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North Island College and Vancouver Island University launch regional work-integrated learning hub

The new hub, which aims to create new, mutually beneficial opportunities for students and employers north of the Malahat, includes a partnership with Mitacs and RBC Foundation to focus on rural employer needs.

NIC and Vancouver Island University (VIU) are working together to boost work experience opportunities for students and support employer access to the workforce of the future.

Through a partnership with Mitacs and RBC Foundation, a one-stop shop online hub, called Vancouver Island Work-Integrated Learning (VIWIL), has been created to provide a regional approach to boosting employer engagement and enhancing work-integrated learning opportunities for students. The two institutions are working together to reach out to employers on Vancouver Island north of the Malahat and create new opportunities.

“VIU and NIC offer different programs and working together means we can ensure a good match between our students and potential employers, so that the needs of both can be better met,” said Brittany Parker, Interim Director of VIU’s Centre for Experiential Learning (CEL). “We are focused on developing closer connections with employers and our local chambers of commerce, providing supportive assistance and resources, and making it easier for employers to access a talented student pool to meet their needs.”

While embarking on this work, it became apparent that a special strategy for rural and remote employment opportunities was needed. VIU and NIC have partnered with Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with solutions from academic institutions, and RBC Foundation to focus on engaging rural employers. Funding from these two organizations is creating a new position, a Business Development Specialist, who will collaborate with VIU and NIC to engage with at least 50 employers to offer tailored supports in accessing student talent.

“We are proud to contribute to promoting a full range of work-integrated learning opportunities for students on Vancouver Island, North of the Malahat,” said Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director John Hepburn. “By equipping students with skills and experience, Mitacs hopes to foster research, innovation, job creation and, consequently, to strengthen the community. We are only able to do this work thanks to the partnership with VIU, NIC and RBC Foundation, and the support of the federal and provincial governments.”

Roughly 90% of mid- and north-Island businesses have 20 or fewer employees, which means employers don’t have a lot of extra time or resources to take on and mentor students. The new VIWIL online hub will provide one place for employers to promote their job postings to VIU and NIC students, and will provide access to supports such as information on student funding programs and assistance with every aspect of hiring a work-integrated learning student, from creating job descriptions to arranging interviews and onboarding.

This new resource is available at a time when too many small and mid-sized businesses are struggling to keep their doors open and adapt to new ways of working in light of the global pandemic. Work-integrated learning students can provide a fresh perspective and adapt quickly to these new, digital and remote ways of working. Students can play a key role in our Island economic recovery strategies, and the more experiences students have in real-world situations, the more classroom learning is solidified and the better their job prospects will be after graduation.

“Active participation in work-integrated learning has never been so important for the future of our workforce and our economic recovery,” said Anita Budisa-Bonneau, NIC’s coordinator of work-integrated education. “Work-integrated learning opportunities such as co-ops and internships give students relevant work experience in their field, which helps them make a successful leap from their studies into the workplace.”

Original article from North Island College