What to Consider When Planning to Work with a Student

As a small business, you have a lot to do. After all, you often don’t have a large team of people to manage the different tasks associated with operating your business. As you stay on top of every detail of your business, your workload can seem demanding. One solution to this challenge is to partner with our Chamber’s Access Student Talent Program and local post-secondary schools to engage with students and discover the ways that they can help support your business. It might seem daunting if you have never worked with a student before, have a small staff, or are unsure on where to get started, but we are here to help! Below we have gathered recommendations on what to consider when get started with planning a work-integrated learning (WIL) opportunity.

What is Work-Integrated Learning?

Work-integrated learning is a process of learning where students incorporate what they have learned academically into an experience working with an industry partner. There are a variety of different ways that businesses and students can work together. Below are some of the various and common types of work integrated learning and their typical attributes:

  • Field Placements: Provides businesses the opportunity to work with a student on a part-time and short-term basis on tasks or a project that are aligned to the students’ field of study. Students complete field placements while simultaneously continuing to fulfill their academic requirements.
  • Applied Research Projects: Provides businesses with the opportunity to get support targeting larger, long term problems with little supervision requirements. Students work on culminating projects to solve workplace problems in collaboration with partnered businesses while remaining in the classroom setting.
  • Co-op Work Terms: Allows businesses to fill short-term staffing needs with significant funding available to reduce labour costs of students. Students alternate study and paid work terms that provide experience in a workplace setting related to the student’s field of study. Co-op work terms are normally full-time and four to eight months in duration. Due to COVID-19 some co-op work terms have become more flexible in their duration.
  • Apprenticeships: Provides businesses the opportunity to recruit and develop a highly skilled workforce that helps grow their business while improving productivity and profitability. An apprentice is a student who completes a combination of classroom learning and on-the-job training to learn a skill that leads to a trade credential. An employer that is a skilled trades professional sponsors the apprentice and provides paid related practical experience.

1. Consider what tasks you need assistance with

Do you have projects you just have not had the time or resources to get to? Think about any research, strategies, or projects that you could assign to a student and develop a task list. Be sure to consider the project’s purpose, length requirements and other key information in order to enable us to research the most ideal work-integrated opportunity for the project(s) and your business. Examples of tasks and projects that students have completed for businesses include developing social media plans, creating dynamic PowerPoint presentations, or conducting research and analysis and developing possible solutions through an ideation process.

Deciding on what types of tasks and projects you need assistance with, as well as the timeline for completing the projects/tasks, will play a part in determining the types of work-integrated learning opportunities available to you.

2. Assess your needs for the position

Think about the types of critical skills you are looking for within the role. Consider the industry specific skills that will be required to complete the projects/tasks, as well as any particular skills that might be missing within your business that you would value being brought on. Is there a minimum level of expertise you require? Communicating what you are looking for in the role really helps our team find an ideal placement opportunity for you and your business.

3. Determine the start and finish date for your projects

Determine when you would ideally want a student to start working on the project/task. In our experience, post-secondary schools start recruiting industry partners approximately a semester prior to the work-integrated learning opportunity happening. Reach out to us far enough in advance so we can provide you with options that align with your desired timeline. We will work alongside you and our post-secondary partners to give you information about suitable work-integrated learning opportunities along with relevant information regarding specific deadlines and details about the academic cycle to ensure that they align with your business needs.

3. Funding options

If you are considering hiring a co-op student to assist your business, then your business may be eligible for funding through the federal government’s Student Work Placement Program (SWPP). In response to the current challenges faced with COVID-19, Employment and Social Development Canada has introduced temporary changes to SWPP in order to increase funding for employers. Small and medium sized employers (500 employees or less), including not-for-profit organizations, may receive up to 75% in wage subsidies per student per semester (to a maximum of $7500). Students are able to work from home or other safe, remote worksites.

If you are interested in learning more about the different funding options through SWPP, you can contact us or review these resources:

5. Understand your role and responsibilities

Understanding the roles and responsibilities you will have when working with a student will help to provide a good and valuable experience for you and the student. Allow yourself to be available for any questions that arise at the beginning and throughout the student’s time with you. Be ready to communicate your expectations and desired goals of the tasks and projects you are giving them; this can be done through a work plan, a creative brief or an in person or virtual meeting. Allow the student(s) the freedom to complete the tasks and let them navigate how they will accomplish it. If applicable, include chances for the student to work with various people and teams. This opportunity is a great one for them to discover more about their own skills and the expectations and behaviours of a workplace.

Get started today!

Although it may seem daunting to work with a student for your business, 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. The first step is to get connected to the right people. If you are interested in learning more about the Access Student Talent program, contact us today!