Business + Higher Education Roundtable and Riipen bring sustainable change and equitable access to Canada’s work-integrated learning ecosystem

April 7, 2022

Launched in 2020 with $2.6 million in funding from the Business + Higher Education Roundtable (BHER), supported by the Government of Canada, the multi-year partnership between BHER and Riipen has focused on engaging and connecting leaders in Canada’s academic and industry sectors to build a sustainable work-integrated learning (WIL) ecosystem for Canada’s future workforce. To date, the partnership has created over 12,000 student experiences, and brought 1,212 new employers and 61 new higher education institutions across all 10 provinces into the Canadian WIL ecosystem.

As the world’s largest WIL marketplace, Riipen’s matchmaking and project tracking technology facilitates the creation and management of online WIL opportunities by embedding real-world business challenges directly into courses teaching the relevant knowledge and skill sets. 91% of students on the platform report feeling more prepared for the workforce after completing a Riipen project, and employers on average rated themselves 93% likely to consider hiring a student they’ve worked with through Riipen.

“Canada’s workforce is changing, and so is WIL. We are committed to connecting employers and students and to developing solutions to Canada’s evolving skills and talent challenges,” said Dr. Valerie Walker, Chief Executive Officer of BHER. “BHER’s partnership with Riipen creates innovative, course based WILs focused on providing opportunities for underrepresented students. Together, we are harnessing the strengths of both organizations to build Canada’s capacity to prepare students for the future.”

“At the beginning of the pandemic, our government moved quickly to support organizations like the Business + Higher Education Roundtable to keep post-secondary students engaged with small and medium-sized businesses. This gave students real opportunities to connect with businesses and get useful work experience in a turbulent time. This collaboration with Riipen shows that we made the right choice to ensure young Canadians have access to the learning and experience they need to succeed beyond the pandemic,” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.

Over 40% of schools engaged in the program are located in cities with a population of less than 100,000 where students often lack access to traditional placements. The vast majority of employers engaged are non-profits and small to medium businesses with less than 200 employees, and close to one third are located in rural areas that lack access to the pool of student talent usually more abundant in larger metropolitan areas.

“Work-integrated learning isn’t a new concept,” shared Dana Stephenson, Co-Founder and CEO of Riipen, “We’ve had internships and co-ops in Canada for many decades, but the key to creating an inclusive national WIL ecosystem is increasing flexibility, scale and sustainability. Our partnership with BHER allowed us to engage with employers and educators in communities across Canada where students, educators and employers often face barriers to participating in WIL. Introducing innovative and flexible curriculum-embedded WIL projects to the Canadian talent development ecosystem helps remove barriers and prepares students for the future of work.”

“Once a professor redesigns their course for curriculum-embedded WIL, every cohort they teach in future semesters has access to these valuable WIL experiences,” added Dave Savory, Co-Founder and VP of Experiential Learning at Riipen. “We also ensure to qualify and educate every employer we work with so they feel supported entering into their first partnership with educators and student talent, setting the stage for more to come. Through the BHER program, we’ve seen tremendous success in fostering sustainable WIL programs nationwide.”

Of the 61 higher education institutions who participated in the program to pilot Riipen, 75% have published multiple courses and one third have created more than 100 experiences for their students in just two years. The 1,212 employers engaged through the BHER program have published over 1,700 total projects to date and 10% have already expanded their partnerships to create more than 3,500 student experiences with Riipen school partners outside the BHER program.

Benjamin Feagin Jr. is CEO at AgriTech North, a first-in-kind Indigenous-owned year-round grower of fresh produce in Northwestern Ontario. “Our industry is capital-intensive and has low margins,” he shares. “Riipen has been an iconic resource during our start-up phase that provided invaluable work-integrated learning resources, allowing us to accelerate our development and reach the market faster, more professionally, and with unique intellectual property.” Since onboarding through the BHER program, the company has matched 14 projects with students from dozens of courses in disciplines such as product, marketing, engineering, data analysis, and HR. Over half of the projects have matched with courses from schools in Riipen’s larger educator network, totalling over 250 student experiences created from expanded ecosystem collaboration.

In two years, the BHER and Riipen partnership has expanded the Canadian WIL ecosystem with accessible curriculum-embedded projects and sustainable networks between thousands of students, educators, and employers across the country. This has empowered Canadian student talent to directly collaborate with businesses in creating a thriving Canada where everyone has an opportunity to reach their potential. Learn more about the program here: https://info.riipen.com/bherpartnership