A series of partnerships between the provincial government and 13 public post-secondary institutions will increase the schools’ capacity for work-integrated learning experiences, including the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology’s co-op program.

According to a press release by the province, work-integrated learning is a model and process of hands-on education, which formally and intentionally integrates education studies within a workplace or practice, and applied setting. Examples of work-integrated learning include applied research projects, apprenticeships, co-ops, clinical placements, practicums, and community-service-learning opportunities.

“Work-integrated learning helps future workers access the hands-on experience they need to launch their careers,” said Selina Robinson, minister of post-secondary education and future skills. “These placements give people valuable opportunities to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world settings and benefit employers by having workers who they train and can become potential new employees.”

NVIT’s co-op placement matches students and employers to help facilitate on-the job training and learning experiences, as students explore potential career paths and gain valuable work experience. Employment terms are generally four to eight months in duration, and allow businesses to access new talent, and students to earn money towards tuition and other costs while they complete their education. 

The local technology institute is one of 13 post-secondary institutions in the province to receive funding through the new provincial partnerships, which will see a total of $4.5 million distributed over the next three years. The province said that the investment will reduce barriers to entry for students in more rural areas, as smaller institutions can experience challenges providing work-integrated learning opportunities for budgetary reasons.

A student at Victoria’s Camosun College, another school receiving the new funding, said co-op education has been a game-changer for her education.

“Co-op education has been truly transformational for me, providing invaluable experiences and opportunities to grow both personally and professionally,” said Molly Mifsud, college co-op student of the year with the Association for Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning in BC/Yukon. 

“Combining classroom learning with real-world work experiences, I have witnessed the power of co-op in enhancing my skills, shaping my career path and igniting my passion for making a difference. It has shown me that my true calling is psychology, where I can use my skills and experiences to help others be their best selves.”

The province added in its release that the new funding is a part of its ‘StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan,’ which looks to grow the B.C. economy and help close the skills gap many businesses are facing. The action plan includes $480 million in investments over three years to eliminate financial and other barriers to post-secondary training.