Backgrounder: Experiential Learning Week

The first-ever Experiential Learning Week in Ontario is taking place on November 22-26, 2010.

Experiential Learning Week celebrates the estimated 40,000 employers across the province that provide high-school students with valuable work-related experiential learning opportunities, such as cooperative education, job shadowing, mentoring, classroom visits, workplace tours and career fairs. The week also serves to encourage more employers to take part by raising awareness of the tremendous benefits of experiential learning programs for students, employers and communities.

Experiential Learning Week is presented by the Provincial Partnership Council and the Passport to Prosperity campaign, which have worked for more than a decade to increase employer participation in experiential learning programs.

The week will be officially launched on November 22 by Ontario Minister of Education Leona Dombrowsky at a special event at Queen’s Park. Regional activities are scheduled throughout Experiential Learning Week across the province to showcase the value of school-work partnerships and encourage more employers to get involved to help foster Ontario’s future workforce.

In recent years, the Government of Ontario has taken three key steps to expand experiential learning opportunities for students across Ontario: first, all school boards are now required to offer school-work programs to interested students; second, high school students can now include up to two cooperative credits in their mandatory credits for their Ontario Secondary School Diploma; and, third, the introduction of Specialist High Skills Majors, which offer high school students the option to graduate with an Ontario Secondary School Diploma and also specialize in the theory and practical training relevant to a particular industry sector.

With demand for experiential programs increasing steadily, it is imperative that more employers get involved and make a real difference. Between the 2006-07 and 2008-09 academic years, the number of cooperative education credits attempted by Ontario high-school students increased by 17 per cent. Over the same period, there was a 14 per cent increase in the number of students participating in cooperative education.

The Benefits of Experiential Learning

Experiential learning programs deliver positive impacts for students, businesses and local economies, and can help address pressing labour market issues, including Ontario’s rapidly aging workforce and the ever-increasing demand for workers with higher levels of education, skills and experience.

• For students - experiential learning programs offer real life, first-hand experience and exposure to the skills needed in a particular position. This insight helps motivate and inform future education and career-related decisions and can play a pivotal role in influencing a chosen career path. School-work programs have also been found to support higher retention, graduation and postsecondary participation rates and as well as boosting academic achievement, attitude and preparation.

• For employers – participating in experiential learning programs provides an early opportunity to engage Ontario’s future workforce and raise awareness about career options they may not have considered. School-work programs are also a cost-effective alternative for recruiting, training and retaining young workers, which, in turn, can provide a professional development opportunity for existing employees to build management, mentorship and communication skills.

• For local economies - experiential learning programs help address workforce challenges, such as skills shortages. Moreover, better skilled workers will allow businesses to reap greater rewards, which will support and drive local economic growth.

Passport to Prosperity and the Provincial Partnership Council

Established in 1999, Passport to Prosperity is a province-wide initiative sponsored by the Provincial Partnership Council (PPC), the Ontario Ministry of Education and the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, which encourages and supports Ontario employers in providing high school students with experiential learning opportunities. Passport to Prosperity is delivered in every region in Ontario by 26 local Passport to Prosperity coordinators situated in business education councils and local training boards.

Comprised of leaders from the private, public and voluntary sectors, the PPC is a volunteer advisory committee of the Government of Ontario. The PPC’s mission is to ensure that every employer in Ontario appreciates the value of engaging high school students in meaningful experiences that foster workplace skills development and inform educational and career-related decisions.

Passport to Prosperity Employer Champion Awards

Now in their sixth successful year, the Employer Champion Awards have honoured 35 exceptional employers from every corner of the province that have demonstrated outstanding commitments to providing work experience opportunities for local high-school students. During Experiential Learning Week, several Passport to Prosperity Employer Champion Awards will be presented in communities across Ontario.
The 2010 Passport to Prosperity Employer Champion Award recipients, include:

• Ford Assembly Plant and CAW Local 1520 (St. Thomas)
• Goldcorp Gold Mines (Red Lake)
• Kingston Home Builders' Association
• Cook Sheet Metal (Simcoe)
• Pembroke Regional Hospital
• Walmart (North York Location)
• Queensway Veterinary Hospital (Simcoe)
• Guelph Business-Education Partnership at Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School (TD Canada Trust, MacKinnon Transport, The Cooperators, Tim Hortons, Thomasfield Homes, Reid's Heritage Homes)
• Hamilton Health Sciences Corporation
• Burlington Post
• London Home Builders' Association
• Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (Toronto)
• Waterford Electric
• Fortinos - Mall Road (Hamilton)
• Les Traiteurs Bytown (Ottawa)

Passport Prosperity Ontario Employer Designation

Created in 2010, the Passport to Prosperity Ontario Employer designation distinguishes employers that are supporting the futures of significant numbers of young people across the province through experiential learning programs. To earn this annual designation an employer must have provided at least 50 learning opportunities in the previous academic year.

During the official launch of Experiential Learning Week, the inaugural recipients of the designation were announced, namely: the Ottawa Police, RONA, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Westmont Hospitality Group, Clarion Nursing Home and the Ministry of Natural Resources Junior Ranger Program.


If you would like to find out more information about the success of Experiential Learning Week or Passport to Prosperity and the Provincial Partnership Council, please visit:


For any media inquiries, please contact:

Mary Warner, Hill & Knowlton

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