What is Experiential Learning? 

Experiential learning opportunities are hands-on learning experiences that help students prepare for future employment. Examples of experiential learning could include a co-op placement, an internship, an apprenticeship, an extra-curricular activity, a volunteer experience, an employer presenting to a class, a field trip, or a job shadowing experience. There are a variety of programs available that have different placement lengths and learning goals. This means that you’ll be able to find a learning program that fits your workplace needs. 

“Co-op” is short for cooperative education, which is an educational program that integrates classroom learning with practical work experience in a professional setting. In a co-op program, students alternate between periods of academic study and periods of work placement, allowing them to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world work environments. 

Typically, co-op programs are structured to provide students with hands-on experience related to their field of study. These work terms, or co-op placements are designed to give students a deeper understanding of their chosen profession, enhance their skills, and help them make connections in the industry. 

Taking on a co-op student as part of an experiential learning program is, of course, a great opportunity for the student to learn on the job, but it is also an incredible opportunity for employers to offset some of the challenges and costs associated with onboarding talented new staff. 

Taking on a co-op student opens a cost-effective talent pipeline, which means that your business can be quickly and efficiently paired with students that have already been identified as a great fit for you, reducing the time costs associated with searching for new talent. Experiential learning offers the opportunity to reduce or eliminate the cost of training new staff, as well as the opportunity to tailor that training to exactly the needs of your business, so that students complete their program perfectly trained to join your team! 

Cost-Effective Talent Pipeline: 

Taking on a co-op student presents a valuable opportunity to establish a cost-effective talent pipeline for your business. This initiative allows your company to swiftly and efficiently connect with students who have already been recognized as an ideal match for your organization. By doing so, the time and resources traditionally spent on searching for new talent can be significantly reduced, streamlining the recruitment process and enhancing overall operational efficiency. 

Experiential Learning Advantages: 

The inclusion of co-op students in your workforce brings with it the advantages of experiential learning. This approach not only provides students with valuable on-the-job experience but also offers your company the opportunity to minimize or eliminate the costs typically associated with training new staff. Furthermore, it enables you to customize the training programs to precisely align with the specific needs of your business while promoting careers the sector. This gives students the chance to learn more about opportunities available in their field, while ensuring that you receive more qualified candidates in the long term. Consequently, co-op students will emerge from their programs well-equipped and trained to integrate into your team. 

Tailored Training Programs: 

Co-op partnerships empower your business to tailor training programs to your exact specifications. This customization ensures that the skills and knowledge imparted during the training period directly align with the unique needs of your organization. As a result, co-op students complete their programs not only with a comprehensive understanding of your industry but also with skills to contribute effectively to your team. This tailored approach enhances the overall synergy between the educational experience and the practical demands of your business. 

High Success Rate: 

Co-op has a high success rate in our community. Of 61 local employers consulted, 77% have participated in an experiential learning opportunity with students and of those employers 36% had hired a student after their placement. Our students are entering their co-op placements prepared to make a great impression and learn the skills that they will need to become a permanent member of your team.  

Funding and Supports: 

Additionally, the government of Ontario allows businesses who take on co-op students to claim up to $3000 for each work placement as part of the Cooperative Education Tax Credit, to cover any expenditures associated with their experiential learning program involving secondary or postsecondary students, as well as wage subsidies for taking on a post-secondary student through the Student Work Placement Program. There is no cap on the number of eligible students in a given semester for whom your business can apply for support funding. 

There are many options with Experiential Learning!

Examples of some of the programs available: 

Cooperative Education and Workplace Co-op: 

For Secondary Students: 

  • You will be paired with an eligible, currently enrolled grade 11 or 12 student. The programs are targeted to put forward candidates that are ready and excited to explore the workplace. 
  • The student will be scheduled in either a half-day morning or afternoon shift for the period of one semester. 
  • You will have the support of a dedicated co-op teacher who will work with you and the student to ensure that all of your collective goals are met.  

 For Post-Secondary Students: 

  • You will be recommended eligible, highly qualified candidates, currently enrolled in a related program at the post-secondary level. From there you will have your choice of which candidates to interview and hand-select according to their fit with your company. 
  • Postsecondary co-op and internship programs usually must be paid in order to satisfy the requirements of the student’s academic program; however, subsidies and supports are available to employers for taking on a postsecondary student.  
  • The student may be available for part-time or full-time hours, for the period of one or two semesters according to their program requirements.  


  • The Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP) offers students a chance to complete their credits required for an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) and gain apprenticeship training leading to a Certificate of Qualification in a skilled trade at the same time.  
  • You will be paired with an eligible, currently enrolled grade 11 or 12 student, who may be taken on either in a half-day or full-day placement for the period of one or two semesters. 
  • The program offers a no-risk trial for employers who can take on and train a student at no cost, with the capacity to terminate the trial period at any time if any part of the experience is unsatisfactory. Additionally, employers are under no obligation to hire or continue to support students after the completion of their OYAP placement. 


  • The Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) is a specialized program that allows students to gain credits toward their Ontario Secondary School Diploma and focus their learning on a specific economic sector at the same time. The SHSM is a Ministry of Education approved program. 
  • You will be paired with an eligible, currently enrolled grade 11 or 12 student.  
  • The program is divided between in-school practical courses in the student’s intended field, and external co-op placements. Students are required to work toward compulsory certifications in their field while receiving on-the-job training. 

Student Work Placement Program: 

  • The Student Work Placement Program is designed to give post-secondary students across Canada paid work experience related to their field of study. 
  • Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) works with Employer Delivery Partners. Employer Delivery Partners are a group of recognized associations and organizations that represent the interests of employers in industries. 
  • They work with businesses and post-secondary education institutions to: 
    • provide wage subsidies to employers that offer quality student work placements, and 
    • create partnerships with colleges, universities, polytechnics and CEGEPs to recruit students for these placements. 

If you feel like experiential learning is a great fit for your business, sign up to list your opportunities as part of our Open Doors project here:  www.workforcewindsoressex.com/open-doors

Please email us:  srobson@workforcewindsoressex.com with any questions/comments!