Work-integrated Learning

15 novembre 2023

Work-integrated learning is one important tool in developing a stronger future workforce

The Canadian agriculture sector has long boasted a world-class reputation as a sustainable food producer. Ensuring we can maintain our competitive edge will mean investing in the next generation of workers and providing educational opportunities to jumpstart their success.

Experts have pointed to work-integrated learning as a best practice in post-secondary education. Work-integrated learning is a type of experiential learning which typically includes third-party engagement with an employer. Efforts are underway by many organizations to expand work-integrated learning through government programs, employment organizations, and business groups.

But what exactly is it?

Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada formally defines work-integrated learning as “a model and process of experiential education which formally and intentionally integrates a student’s academic studies with learning in a workplace or practice setting.” Work-integrated learning opportunities can range from a few weeks to many months over a multi-year period. Specific to the agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing sector, popular work-integrated learning opportunities are co-ops and internships. But examples also include apprenticeships, mandatory professional practice, field experience and applied research projects.

Why does it matter?

Work-integrated learning provides post-secondary graduates with the skills they need to transition to the workforce. There is strong evidence that these opportunities provide significant benefits to students and are key tools to help young people learn what they want to do in their careers while also providing them with valuable experiences. While students use these opportunities to enhance their skills, employers also benefit in many ways, particularly in recruitment—something that the agriculture and agri-food sector, with its projected vacancies, can afford to improve.

The opportunity ahead

As post-secondary institutions are recognizing the importance of developing programs in agriculture and food and beverage manufacturing, there is still a need for work-integrated learning initiatives that match the needs of the current and future labour markets. CAHRC, the national organization dedicated to addressing HR and labour issues in agriculture, is well-positioned to play a convening role.