Toronto, Oct. 31, 2012 – One of the first things employers look for when hiring graduates of Ontario’s colleges and universities is relevant work experience, according to a new study from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO). The lesson for students: from summer jobs to volunteering, work experience matters. The lesson for postsecondary institutions: work-integrated learning (WIL) programs such as co-op, internships and field placements may be more important than ever to the portfolios of job-hungry graduates.
Based on a phone survey of 3,369 Ontario employers, Work-Integrated Learning and Postsecondary Graduates: The Perspective of Ontario Employers explores employers’ participation in WIL programs and their perceptions on how WIL impacts the skills, competencies and employability of Ontario postsecondary graduates.
Among findings, 40% of Ontario employers surveyed hired new postsecondary graduates within the last two years. Of those employers, more than a third offered WIL programs for postsecondary students, citing “developing the workforce skills needed for their industry or profession” as their top rationale. WIL employers overwhelmingly preferred to hire graduates who had gained WIL experience at their own workplace and consistently offered WIL graduates higher average starting salaries.
In providing WIL opportunities, substantially more employers (79%) worked with Ontario colleges than Ontario universities (49%). Some 12% worked with private career colleges, 6% with postsecondary institutions in other provinces and 3% with international colleges or universities. Close to one-third of non-WIL employers said they had plans to provide WIL in the future – half within the next two years.
Previous HEQCO research notes the on-going challenge of finding quality work placements for students that provide meaningful opportunities to integrate classroom learning with practical experience. Study authors Peggy Sattler and Julie Peters of Academica Group Inc. say that postsecondary institutions could increase employer involvement by providing more information about the full range of WIL options, simplifying the recruitment and selection process, and being flexible in the length and timing of WIL opportunities. The authors also say that the province should consider a coordinated approach to employer involvement in WIL, such as standardized procedures across institutions and a centralized employer database.
Media, take note of upcoming HEQCO conference:
Learning to Earning: Higher Education and the Changing Job Market
HEQCO’s international conference: Learning to Earning: Higher Education and the Changing Job Market -Nov. 1-2, 2012 in Toronto. Hear from experts on the value of higher education and its role in preparing students for the world of work. Choose from 15 sessions featuring leading experts on the frontlines of research, best practice and future directions. Space is limited. For more information visit heqco.ca.
About the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario
The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario is an agency of the Government of Ontario, established in 2005 to conduct research, evaluate the postsecondary education system and provide policy recommendations to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to enhance the quality, access and accountability of Ontario’s higher education system.
For further information, please contact:
Executive Director, Communications
Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario
(416) 212-5242 / firstname.lastname@example.org