Canadian businesses are stepping up to help post-secondary students enter the workforce, with some of Toronto region’s leading financial services companies announcing an ambitious plan to provide 10,000 work-integrated learning placements by the end of 2020.

A joint initiative involving 10 members of the Toronto Financial Services Alliance (TFSA) and seven leading universities and colleges, the program – ASPIRE – seeks to help students transition from post-secondary education to the workplace while also addressing industry-identified skills gaps.

“The challenges facing businesses – including disruptive technology and global competition – in turn create challenges for Canadian workers,” said The Honourable John Manley, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Business Council of Canada. “By identifying targeted skills gaps and working with post-secondary and community partners, businesses are working to help prepare the next generation for successful careers.”

In 2013, the Business Council launched a multi-year initiative focused on jobs and skills for the 21st century. Council members then worked to create the Business/Higher Education Roundtable (BHER), which brings together private-sector and post-secondary leaders to tackle the skills challenges facing Canada’s economy.

In June 2016, BHER members embraced the goal of ensuring that 100 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students gain some form of relevant work experience prior to graduation.

“Canada’s businesses leaders understand the value of investing in young Canadians, and are rising to the challenge,” said Tom Jenkins, Chair of OpenText Corporation and one of the three co-chairs of the Business/Higher Education Roundtable. “Much of our success is due to the visionary leadership of BHER members such as Dave McKay, President and Chief Executive Officer of RBC, who spearheaded the work-integrated learning taskforce.”

TFSA’s ASPIRE initiative is the first in a series of work-integrated learning pilot programs developed in partnership with BHER. Upcoming programs are being created with leaders in the construction, mining, advanced manufacturing and aerospace industries.

About the Business Council

The Business Council of Canada brings business leaders together to shape public policy in the interests of a stronger Canada and a better world. Founded in 1976, the Business Council is a non-profit, non-partisan organization composed of the chief executives of Canada’s leading enterprises, representing every region and sector of the economy. Through supply chain partnerships, service contracts and mentoring programs, Business Council members support many hundreds of thousands of small businesses and entrepreneurs in communities of all sizes across Canada.

About the Business/Higher Education Roundtable

Launched in 2015 by the Business Council of Canada, the Business/Higher Education Roundtable represents some of Canada’s largest companies and leading post-secondary institutions. Composed of leaders from the private sector, universities, colleges and polytechnics, BHER works to support young Canadians as they transition from education to the workplace, strengthen research collaboration between industry and institutions, and help Canadian employers as they adapt to the economy of the future. His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Canada’s Governor General, serves as BHER’s Honorary Patron. Learn more at

About the Toronto Financial Services Alliance

The Toronto Financial Services Alliance is a public/private organization whose mandate is to enhance and promote the long-term competitiveness of Toronto as a top ten international financial services centre. Its membership encompasses core financial services companies – banks, brokerages, investment fund managers, insurance companies, pensions – as well as partner sectors – accounting, law and education. Established in 2001, TFSA is a collaboration involving three levels of government, the financial services industry and academia. For more information, please visit