“Employers like work experience”: Work Integrated Learning programs en route for most post secondary programs

by | Nov 16, 2021 | News

By Noah Rishaug

Students at NAIT could soon see practicums and internships become more readily available or even mandatory in the coming years.

The Alberta government has been working closely with industry leaders and post secondaries across the province with the goal of further tying together industry and education. 

As the baby boomer generation inches closer to retirement, industries across Alberta have been preparing for a shift in their workforces. Many corporations see the future of their companies in the post-secondaries. These corporations aim to work with schools, the government and various not-for-profit organizations to best prepare the next generation of students for the workforce. 

Work Integrated Learning (WIL) already exists in many programs here at NAIT. Students, as part of their education, take on internships and practicums in the real world. This is most commonly seen in the trades – think engineering students taking co-op placements. 

However, student teaching is a well-known example of a WIL program. To some, it would seem unimaginable to put a newly-graduated student into the classroom without some on-the-job learning. So why don’t more programs have WIL programs?

Well, the Alberta government has their sights set on that with a WIL expansion. The expansion seeks to create these opportunities for every program that is able to have one. Some programs will not be able to fit in WIL practicums, but a majority of the programs at NAIT will. 

The mandate behind the initiative will not be that every student will get a placement, but rather that every program will have a WIL opportunity that students can opt out of. Whether or not it is optional in specific programs varies. 

As a polytechnic school, NAIT is at the forefront of these changes. NAIT’s President Laura Jo Gunter joined the task force to help bring this to life. 

“We will have more and more programs with a work integrated learning component … and it will happen over the course of several years,” said Gunter.

WIL is a part of the larger initiative Alberta 2030: Building Skills for Jobs with the goal of improving the workforce by increasing opportunity for students and further tying industry to schools. The Alberta government pinned Alberta 2030 as one of their top priorities. 

“The big push on Alberta 2030 was around skills for jobs, and one of the biggest things we know is that employers like work experience,” Gunter said on NAIT’s role in the changes. 

The push to have every student learn on the job will have long lasting impacts on the province.

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