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Ontario universities providing real-life work experience through placements, co-ops: COU’s new Bringing Life to Learning report shows

March 26, 2014

TORONTO, ON – Ontario’s universities are equipping the next generation of leaders with the skills they need for career success by providing students with real-life work experience through placements, co-ops and internships across all disciplines.

Bringing Life to Learning at Ontario Universities, a report released today by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), says applied learning is one of the fastest growing areas for universities.

“We know graduates with experience are more likely to find careers that interest them and secure full-time jobs,” says Max Blouw, COU Chair and President of Wilfrid Laurier University. “Ontario universities are helping students to put the skills they learn at university to practical use in the workplace and community through a wide range of experiential learning opportunities outside the classroom.”

Key findings:

  • Statistics Canada’s most recent National Graduates Survey shows graduates with a bachelor degree and co-op experience earn more than their peers. They also have higher full-time employment rates and are more likely to pay off their debt within two years.
  • Today, work-integrated learning programs at Ontario universities span all disciplines, from environmental science to fine arts, engineering and health sciences.
  • In an increasingly competitive job market, experiential learning makes students workplace-ready, setting them up for career success.
  • Many thousands of students have found full-time work in their fields of study as a result of experiential learning opportunities at universities.
  • Employers often require two-to-five years of work experience. Applied learning programs can help new grads meet that requirement.

“Experiential learning benefits employers as well as students,” says Bonnie M. Patterson, COU’s President and CEO. “Employers get to test new talent and are brought new ideas and fresh perspectives that can lead to significant improvements at their businesses or organizations. Students gain hands-on experience and discover what types of careers and organizations would be a good fit for them.”

Thousands of students have found full-time work in their fields of study as a result of experiential learning opportunities at university.

“Congratulations to COU on the release of this report, which discusses the importance of applied learning programs that combine traditional teaching methods with hands-on activities that help students learn in new ways,” says the Hon. Brad Duguid, Ontario’s Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. “Our government recognizes that experiential learning courses help our students develop the valuable practical skills that many employers are seeking for our 21st century global economy.”

Read the full Bringing Life to Learning report here.

View COU’s Bringing Life to Learning infographic here.


COU is a membership organization of 21 publicly assisted universities in Ontario. It works closely with the provincial and federal governments to shape public policies that help universities deliver high-quality programs for students and advance the research and innovation that improves the social, cultural and economic well-being of Ontarians.

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For further information, please contact:

Wendy McCann
Director, Strategic Communications and Media Relations
Telephone: 416-979-2165 x233
Cell phone: 647-271-0825
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Lisa Krawiec

Communications Advisor & Executive Assistant to the President
Council of Ontario Universities
180 Dundas Street West, Suite 1100
Toronto, ON M5G 1Z8
T: 416.979.2165 ext. 239
F: 416.979.8635
ON Universities’ Blog