By Joe Baker, Tourism HR Canada Board of Directors
It was only a few short years ago Tourism HR Canada was approved by Employment and Social Development Canada to deliver Propel—the first-ever Student Work Placement Program serving Canada’s diverse tourism sector. This meant employers could now access as much as $5,000 in wage subsidies per student when they hired a post-secondary student for a paid work-integrated learning (WIL) experience. This figure rises to $7,000 for under-represented students.
This was, and remains to be, a significant milestone for the sector.
Having had a career that now spans nearly 30 years between operations and education, I can attest to the challenges tourism and hospitality employers face trying to carry the cost of wages for students doing placements with their organizations.
There are signals that this is improving, and many reasons why students ought to be paid for their work-integrated learning experiences. But perhaps the single most significant factor, culture, can be gradually addressed with programs like Propel.
If we can now access the funds to pay wages to students during these placements, we can change the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” practice that holds us back from doing the right thing by our future leaders.
Work-integrated learning is one of the first opportunities tourism and hospitality employers have to demonstrate to students exactly what careers in our sector can be like.
In the hustle and bustle of it all, it’s easy to understand why taking a student on a placement may seem time consuming and difficult.
But the reality our sector continues to face is that other sectors are competing for talent even earlier in the pipeline. Some employers are joining post-secondary institutions as early as new student orientation and as far down the pipeline as post-graduation.
There is so much opportunity for our sector to engage students. There is also so much competition for talent from other sectors.
If you are ever curious about the broader impact of work-integrated learning on student success and the Canadian economy, have a look at the aptly named research report below, put out by Information and Communication Technology Canada (ICTC) in partnership with Magnet. It was recently released in September 2023.
Wage subsidies are available from Propel both retroactively for the fall season, and for the winter season ahead. Please consider taking advantage of this program and welcoming would-be tourism professionals into your organization on meaningful work-integrated learning experiences.
As we wrap up 2023 and look forward to 2024, I would highly recommend taking a moment to pause and reflect on the continued challenges faced by tourism and hospitality employers in attracting and retaining the ever-essential talent required to power this important industry. And at the same time, reflect on the incredible opportunity work-integrated learning presents for attracting early talent from Canada’s higher education system.
Joe Baker is a passionate leader within Canada’s tourism, hospitality and education sectors and a vocal advocate for a resilient, inclusive, future-forward industry. He was recently named Dean of Okanagan College’s School of Business. He serves on the board of directors at Tourism HR Canada and Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL).
Joe can be found everywhere @thejoebaker