An open letter from Riipen’s CEO - Future of Level UP.

Together, we’ve built a community that empowers both students and employers, and I’m excited to share our reflections and plans with you in this letter.
May 6, 2024
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Dear valued partners,

Reflecting on the incredible journey of Level UP, it’s evident how far we’ve come. As we celebrate our milestones and navigate the challenges of growth, I am grateful for your continued support and dedication to our shared vision. Together, we’ve built a community that empowers both students and employers, and I’m excited to share our reflections and plans with you in this letter. 

I am sure it hasn’t escaped your attention that the Level UP program has grown significantly over the years. Level UP launched back in 2021 with what felt like an ambitious goal at the time, of delivering 6,000 paid stipend experiences to students. As I sit here today, we have just made our 24,443rd payment, officially closing out the program's third round of funding received from the Government of Canada.

This level of growth hasn’t been without its challenges; we have had to implement new processes and systems, hire new team members, evolve our platform, and integrate with new software to ensure that we are running a program that we can be proud of. 

As we move into this next cycle of funding, we have taken time to reflect on what makes Level UP special, and the themes that come up time and time again are the opportunities our employer partners offer to the students and the value both employers and students find in the program. The students share with us how valuable they find your mentorship, how the project you offered gave them the experience they couldn’t find anywhere else, and how the variety of employers engaged in the program has given them insights into their future career potential. From listening to your stories, we know how much this program impacts you and your ability to access a unique talent pool and grow your businesses. 

This program has showcased the incredible impact the Level UP community can make when working together. 

We have learned a great deal from running this program for four years, and it hasn’t all been easy. We have learned that not everyone engaging in a program like this has good intentions and that a program of this size can make the “bad actors”  more difficult to spot, and we have implemented changes along the way to ensure that the individuals engaging in the program are doing so with integrity.

One of the most significant changes we made in late 2023 was launching our integration with Persona to ensure we only work with individuals who are identity-verified to ensure user safety on the platform. This wasn’t a decision we made lightly; we weighed the additional steps our employers and students would have to take to get into the program and the frustration it may cause against the need to safeguard our program against ill will. 

As we look to the future there are several other changes that we have already made or are in the process of making to ensure we maintain the integrity of further growing Level UP, and I wanted to openly outline what those are and why we have decided to move in this direction:

The duration of the project has changed from 80 hours to 60 hours. 

We have seen a significant economic shift in the past four years with a steep increase in the cost of living. We wanted to ensure that students receive a viable wage for their work, and moving the program to 60 hours allows us to secure them a higher hourly wage for their work. 

Moving forward, we are limiting the number of projects you can run to 2. 

Based on feedback from our funding partners, we need to diversify further the types of employers and projects available to our students. Based on the overwhelming demand from employers across Canada, there is a need to ensure new employers have a chance to participate in the program with new and exciting projects.

With this change, each company has the opportunity to work with up to 5 students per project.

Strict enforcement of start & completion criteria, with no exceptions. 

We are required to provide auditable records for all of our engagements in Level UP. When employers and students skip or miss steps in the process, such as taking deliverables off-platform, not clicking start on the project in the platform, or missing binding deadlines, we lose the ability to uphold our program controls.

This program would not be possible without our loyal and enthusiastic employers who day after day, week after week, and year after year open up their businesses and devote their time to the thousands of students who want to learn from them and contribute to their businesses. 

Thank you for all you have contributed to this program. Your continued loyalty and participation in Level UP have made it what it is today, and I cannot thank you enough for your support. 


Dana Stephenson

CEO & Co-Founder, Riipen

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