By Lindsay Wood and Heather Workman
On May 12-15, a lively 143 group of Work Integrated Learning (WIL) professionals came together to “Light It Up” in beautiful Victoria, BC for the ACE-WIL Conference…and light it up, we did! The energy throughout the conference was palpable. The laughter was plenty, and the ideas, synergies and collaborations were on fire as we came together to shine a spotlight on the valuable work that is being done in the world of work-integrated learning. This year’s conference embraced ACE-WIL BC/Yukon’s expanded mandate and welcomed practitioners from all forms of work-integrated learning to educate each other.
Award winning author and storyteller, Ivan Coyote kicked off the conference with a thought provoking, timely, and inspiring keynote that set the tone for the conference. Melissa Drury from KPU noted, “I learned a lot from Ivan Coyote’s keynote presentation and am very glad to have been gifted with the stories they shared”. Gifted is an apt description of Ivan’s keynote. As a change agent for inclusiveness, kindness, understanding and openness, Ivan’s keynote inspired not only how we can be better advocates for our students and employers, but how we can be better human beings. Their words prompted discussion on how WIL practitioners can facilitate a safe and inclusive work environment for our trans and genderqueer students, and for other equity-seeking students more broadly. In addition, Ivan’s keynote has ignited further interest in exploring the theme of equity, diversity and inclusion at future ACE PD events as well as advocating for guidelines or resources targeting employers on the topic of creating a culturally safe workplace for equity-seeking students on co-op work terms or other WIL placements at the CEWIL national level.
Other highlights of the conference included a number of lightning, spark and plenary sessions on a broad range of topics from technology, international experiences, open educational resources (OER), increasing student engagements, decolonizing WIL, coaching, language, cultural intelligence, co-op curriculum, disabilities, collaboration, ethics and risk and more! I encourage you to review the descriptions of the sessions and to reach out to any of the speakers for more information. The innovation in practice and current work-integrated learning research occurring in postsecondary is truly amazing
Pre-Conference Meetings took place on Mother’s Day 12th. The ACE WIL BC Board met to discuss business as well at the ACCE WIL BC Advisory met in the afternoon. We were pleased to welcome three guests from the Ministry of Advanced Education to discuss “support for expanding Work-Integrated Learning in the province.” A lively discussion took place about what we envisioned this type of support could look like. A subcommittee sent additional feedback later in the week. This is now “old news” with the Monday June 10th, 2019 announcement of $9 million to expand WIL across BC.
An investment of $9 million in co-op and work-integrated learning was announced on Monday, June 10, 2019, by Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. She was joined by students, staff, faculty and employers at the University of Victoria.
“Work-integrated learning programs like co-ops open the door for students to gain invaluable hands-on experience,” Mark said. “Graduates enter the job market industry-ready with real world connections in their chosen field of work. Last year’s investment of $75,000 to all 25 public-post secondary institutions went a long way. This $9-million investment will substantially increase the number of opportunities for students to get the experience they need for in-demand careers close to home.”
The funding will support increased opportunities for students who are currently under-represented in co-op and work-integrated learning, including Indigenous students and students with disabilities.
Details of this funding and how it will be distributed will be discussed during a teleconference on Thursday June 13th with members of ACCE WIL BC and the respective Provosts. Stay tuned!
One of the most rewarding elements of the gathering was the hosting of our Student of the Year award winners as well as the Industry Partner of the Year. This year we had four student awards given:
Co-op Student of the Year, Colleges – Lucy Morrow, Langara College, Bachelor of Business Administration, Marketing Management
Co-op Student of the Year, University – Brandon Huntington, University of British Columbia, Biology
College Student WIL Award – Lara Griner, Langara College, Post Degree Diploma Marketing Management
University Student WIL Award – Kira Cheeseborough – Thompson Rivers University, Bachelor of Social Work
It was very special to congratulate students personally and to give students a chance to share how much being recognized in this way means to them.
Our Industry Partner of the Year is the Department of National Defense – CFB Esquimalt and had two representatives join us for lunch and the awards ceremony.
We saved the Outstanding Contribution Award for one of our own, until the Gala Dinner Tuesday evening. The amazing Jennie Nilsson from UVIC was giving a standing ovation for her contributions to our association as a committee member, a committee co-chair and now as our President! Bravo and thank you Jennie for all of your hard work to date!
And of course, as is typical with ACE-WIL events, the best learning occurred during the session breaks, though shared conversation over meals, on the dance floor and in other social activities. The openness to collaborate and share resources/practices amongst institutions is what makes our association so strong and for what I am grateful to be a member of. Thank you to the conference committee for a successful event. We encourage you to take action on what you learned from the conference, continue those conversations within your institutions and reach out to new (and old) connections you made, and session speakers. Keep shining the light and sparking innovation in WIL.
See you in the fall at the next ACE-WIL PD (and in the meantime, consider joining an ACE-WIL Committee).