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Work-integrated learning is a key source of talent for the Canadian bio-economy

BioTalent Canada today released new findings from its most recent bio-economy Labour Market Information (LMI) study. The data in this new brief—The Talent Differential: The case for work-integrated learning in the bio-economy —was collected from a series of three facilitated roundtable discussions, a survey of 573 bio-economy employers in 2020, and an analysis of data from BioTalent Canada’s current wage subsidy programs.

The results indicate work-integrated learning (WIL) such as co-op, work placements, internships, and clinical placements that combine practical work experience with formal classroom learning are a key component of many Canadian post-secondary education models. The programs also offer a key source of talent recruitment for bio-economy employers.

“Students who take advantage of work-integrated learning opportunities have an easier time transitioning to the workforce,” says Rob Henderson, President and CEO of BioTalent Canada. “But this brief uncovers some challenges. While women account for the majority of WIL participants, they remain underrepresented in the workforce. And even though we know that WIL participants transition to the workforce more successfully, participation rates decline as education levels increase, this is troubling for such an effective solution,” he said.

The data presented in this research brief also raises questions about how Canadian bio-economy employers integrate WIL into their human resource strategies. These questions include:

  1. How can bio-economy employers be encouraged to collaborate with postsecondary institutions to further develop WIL opportunities?

  2. How can WIL opportunities be leveraged to provide women with more successful transitions to the Canadian bio-economy workforce?

  3. Because WIL participation decreases as students progress to higher levels of education, would it be beneficial to introduce more WIL opportunities at these advanced degree levels to address these noted skills gap?

“I’m confident that BioTalent Canada’s programs and services can play a major role in providing solutions to these challenges,” adds Henderson. “Our Student Work Placement Program has seen a rise in applications despite noted drops in overall WIL opportunities caused by COVID-19. And the program has now been extended to include healthcare. We’ve also introduced essential and technical skills training that will help address the skills gap that the roundtable discussions identified as an issue.”

BioTalent Canada wage subsidies have helped shape the future of Canadian bio-economy since before 2005. More than 2,500 Canadians have started their careers through BioTalent Canada programs.

BioTalent Canada will publish four additional research briefs in advance of the full LMI release in 2021. The organization plans to produce 11 more in-depths reports next year, including nine new LMI regional and national reports, a hot jobs report, and a talent supply report. For more details on the study please visit

Any employers that wish to provide expertise in a future studies should contact BioTalent Canada Project Manager Adriana Saenz.

Funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.

About BioTalent Canada

BioTalent Canada™ is the HR partner of and catalyst for growth in Canada’s bio-economy. Our engagement with employers, associations, post-secondary institutions, immigrant serving agencies and service providers has built a dynamic network that is