Working with students is a great option for businesses and not-for-profit organizations. There are many benefits to working with post-secondary students through work-integrated learning (WIL), whether you are searching for temporary resources, looking for fresh ideas, or possibly looking for professional development opportunities.
Work-integrated learning (WIL) is an umbrella term used to describe the process of learning where students incorporate what they have learned academically in a workplace setting or with an industry partner. There are many ways that businesses and post-secondary students can work together through work-integrated learning, including field placements, in-class projects, and co-op work terms to name a few.
The GKWCC’s Access Student Talent program was created to help small businesses and not-for-profit organizations connect with local post-secondary students for work-integrated learning opportunities. We aim to reduce the barriers small businesses face and provide one-on-one support to help them learn how students can support their needs.
Once a business has decided they want to work with post-secondary students through WIL, it is important to understand what to expect as you prepare to work with them. We have outlined some insight for businesses to them understand what to expect when working with a student.
There is a common misconception that students working as interns can be given mundane and menial tasks in a workplace setting. However, work-integrated learning is meant to be a valuable experience to both the employer and the student. Giving students meaningful work not only helps them gain real-world experience in the workforce, but it also provides more benefit and value to the business. Be prepared to give meaningful tasks and projects to the student that challenge them and allow them to learn more about their field of study.
The length of a WIL experience can greatly determine which types of tasks or projects you assign the student. Once you’ve decided on which type of WIL opportunity you’re participating in, it’s critical that you recognize a practical timeline of how much a student can realistically accomplish in that time frame.
For example, if you’re working with students through an in-class project, you have access to students’ insight and analysis to help your business with strategy and planning, however that WIL type is generally not designed for students to implement those strategies. In comparison, a longer-term WIL option like a co-op work term would allow for more tasks and projects to be completed, including any strategy or implementation your business would need. We suggest being cognizant of the time you have with the student to get a better understanding of what can be accomplished.
While working with students comes with many benefits to a business, it is important to recognize that students are still learning. Some students may be working in a professional setting for the first time, so some aspects like communication, workplace etiquette or capabilities may vary.
We encourage businesses to provide meaningful feedback and constructive criticism, where applicable, to create an open dialogue and help to manage the student and your expectations throughout the WIL experience. Provide opportunities for the student to ask questions, express any concerns or challenges that are currently happening. Giving the student constructive feedback helps them grow professionally and prepares them to receive feedback in any workplace in the future.
With a variety of WIL opportunities available to businesses, it is important to understand that there are paid and unpaid WIL opportunities. Co-op work terms have students alternate between academic terms and paid work terms. Co-op allows businesses to fill short-term staffing needs and there are funding opportunities for businesses available to reduce labour costs of students. For more information on funding opportunities, you can read our recent blog post here.
Unpaid WIL opportunities, like in-class projects and field placements, are built into the course curriculum that they receive credit for. This type of WIL option provides businesses the opportunity to work with an unpaid student on a part-time and/or short-term basis.
Working with post-secondary students is an incredible opportunity to foster innovation and success in your business and get the talent you need at a low or no cost. We hope that this insight helps you gain a deeper understanding of what to expect when working with students.
The Access Student Talent program is here to help you with the planning and preparation. Our program shares webinars, blogs, and additional educational resources so you can feel confident as you plan to work with a post-secondary student. If you are interested in learning more about working with students, contact us today!