As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is predicted that as many as 40% of student placements will be cancelled. Students across the country are about to enter one of the most challenging labour markets since the great depression and many will not be getting the work experience they need. Given the current circumstances, small and medium businesses (who comprise as much as 90% of the economy) are unable to bear the cost of time and money that traditional internships require.

About 3 weeks ago when the social isolation restrictions began, Riipen started receiving requests from post-secondary institutions across the country. Their student placements were being cancelled and existing job offers were being rescinded. They were asking if there was anything we could do to help — having a network of over 10,000 industry partners, we felt it was our responsibility to work with the schools during this time of need.

As a mission-driven company, our business is focused primarily on ensuring that students get meaningful and relevant experience that will help them succeed in the rest of their careers. With this in mind, we made the decision to remove the cost barriers for using Riipen and make it available to all post-secondary institutions at no cost for the spring and summer semesters.

Now, more than ever, students who have access to the right experience will be prepared to thrive in a post-COVID economy. Our platform was built for remote engagement, we have the technology to facilitate the management of these experiences, and the industry network to create these connections. It was not an easy decision, but given our mission it was the right thing to do.

Along with the decision to offer our platform at no cost for post-secondary institutions we also made the decision to add virtual internships to our mix of experiential learning offerings. Riipen typically offers a type of experiential learning called project-based learning. For the last 6 years, we have worked to connect companies and students through short term projects that take place inside the classroom. These projects are great for students because along with work experience they also get credit for their courses. This levels the playing field for students and businesses of all shapes and sizes who can now engage aided by a technology platform.

Higher education is experiencing a rapid and unprecedented shift towards e-learning. In 2 weeks, colleges and universities have had to take all their staff and courses online. This comes with many consequences for the quality of experience students will have. Not everything can be easily translated into an online setting. The weight that COVID-19 is placing on our economy and education system is massive. It’s not just placements being cancelled, it’s also businesses laying off team members and tightening their budgets.

As a technology company, we have the flexibility to easily adapt to a remote environment. All Canadian students should come out of this crisis ready to face the challenges of a post-COVID economy and to do that, they will require applicable industry experience. This need is critical, and we as a business have made a commitment to do as much as we can to support our business and academic partners in answering this call.

Dave Savory is the Co-founder and Director of Industry Partnerships at Riipen.