Workplace Integrated Learning

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Presenter: John Boon J.D., HKMK Law Canada

Work-integrated learning (WIL) can be a bridge between studies and work or business, but players and stakeholders must deal with legal and business realities and not impose outdated or legally unsound academic systems on the real commercial worlds of education services and work.

WIL encompasses what some call co-op education, internships, practicums, professional practice programs or new business incubators (not an exhaustive list). These terms are generally meaningless. They are not binding legal definitions or terms art. They don’t mean the same thing to all people, at all times in all circumstances. Legal relationships and what their parties agree to are what matters.

Despite a common refrain to the contrary, it is not a matter for governments and institutions to agree on what WIL is or what various terms mean. It is up to contract parties in various contracts to decide.

Government regulators generally cannot and must not dictate those terms. If governments provide funding then conditions could be attached, but their control must end there. They must not impede the ability of institutions, students and workplace proprietors to create something that works in specific circumstances and to contract as they wish – subject to regulatory standards regarding instruction, assessment and credentialing.

Ignoring legal realities is a major problem through much of the education sector because too many people are in denial and think they operate in a separate world called “Academia” that is somehow separate from the real worlds of law and commerce. They are wrong and willful denial is slowing down and impeding sector innovation – including the legally sound development of workplace integrated learning.

  •  Why it is most often legally incorrect to refer to institutions and workplace hosts as “Partners”. Legal partnerships rarely exist and are often ill advised given the vast laws of partnerships and agency and their imposition of liability and complexity. Only those contract parties control their bargain.
  •  Analysis of contracts education institutions (public – private) have with students for delivery of education services. How and why only they are responsible to regulators for regulated programs.
  • How systematic training (e.g. apprenticeships) impose distinct laws and sector practices.
  • Accreditation of WIL programs – the positives and negatives – monitors, reporting, assessments.
  • Why hard to find placements must not be made harder by needless contract restrictions and liabilities.
  • Contract essentials for three key and distinct relationships – institutions and students – institutions and workplace hosts – and students and workplace hosts. Why three-party contracts are a bad idea.
  • Why governments must not needlessly interfere with an institutions ability to use existing external expertise and infrastructure to increase capacity and quality and decrease costs. Why old attachments to classrooms and arbitrary limits on hours or durations must not be imposed.
  • How institutions can only act through service providers and why regulators must not needlessly restrict their actions.
  • How it is that governments with rights to make laws for education don’t have exclusive rights to provide it. Their ability to impose contract terms is very limited. Institutions are not government agents or delegates.
  • Limited right of regulators to dictate or govern workplace hosts.
  • How WIL interacts with existing employment laws.