Work-Integrated Learning

Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) is found throughout Polytechnics Canada's membership's diploma, certificate and degree programs. 

Of all degree, diploma, and graduate certificate programs offered by Polytechnics Canada members, 64% include an element of work-integrated learning.  

  • 69% of Polytechnics Canada members’ degree programs include work-integrated learning
  • 61% of Polytechnics Canada members’ diplomas include work-integrated learning
  • 69% of Polytechnics Canada members’ graduate certificates include work-integrated learning . 

What is Work Integrated Learning?

WIL is a combination of learning experiences that our members offer to help give students real skills and experience in their chosen field. The types of WIL include:

  • Internship: Structured work-study sequence, after completion of at least one academic semester. These are generally paid and students receive academic credit. Work-terms are directly related to the program of study.
  • Co-op: Structured work-study sequence, after completion of at least one academic semester. These are generally paid and students receive academic credit. Work-terms are directly related to the program of study. 
  • Field Experience: Practical experience in a real work setting that counts towards school credit. Different from co-op/internship in length, usually 4-6 weeks and is unpaid.
  • Professional Practice: Work hours needed to obtain a license to practice, receive professional designation, graduate or register with a regulatory college/professional association. These can come in the forms of practicum's or clinical placements and are required for graduation. They are usually unpaid.                                                                                                                          

Work Integrated Learning is Growing

Between 2015 and 2016, WIL opportunities for all members' diplomas, degrees and certificates increased. Until 2014/15, Polytechnics Canada did not have formal data on WIL at our member institutions. So, our challenge has been to establish a baseline of data to inform our thinking on this policy issue. No other association or group in the Canadian college sector has ever collected this data or established a benchmark for comparison purposes. 

Work-Integrated Learning in Action


Bachelor of Film and Television, Sheridan College: This program includes a valuable experience that allows students to put their studies to practice in a professional broadcast setting. Students are required to complete 100 hours of field placement before graduating from the program.

Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems, Algonquin College:  In the final semester, students apply what they’ve learned to a particular task in the independent GIS Project Course. Students are partnered with external industry or government sponsors, who help define the scope and oversee the project as it evolves. This course has also helped student establish contact with potential employers.

Diploma in Optical Sciences Eyeglasses, NAIT: Opticianry is a growing industry that involves the fitting and supplying of eyeglasses. The skillful preparation and fitting of corrective lenses is vitally important to the customer's health; therefore, people entering this field require rigorous training and education. In addition to the two (2) years of theory, four (4) clinical levels must be completed. The clinical consists of on-the-job training similar in nature to an apprenticeship; students perfect their skills under the supervision of a qualified preceptor at their place of employment.  



Diploma in Chemical Laboratory Technology, SAIT: During a 12 month work term, a laboratory technical project is performed in an industrial, service, government, or university laboratory. The projects are selected and supervised by the immediate supervisor of the laboratories. The co-op coordinator acts as a liaison between student and industry supervisor.

Bachelor of Community and Criminal Justice, Conestoga College: Students participate in a co-op placement within probation and parole offices, correctional facilities, treatment facilities, police services, various residential centres and other community justice agencies benefiting from the strong base of community programs already existing within the Region of Waterloo.

Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety, NAIT: The co-op work term allows students to integrate and apply what they learned in their first year in real world situations. During the co-op work terms, students take on various occupational health and safety responsibilities and projects in business, industry, government, education and non-profit organizations. In addition, students acquire additional professional skills, assess potential career directions and gain career and education-related work experience.

Bachelor of Commerce, Seneca College: This degree program offers students the advantage of a co-op work-term. During the co-op placement, students have the opportunity to become involved in real-life work experiences where critical thinking, problem-solving and interpersonal skills are used. This work experience helps students to improve their marketability as a professional in the field. The work-term is scheduled over the summer term and includes both paid and unpaid co-op opportunities.

Field Experience

Bachelor of Technology (Ecological Restoration), British Columbia Institute of Technology: A key component of the Ecological Restoration degree will be field visits to active restoration projects in BC’s Lower Mainland and other parts of the province. The extensive ecological disturbance and damage that has occurred throughout the Lower Mainland provides real-world opportunities to apply skills in a broad range of restoration activities. Real-world ecological restoration scenarios will be presented through assignments and team-based projects within courses. These projects will allow students to apply their learning from classroom and lab sessions.

Diploma in Public Administration (Municipal Services), Conestoga College: The program includes a work placement that allows students to gain practical experience working in a municipality, board or commission, or a not-for-profit agency responsible for delivering government services in order to consolidate theories and skills gained throughout the program.

Diploma, Paramedic, Humber College: The paramedic program includes two field work placements that give students first-hand work experience on an ambulance service, as they evaluate and treat patients under the supervision of a paramedic preceptor. 

Professional Practice

Bachelor of Psychiatric Nursing, Saskatchewan Polytechnic: Students will demonstrate synthesis and application of theoretical concepts in a preceptored practice education setting of their choice. Students will apply the psychiatric nursing skills of critical thinking, clinical reasoning, leadership, primary health care, and mental health promotion in advanced practice education settings such as education, research, leadership and management.

Certificate in Medical Device Reprocessing Technician, SAIT: As a five-month program offered full-time, the Medical Device Reprocessing Technician program provides entry-level training for the critical role of cleaning, packaging, sterilizing, storing and handling of sterile supplies and instruments, with a focus on infection prevention and control and aseptic techniques. Practicum focuses on the application of theoretical concepts and hands-on practical experience in the processing specific areas of decontamination, assembly, sterilization, sterile storage and distribution. A significant portion of this course takes place off-campus at an approved, designated clinical site.

Diploma in Nuclear Medicine Technician, SAIT: This second workplace experience provides students with the opportunity to apply theory to practice. In addition to skills already developed in the previous practicum, emphasis will be placed upon competency attainment, managing personal work-flow and ensuring accuracy.

Note on Data: As an association Polytechnics Canada has begun compiling data in order to conduct cross-time comparative analyses of the work-integrated learning content of our programs – data collection began in the 2013/14 academic year. Data is collected from institutional research experts at each of our member institutions.