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Hands-on Learning

Experiential education is hands-on learning that applies the concepts and theories you’re studying to real world challenges. You’ll engage in guided practical experiences in the classroom, in the workplace, in the community and abroad. You will collaborate with community partners and contribute to meaningful work that moves organizations toward their goals.

Earn course credit – plus essential, in-demand employment skills and experience in your field – with placement and work integrated learning opportunities. You’ll get an unpaid part-time position within an organization where you will focus on a clearly defined project. You’ll get hands-on experience, opportunities to network with people working in your chosen field, and insight into the kinds of employment positions and activities you might encounter after graduation.

Placement Courses

Broadly comparative, this course uses Canada as a focal point and basis of global comparison. It evaluates both the historical and contemporary development of living wage movements, and the economic, social and political features that have shaped its variations across the Global North and South. Today, billions of workers around the world have no regular income and many do not earn a wage sufficient to live a decent life. For much of the preceding decades, the wages of workers have generally been stagnant as economic gains flowed to the highest earners. At the same time, the proportion of unionized workers has shrunk as wage discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity and employment status exacerbates labour market inequalities. In short, the market has been unable to ensure an equitable distribution of wages, nor guarantee the well-being of ordinary people. This context has given rise to new demands for ‘living wages’. A living wage goes beyond minimum wages taking into consideration such factors as the actual costs of food, housing, clothing, rent, transportation and child care in a specific location. Course content is drawn from a diversity of theoretical and methodological approaches and includes documentaries and interviews with low-waged workers, online readings and exercises to gain both knowledge and practical skills to understand the ever-evolving landscapes of wage setting.

This course equips students to engage with workplace, community and society-wide issues by developing strategic research, advocacy, communications and organizational skills. Participants work individually and in small groups to address typical issues confronting unions and other social movement organizations. The course provides opportunities for experiential education in researching strategic questions and designing campaigns for change directly with non-profit, labour and community-based groups.

The purpose of the course is to provide students with first-hand experience of the way different organizations pursue workplace improvements and broader social and political change for all working people. The course has both seminar (in-class) and placement (cooperative learning) components. The placement will take place each week during the fall and winter terms. The placement component of the course involves work directed by a supervisor (usually a staff person or leader of a union, community-based or social justice organization). Students will be assigned to specific supervisors by their Professors. The seminars component of the course will take place every other week. Each week, one or two students will lead the seminar discussion. The seminars will focus on key issues in work and labour market restructuring, including in-class activities, assignments and discussions of readings, and will be linked to experiences in the placements.

You could work here!

With more than 25 placement partners located in the public and private sectors, community-based, nonprofit groups and trade unions, you will find one that’s right for you!

Ontario Council of Hospital Unions
Power Lab
YSW Tenant Union
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Amalgamated Transit Union

Ontario Nurses' Association
CWA Canada - The Media Union
United Steelworkers

Broadbent Institute
Disability Justice Network of Ontario

SEIU Healthcare
Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Toronto Public Library Worker's Union

Canadians for Tax Fairness
Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation


What is a placement?

You will apply for a position within an organization, where you’ll practise and develop the skills learned in your course.

Will I be paid?

No. You’ll receive course credit because each placement experience is tied to a particular course. 

Will I be graded?

Yes. You’ll be assigned a supervisor who will guide you through the experience and evaluate your performance. 

How long is the placement?

You will work part-time so you can continue your studies. The length varies by course. 

How do I apply?

You’ll get a job description that outlines the application process, which usually involves a resumé and cover letter, interview and references. 

Will I be insured while on placement?

Students who are on an unpaid placement are fully insured by York University. 

My placement at The Power Lab aims to create more diverse and equitable economies from a community led perspective by teaming up with a number of partners that have a passion for community organizing. Doing a co-op placement has been extremely beneficial to my academic career as it has given me a different perspective on community organizing and diverse and equitable economies that could not have been learned in a lecture.

— Giulia D’ingillo, Work & Labour Studies Student

Giulia D'Ingillo profile photo