Business Resources: Tools for Working with Students


On May 12, 2021, the Access Student Talent Program was pleased to host Andrew Bieler, Director of Partnerships and Learning with the Business + Higher Education Roundtable (BHER) in a webinar discussing resources and tools available for businesses who are interested in working with students. This post, along with the recording of the webinar (below) are great ways for businesses to learn more about the resources available to small and medium-sized organizations.

When businesses and students connect, great things can happen that benefit both the business and the students. In early June, BHER is launching a Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Resource Hub that will provide businesses with tools and resources to help them maximize their experience working with students. Andrew talked about some of the tools and resources that will be available on the Hub for small and medium-sized businesses. He also shared insights and related resources for small businesses regarding the return on investment from working with students, factors to consider when deciding how to engage students, and best practices for leading and mentoring students in the workplace.

Introduction to the Business + Higher Education Roundtable

BHER is a national not-for-profit organization that builds connections between the business community and post-secondary institutions to create opportunities for young Canadians. Our Chamber has partnered with BHER to grow and develop our Access Student Talent program that helps local businesses connect with post-secondary students from Conestoga College, the University of Waterloo, and Wilfrid Laurier University.

BHER’s work includes:

  1. Reducing barriers to participation for small and medium-sized enterprises, diverse entrepreneurs, and community-based organizations.
  2. Strengthening employer engagement capacity within regional work-integrated learning (WIL) ecosystems.
  3. Identifying and scaling up features of emerging WIL models that show potential for engaging new and diverse types of host organizations.
  4. Helping small and medium-sized employers understand the benefits and return on investment (ROI) from WIL.
  5. Co-creating tools and resources to support small and medium-sized employers in specific industries and/or regions.

Andrew also spoke about consultations that BHER led with stakeholders across Canada to better understand the needs of organizations that work with students, in the hopes of creating a resource hub that addresses their needs.

BHER’s Consultations

Through consultations with stakeholders, BHER was able to identify some key barriers that businesses wanting to work with students are facing. The four main that were identified include:

  1. Staffing Capacity
  2. Economic/Funding Constraints
  3. Recruitment Challenges
  4. Program inflexibility

Staffing capacity refers to not having enough staff on hand to facilitate mentorship and training opportunities for students who join the organization. The stakeholders identified that they want stronger support on training and guidance when working with students.

The consultations identified economic and funding constraints as a barrier, which we have also identified as a barrier in our work through the Access Student Talent Program. To help offset this barrier, there are subsidies and tax credits available to support businesses in hiring students.

Recruitment challenges refer to a business not knowing where or how to hire students, nor understanding how to choose the type of work-integrated programs that will work for their particular organization. Having more guidance in this area will allow a business to narrow its recruitment focus.

Although many post-secondary education institutions have become flexible with their work-integrated learning opportunities due to COVID, some small businesses require additional flexibility to work with their needs.

Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Resource Hub

The BHER WIL Resources Hub will be available to help address some of these barriers that businesses face. The consultations that BHER led have shaped the tools and resources that will be included in the resource hub. Through their in-depth conversations with a diverse range of stakeholders, BHER has been able to identify these barriers and find solutions to navigate those challenges.

A consistent challenge that businesses identify is that there is not a centralized place to find all the necessary information to understand how to work with post-secondary students. BHER’s Resource Hub aims to address this concern by providing a centralized hub of helpful tools and resources to provide businesses with the confidence to navigate work-integrated learning opportunities. An example of a tool that will be included in the resource hub is a decision tree. Andrew explained that this decision tree document will help businesses determine which work-integrated learning options may be a fit for their business needs and profile.

Tools Available in the WIL Resource Hub

The Resource Hub will provide resources to support businesses who are new to work-integrated learning, as well as businesses who have already engaged with students. Andrew provided two examples of resources we can expect in the hub: A Financial Support Guide and an ROI Guide.

The Financial Support Guide was created with stakeholder feedback in mind. Stakeholders identified that navigating the funding landscape can be difficult. This resource is a searchable financial support guide that lists funding opportunities to those who want to work with students separated by region, industry, and category. This will allow businesses to easily understand what funding options they have available for their business needs to offset the costs of hiring and training a student.

The Return on Investment (ROI) Guide will provide businesses with a high-level picture of the benefits of working with students. This can include the financial benefits and help businesses determine the return they would receive from hiring a student.

The Resource Hub will also include tips and advice to help businesses maximize the benefits of WIL. These resources are created to help organizations narrow their focus and find work-integrated learning options that suit them.

Later this year, the Resource Hub will also include a video series. This series will include videos from the perspectives of small businesses, students, and employers in rural and northern regions and outline considerations that a business should make when looking to work with students. In addition to this video series, there will be a course offered that will be comprised of 15-minute modules that will enable employers to practice mentoring skills in leading a student through scenario-based learning.

Finally, the Hub will also include a mentorship guidebook, checklists, and easy-to-use tools. Having these tools and resources will be a great way for organizations to foster continuous learning. Mentoring a student can be a great professional development opportunity for the staff of a business and the Resource Hub will provide staff with the tools and resources to continue their growth as a mentor/leader, as well as support the students’ growth.

We are grateful to Andrew Bieler from BHER for sharing his time and expertise during our webinar. The WIL Resource Hub will be a great way for businesses to gain access to the tools and information needed to bring a student onboard. If you would like to watch the entire recording of the webinar, check it out on our YouTube channel.