Inclusion in Work-integrated Learning: Lessons from Administrators, Employers and Students

Inclusion in Work-integrated Learning: Lessons from Administrators, Employers and Students was written by Ken Chatoor & Amy Kaufman, Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario.

Study reveals the importance of inclusivity to work-integrated learning experiences and where improvements can be made

Work-integrated learning (WIL) provides many benefits for postsecondary education (PSE) students including improved labour market outcomes for graduates, improved job readiness and the development of self-efficacy and skills. Ensuring that these experiences are inclusive can allow students to realize the full benefits of WIL, but much is still unknown due to a lack of previous research and little federal or provincial direction in this area.

To fill this data gap, HEQCO partnered with Academica to conduct surveys of students, employers and institutional administrators during the 2020-21 school year. The sample included 312 students, 109 employers and 111 administrators. Survey questions covered topics such as the impact of inclusive training opportunities, perceptions regarding who should be responsible for inclusive supports, and gaps in inclusion practices.

This report is the third publication stemming from the survey collaboration with Academica. HEQCO previously published the report Working (and Learning) Online: Improving Remote Work-integrated Learning Experiences for Students and Employers as well as the report Student Identity and Work-integrated Learning (WIL): Exploring Student Experiences of WIL by Demographic which was released with an accompanying blog post.

The findings in this latest report demonstrate that accessibility and inclusion are positively associated with student perceptions of satisfaction with their WIL experience. Students who received inclusion training were more likely to report being satisfied with their WIL experience than those who did not. Further, students who said they felt supported by PSE staff, WIL managers and WIL coworkers were more likely to indicate being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their WIL experience.

There is still room for improvement. Not all students are aware of available support services or how and where to go for assistance. There is also disagreement between employers and administrators about how the responsibility to make WIL more inclusive should be shared or divided.

As a result of this study, HEQCO offers the following recommendations:

  • Employers and institutions should make sure students know how and where to find existing access and inclusion supports as they’ve been proven to be effective.
  • Additionally, employers and institutions should embed inclusive practices at every stage of the WIL experience.
  • Institutions should collect data from students and employers to inform the development and implementation of services and initiatives to increase inclusion in WIL.
  • Government should work with institutions to provide leadership for support standards for inclusion in WIL.