Disparities in educational attainment and work experiences are especially pronounced in the case of Indigenous student participation in Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) and Co-op programming. In partnership with ACE-WIL BC/Yukon and advisory groups, University of Victoria has created an Indigenous Co-op/WIL Resource Hub. Accessible to all BC Post-Secondary Institutions (PSIs), the virtual Hub offers resources and strategies to increase Indigenous student access, retention, and success in Co-op/WIL programs. The IRH project responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action on employment and education disparity, curriculum development, intercultural understanding, and anti-racism workplace training.
The IRH addresses the immediate needs of Indigenous students, WIL practitioners, and employers, offering PSIs tools and strategies to create more equitable, inclusive, and empowering WIL experiences. Looking to the future, the IRH supports long-term efforts to decolonize and Indigenize higher education through transformative partnerships and programs uplifting Indigenous pedagogies, initiatives, and worldviews.
The process of creating the Indigenous Resource Hub has left us with several reflections on not only what it takes to create accessible WIL opportunities for Indigenous students, but also what it means to decolonize and Indigenize Work-Integrated Learning (WIL). From this, we identify three significant learning objectives:
1. We offer perspectives on how to define, measure, and support Indigenous student success in Co-op/WIL, recognizing community-building both as a way to support Indigenous WIL and as a necessary objective in itself.
2. Reflecting on key principles informing WIL programs and practices, we explore what it means to approach WIL both from Indigenous points of view and with a commitment to respond to the TRC’s Calls to Action.
3. We share our experiences working across institutions, associations, and government bodies to strengthen existing institutional capacities and create new Indigenous WIL programs.