The Toronto Financial Services Alliance (TFSA) is piloting a program that aims to create employment and learning opportunities for Canadian postsecondary students with financial services employers in the Toronto region.

The goal is to create 10,000 student work-integrated learning positions by the end of 2020. The program was launched on April 19. These work-integrated learning opportunities are expected to range from internships and co-ops, to capstone projects, incubators and accelerators.

Seven Ontario colleges and universities involved

The program is called ASPIRE, and the TFSA has partnered with 10 financial services employers and seven Ontario colleges and universities. Through this program, ASPIRE hopes to help students transition from school to the workplace while acquiring needed skills in the field.

"As the financial services sector continues to reinvent itself in response to dramatic technological disruption, our employer members are telling us that there is an increasing number of new positions waiting to be filled", says Janet Ecker, president and CEO of the TFSA.  "At the same time, our academic members tell us that bright, highly-skilled graduates are finding it hard to find jobs. It's our job to help bridge the gap. ASPIRE can do that by giving students opportunities to become more work-ready through actual hands-on experience."

Access to experiential learning

"Our sector has led the charge for work-integrated learning for many years,” says Dave McKay, president and CEO of RBC. “And this initiative will see an acceleration in our support at a time when young people need access to experiential learning more than ever. Work-integrated learning improves the value of education and it increases innovation. Above all, it is a huge social leveler, building networks and providing access to students from all backgrounds to the world of work."

The ASPIRE program was developed with the help of a multi-stakeholder working group including:  Aviva Canada, BMO, CIBC, Intact Financial Corporation, OMERS, RBC, Scotiabank, Sun Life Financial, TD Bank Group, and TMX Group. The group also includes George Brown College, Northeastern University (Toronto campus), Queen's University, Ryerson University, Seneca College, University of Toronto, and University of Waterloo.

Contacts from all three levels of government have participated in the working group to help design the project.  The provincial government has also provided direct funding, to date, for this project.