar with to some degree, but I will give you a quick overview of who we are as an organization and what we do in the interest of providing some context to the points that I want to raise with the committee today.

Mitacs is a national not-for-profit organization. We are based out of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. For 17 years now we have been providing work-integrated learning experiences primarily to graduate students in the form of scientifically valid research internships with industry partners, complemented by a series of professional development and skills training workshops.

Our programming is inclusive across all disciplines, from the social sciences and humanities to STEM, but we also support multidisciplinary research. We work across a range of industries, both in the private sector and in the not-for-profit sector. We work with companies large and small, and our programming is offered both domestically and internationally.

We have grown from the initial focus on graduate-level students, Ph.D. and master's students and post-docs, to the full spectrum of Canadian post-secondary education. We have very recently opened eligibility to our core program to the college and polytechnic sector. We're very excited to see what projects come out of that. That was launched about two months ago. We're currently looking at expanding to undergraduates, initially in Quebec.

We have also recently begun offering a program of first job placements as a delivery agent of the youth employment strategy of the Government of Canada.

All of our programming is based on the research internship model. We're focused on research, entrepreneurship, and commercialization. We are currently delivering about 6,000 internships per year, and we are on a growth trajectory to reach a target of 10,000 internships per year by the year 2020.

I know the committee has heard from a number of witnesses throughout this study. I have read several of the submissions that have been provided to the committee, and I think a very clear picture has already been painted in terms of the uncertainty of the labour market due to a number of factors. We've heard some of that again today, so I won't repeat those issues again here, but I think there is a very clear understanding that success in the labour market will be increasingly challenging for our young people.

Within this landscape, experiential learning, particularly work-integrated learning, is increasingly important to ensure that young people have the skills they need to transition into the workforce, particularly for graduates of our post-secondary education institutions.

Mitacs is a key player in the Government of Canada's innovation and skills agenda. We have a significant investment from the Government of Canada over five years to support our growth to that target of 10,000 placements per year. We leverage this funding with provincial funding in every province across the country, and we leverage that again with investment from the private sector companies for every internship that they host. All of our internships are paid.

I'm happy to follow up with the committee to provide additional details on Mitacs' programming if that is of interest and would be helpful, but I'll move quickly now to the three simple recommendations that I'd like to put forward to the committee today for consideration.

The first one is that Canada's support to experiential learning be inclusive to all levels of post-secondary education. Much of the discussion around work-integrated learning focuses on the undergraduate level, but let's ensure that we continue to incorporate opportunities for graduate students and post-docs. These are highly trained, highly qualified, highly educated individuals who will be leaders in innovation and in our economy. Providing work-integrated learning experiences to students at this level gives them the chance to test out their skills in real-world situations, explore new career opportunities, and transition into meaningful employment outside of academia.

The second recommendation would be that research internships are recognized as valuable work-integrated learning experiences, both for students and for the industry partners. As such, these are really a strategic tool for Canada.

There are many forms of work-integrated learning, but the research-focused opportunities bring benefit not only to the students but also to the companies that are accessing talent at a time in the lives of those young people when they are making strategic career decisions. The companies are increasing investments in industrial research and development, and they're advancing their own innovation and talent goals. It also helps to improve the absorbative capacity of industry to take on graduate-level students and post-docs.

The third recommendation is around expanding international experiences within experiential learning. International experiences are critical for young Canadians to build global competencies that they will increasingly need in this globalized labour market.

Once again I thank the committee for undertaking this study and doing this deep dive on the crucial role that experiential learning plays in developing work-ready skills in our young post-secondary graduates. These experiences must be inclusive to all levels, leverage the knowledge in research capabilities of our young graduates, and be global in scope. Investments in our young people today are investments in the economic prosperity of our country.

Thank you very much.

4:15 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much. Now from the University of Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education we have Judene Pretti. The next seven minutes are all yours.

4:15 p.m.

Judene Pretti Director, Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education, University of Waterloo

Good afternoon and thank you very much, Mr. Chair and distinguished committee members, for the invitation to appear to talk to you today about the University of Waterloo and its co-operative education program. WATCACE is the short form for the Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education.

You've heard from my CEWIL colleagues about the model of co-op, and about its role in supporting students and employers in meaningful education that equips students with the skills and experiences that they need to be successful in their desired pathways following graduation.

In my comments today, I would like to highlight a few unique characteristics of Waterloo's co-op program, as well as the ways that Canada could work toward global leadership in the broader area of work-integrated learning.

One of the most notable aspects of Waterloo's co-op program is its scale, and I will share a few numbers with you.

Between 2007 and 2017, the number of paid, four-month work terms that Waterloo supported grew from 12,900 per year to 21,600 per year. This currently represents about 68% of the undergraduate students across all six faculties at the university. We have 6,900 active employers from more than 60 countries that hire our co-op students. Last year we processed over one million job applications in our system and supported 67,000 in-person, web, and phone interviews. This led to a 97.7% employment rate. The numbers are staggering, but for us at Waterloo, it's not just about quantity. It's also about quality.

The post-graduation employment rate of co-op students at 89% is similar to the provincial average of 88%. However, where co-op students stand out is that 96% of them report that they are employed in positions related to skills they developed during their degree, compared to a provincial average of 74%. Additionally, two years after graduation, 79% of the co-op students report earning more than $50,000 annually, compared to 39% across the province.

That leads me to talk about another notable area of our co-op practice at Waterloo. In 2006, we established WatPD, a mandatory professional development program for our co-op students. WatPD delivers online courses to enhance key or transferable skills, including topics such as communication, teamwork, and intercultural skills. Last year we used the WatPD program and many of the best practices learned in delivering co-op for the past 60 years to build a new, flexible, work-integrated learning certificate known as EDGE. For non-co-op students, EDGE guides them through the process of learning how to identify and articulate the skills that they're developing throughout their undergraduate career.

Also unique to Waterloo is the existence of a research unit focused on co-op. In 2002, the Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education was established. This is the department that I now lead. Our mandate is to conduct, facilitate, and mobilize research on co-op and other forms of work-integrated learning.

Through our research, we have identified the factors that affect the quality of the work-term experience for students. These factors include whether students felt that the work was relevant to their academic or career interests, whether students had the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to the workplace they were in, and whether they had the opportunity to develop and learn new skills.

We have also investigated supervisors' perspectives on co-op, and we found that most view co-op from both an employment and an education perspective; i.e., they view co-op students in the workplace both as learners and as workers. Most recently, we've explored employers' views on talent, their needs for talent, and how many view co-op as a talent pipeline for their organizations.

We have undertaken a number of mobilization activities in WATCACE, including publications in international, peer-reviewed journals. We have a monthly newsletter where practitioners provide their perspectives on work-integrated learning research, and we've recently launched a research portal, a website that links to research related to co-op and other forms of work-integrated learning. We have plans for providing additional resources through the portal and support for a community of practice.

A very interesting aspect of research in co-op and work-integrated learning is the fact that it offers the opportunity for studies in a wide variety of disciplines.

Through my experience in WATCACE, I have had the opportunity to work with researchers studying co-op from fields such as mental health, social psychology, and education. I have also worked with industrial organizational psychologists—indeed, a scientist—in examining the many workplace-related research questions that the co-op work term presents.

With respect to Canada's potential global leadership in work-integrated learning, I see research as a key element. As has been mentioned by my colleagues, there's a great deal that can be learned from Australia, which has mobilized a national strategy around WIL, and has a steady stream of research activity taking place. Globally, there is a strong and growing group of researchers in this field. With support, Canada would be well-situated to lead this community.

We need to encourage more research to be conducted on the various models of work-integrated learning, to better understand and document the impact on students, community and industry partners, as well as the academic institutions. For instance, there is increasing interest in models of WIL that support students exploring their interests as entrepreneurs. Research is needed to better understand this link between WIL and the development of entrepreneurs.

From the employer perspective, research is needed to examine the impact of WIL on organizational effectiveness, particularly as it relates to productivity, innovation, and the global reach of Canadian industry. From the academic institution perspective, we need to better understand the balance between the outcomes of various models of WIL and the associated institutional costs to support those programs.

Building a national strategy to increase awareness, interest, and commitment to research in this area is critical to ensuring that the federal investment in creating and expanding WIL programs achieves its desired results. As well, I strongly believe that a national strategy would represent an opportunity for Canada to be a world leader in the research and practice of work-integrated learning.

Thank you once again, Mr. Chair and distinguished committee members, for the opportunity to speak with you today.

4:25 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Are you sure you don't need any more time? Okay, I'm just checking. I never get tired of hearing those numbers. Thank you.

First up with questions, we have MP Blaney, please.

4:25 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Before entering this committee, we had the Olympic champions in the House of Commons. It seems that now we're with the champions of work-integrated learning.

My first comment is for the analysts. It would be interesting to see how we compare on the international level with our numbers in Canada of post-secondary students embarking on work-integrated learning. From what you've said, global leadership is certainly in terms of research, but are we....

Welcome everyone. It's really encouraging to hear you. Mr. May is a strong advocate of Waterloo University. I graduated from the co-op system at Sherbrooke University, which was actually inspired by Waterloo

And so I did my studies in a francophone environment. My nephew is also a Sherbrooke graduate.

I won't tell you the year, though, because it's been a little while.

My question is for the witness in Victoria, Ms. Norah McRae.

Is it difficult to find employers for co-op students?

4:25 p.m.

Executive Director, University of Victoria, Co-operative Education Program and Career Services

Dr. Norah McRae

Your question was for me, and the question was whether it's difficult to find employers.

I would think that most co-op programs across the country or work-integrated learning programs would say that an ongoing element of work is to find appropriate employers who would provide the kind of environment that will allow students to learn and grow and develop. However, there have been some recent advancements that have helped significantly, like the student work-integrated learning program, which is the federal funding that provides wage subsidies to employers hiring students. That helps a lot. Any kind of financial incentives that support students, in paying.... We strongly advocate that they should be paid experiences, where possible—not always. Any kind of financial incentives make a big difference.

The gentleman from the Chamber of Commerce spoke very eloquently about the importance of the small-to-medium enterprise sector in this endeavour. Many small-to-medium enterprises would very much like to participate in hiring students, but they don't have the finances and they don't have HR capacity. They have a hard time bringing students on board and supporting them. I think there's a tremendous opportunity here to help build the capacity of small to medium enterprises such that they can engage in WIL more effectively.

4:25 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Thank you.

As you spoke, I saw a couple of heads nodding. Would you like to add something to this question of whether it is hard to find employers—which it is—but...incentives? Maybe you can elaborate, Ms. Dawson.

4:25 p.m.

President-Elect, Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada

Kristine Dawson

I'm here representing CEWIL Canada, but my day job is as the director of co-op, career, and work-integrated learning at Conestoga College, which is down the street from the University of Waterloo. This has been my field of work for the past 18 years.

What I would say, as a practitioner, is that it can be difficult to find co-op employers. It really can depend on the sector. There are times when demand outstrips the supply of students, and then there are times when supply exceeds demand. Finding that match can be the challenge.

To Norah's point, wage subsidies are of great benefit. In Ontario we have the significant, I think, benefit of being able to access the Ontario co-operative education tax credit, which is also a significant benefit in terms of promoting co-operative education.

To the point made by my colleague Patrick, on-boarding in small businesses is a significant challenge, so they need the HR resources and support. Often in post-secondary institutions we have staff in roles that help, consult, and work with small businesses, helping them develop job descriptions, and that helps to be able to bring on the students.

4:30 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Mr. Snider.

4:30 p.m.

Director, Skills and Immigration Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Patrick Snider

Thank you.

I'd just like to reiterate some of the points that have been made so far.

Financial support, of course, is very important for small and medium-sized—

4:30 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Do you mean an incentive from the government in the form of a tax credit for the employers that are hiring co-op students? Is that what you're suggesting?

4:30 p.m.

Director, Skills and Immigration Policy, Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Patrick Snider

That kind of support, absolutely. Most important of all, though, is making sure that it's accessible. One of the points that we continue to make is about reducing the administrative burden of applying for things. Programs like the summer jobs, as I mentioned earlier, are excellent and they provide a high degree of support, but sometimes the timelines of the applications required can be more of a challenge.

4:30 p.m.


Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

I'm sorry to cut you off, Mr. Snider, but my time is limited.

Summer jobs are not within a program; therefore, they can be related or not related to your field of experience.

It seems as if it's the best way of learning. Why is it just a small percentage and mostly in the technical fields that we see this kind of approach? Could it be in other areas?

Can you elaborate on why we are just doing it for, let's say, engineers and others in the technical fields?

4:30 p.m.

Director, Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education, University of Waterloo

Judene Pretti

I would say our experience has been that we started with an engineering program in 1957 and it has expanded to be across all programs, including graduate. The University of Victoria has a high percentage of graduate students participating in co-op, and that's not just in the STEM disciplines.

I think we have experience in the co-op field for those kinds of work terms, and it's just a matter of sharing practices to encourage employers to consider students who are in non-STEM fields.

4:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you.

Mr. Long.