The Work-Learn Institute (WxL) has many resources for fellow work-integrated learning practitioners, educators and researchers interested in work-integrated learning and experiential education.
Accessibility resources for co-operative education programs
The Waterloo Co-op Accessibility Team (WatCAT), with support from the Government of Ontario, engaged in a project to create toolkits and online resources for work-integrated learning students, staff, and employers. The focus of the project was on enhancing access to and participation in co-op’s competitive employment process and work terms. The project aimed to build student capacity and readiness to enter a co-op experience, and to support the University and co-op employers in strengthening an inclusive co-op experience.
To meet the needs of a diverse and changing student population, Waterloo needed a systemic approach to meeting the needs of 20,000+ students and 7,000+ employers. In designing these resources, attention was paid to adopting universal design features to ensure that students could access resources easily and with dignity. Although these resources are designed for a large-scale program, they are scalable and adaptable for most co-op programs.
Research seminars and conference presentations
The Work-Learn Institute (WxL) hosts and presents at many events and conferences inside and outside of the University of Waterloo. Presentations and notes are available for past events. For upcoming research seminars and conferences, visit our events page.
Co-operative Education self-study guide
The Co-operative Education Self-Study Guide is a comprehensive resource designed to support post-secondary institutions, namely representatives from units providing co-operative education, career services, or disability supports. It is intended to facilitate a process of reflection and collaboration that will strengthen strategic planning efforts to enhance accessibility in a way that is visible and tangible for students. The Guide was developed by members of the Waterloo Co-op Accessibility Team (WatCAT).
The Guide is dynamic in nature. It will continue to refine and grow as we receive feedback and identify tools and resources.
NEW: PDF download: Co-operative education Self-study Guide (PDF) (version 2, released November 2018)
Goals of the self-study guide
Help leaders create or enhance a culture of accessibility that is visible and tangible for students
- Assist staff to collectively reflect on and identify barriers that may impact co-op process experiences for students with disabilities
- Assist staff to remove any arbitrary barriers
- Inform staff on best practices for improving student access to resources and supports in a dignified and systemic manner
- Allow staff to apply important information from Ontario’s Accessible Employment standards
- Provide tips and strategies for employers on how to reach beyond compliance by creating inclusive opportunities and work for all co-op student employees
Co-operative Education self-assessment tool for students
The WatCAT team researched and developed a web-based self-assessment tool (called Ready for Co-op?), directing students, including students with disabilities, to targeted supports that address gaps in foundational competencies. The team investigated the baseline set of foundational competencies that strongly influence a student's experience and success in a co-op program of study. The team’s focus on design was to adopt approaches that normalize accessing supports and resources in the co-op process, thereby reducing stigma associated with disabilities or resistance to accessing support.
The downloadable report is intended to support post-secondary institutions who desire to develop similar tools for their students. This report summarizes the research, design, and development of the foundational competencies, the assessment model, and the tool’s content.
Goals of the self-assessment tool
- Enable self-discovery of areas for improvement with respect to the co-op process
- Normalize the experience for students, including students with disabilities, to access services that will enable them to be more successful in co-op
PDF download: Development of the co-op student self-assessment tool: Final report (PDF)
Accessibility resources for employers
The WatCAT team conducted extensive research to identify tools and resources to support employers in providing an accessible co-op experience for students with disabilities. A web-based resource, titled Accessibility and hiring co-op students, is now available to all current and prospective co-op employers.
On the Accessibility and hiring co-op students website, employers will find information on:
- the benefits of hiring people with disabilities
- what it means to be an accessible employer
- tips for hiring and supervising co-op students with disabilities
- frequently asked questions on accessibility and co-op
Goals of the resources for employers
- Support employers in providing an inclusive co-op experience for students with disabilities
- Promote to employers the principles of accessibility and a culture of inclusion