Businesses across sectors worldwide are currently facing crucial challenges such as accelerating digital transformation, sustainability, global economic downturn, and rising client expectations. But, at the heart of these challenges, is stiff competition for a talented workforce as companies need more resources to build capacity and meet their business goals.
So how can organizations build sustainable capacity? The Rural Development Network (RDN) endorses work-integrated learning (WIL) as an effective solution to this rising problem. RDN uses WIL to address capacity for small initiatives, including engaging five post-secondary students for a policy audit as part of our Shelter Pulse Project.
Here are three ways WIL helped build the project team’s capacity:
WIL students come to employers to gain industry experience but they also have something to offer organizations, specifically fresh ideas and perspectives. Being young, post-secondary students generally bring a different point of view and newly developed critical-thinking skills. Students also tend to be more knowledgeable of recent technology, tools, or trends that support efficient project execution. As a result, students often foster productivity and innovation in the workplace.
“The WIL students brought new frames of reference to the project. They also brought their own knowledge from lived experience or their past work and study experiences, which further enriched the project and policy audit,” says Daniela Seiferling, RDN’s Program Manager for WIL.
It is important to engage students in the workforce to build up their experience, and skills, and gain exposure to a professional environment. We have seen students that are more keen, capable, and knowledgeable than we give them credit for. The WIL students displayed excellent research, analytical, and critical thinking skills, posing challenging questions that displayed a deeper understanding of the project. These new perspectives helped Shelter Pulse review policies and improved the quality of its outcome.
When engaging five WIL students, RDN broke down the policy audit project into smaller pieces. This allowed the team to concurrently have multiple steps of the project being worked on at the same time while focusing on longer-term sustainability and strategy.
The WIL students helped fill the capacity gap in the Shelter Pulse team, allowing for the effective distribution of tasks. The students had to audit over 15 policy manuals, perform a gap analysis, and create benchmarks for meeting certain policy criteria, and a policy guide.
By deconstructing the complex project and having WIL students work on smaller parts, RDN was able to successfully complete the project on schedule.
“We were able to build our capacity and meet key foundational goals of the project in a timely fashion,” adds Daniela.
Businesses with limited resources often struggle with capacity due to the cost of recruitment. Work-integrated learning is a cost-effective method for recruiting and training new employees. WIL provides additional capacity for organizations with limited budgets and smaller teams.
It only took two weeks for the Shelter Pulse team to be matched with five post-secondary students that could support their project. RDN’s Rural Roots program supported the initiative with developing a job description outline, liaising with the partner post-secondary institutions, and finding the right talent to meet their needs.
Overall, Shelter Pulse credits engaging WIL students to the success and enrichment of its policy audit.
Rural Roots is a Work-Integrated Learning Program that matches businesses with student talent.
“Rural Roots provides low-risk placements to build capacity for employers and students across Canada. Engage a student in practical experience while meeting your business objectives,” says Daniela.
Shelter Pulse is a project partnership between the Rural Development Network (RDN) and the Mountain Rose Centre (MRC) to develop a centralized online database of feminist, trauma-informed policies for rural women’s shelters across Canada.
The database will be a free, easy-to-use, up-to-date resource to resolve these issues. Pooling resources to create a consistent framework for policy development and service delivery will also save time and money for shelters, eliminate duplication of work, and create a standard for all rural Canadian shelters.
The project is funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada’s Feminist Response and Recovery Fund.