Learning What Works — May 2018

May 16, 2018

New reports

Lessons from Canada’s first national social impact bond

Social impact bonds (SIBs) are intended to mobilize private capital to finance public services. A new report from SRDC highlights preliminary evaluation results of the federal government’s first pilot of this form of social financing.

The Essential Skills Social Finance pilot tested a training program for job seekers financed through a SIB. The SIB’s repayment to investors is based on participants’ demonstrated skill gains using a standard literacy assessment. The bond was designed to return all of the investors’ capital based on a benchmark of 50% of trainees improving their score on a standardized test by at least 25 points, with a group median of 25 points. Investor returns could be higher — up to 8% return on investment — or lower — zero — depending on the results relative to the benchmark.

Overall, 41% of participants achieved skill gains of 25 points or higher, resulting in a 96% repayment of capital to investors. Returns to investors could increase marginally if the skill gains are retained for at least a year.

The Essential Skills Social Finance pilot is managed by Colleges and Institutes Canada. The training program is based on Douglas College’s Foundations model. The program is delivered by Douglas College, Confederation College, and Saskatchewan Polytechnic. SRDC is evaluating the programs’ implementation, as well as measuring their outcomes to guide repayments to social impact bond investors.

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The long-term impacts of a high school elective for AVID learners

Can a rigorous high school support and motivation program release the untapped potential of average students? This question was put to the test in the BC AVID Pilot Project.

AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. The program involves a student’s commitment to enrol in AVID elective courses in each year of high school, as well as the most rigorous academic courses available at the school. The overarching goal is to increase the proportion of formerly middle-achieving students who go on to postsecondary studies.

BC AVID employed an experimental design to test the impacts of the program on students entering grade nine. The students were randomly assigned to a program group who were offered the AVID elective, a control group who did not receive the offer or a waitlist group who could enrol in AVID if spaces were available. The original study followed each group of students for six years.

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New projects

Developing mentorship skills in the construction trades

Employers report that on-the-job mentorship is essential to developing qualified construction tradespeople yet the quality of mentorship varies greatly. Many tradespersons are required to mentor apprentices but few are actually trained to do so. And with construction industry sources forecasting unprecedented demand for new apprentices over the next decade, the importance of mentorship skills will only increase. SRDC is involved in two projects that address this mentorship training gap.

Building on earlier labour market information and sector needs analyses, SRDC is working with the Electrical Joint Training Committee of British Columbia to design, implement and evaluate an enhanced mentorship program for the electrical trades. The program will address the specific business needs and performance gaps identified by electrical contractors in the province.

Similarly, SRDC is designing a national experiment to test an innovative mentorship training model in four construction trades. Conducted in partnership with BuildForce Canada and SkillPlan, the project will recruit 80 contractors and 1200 tradespersons to participate in a randomized control trial. The trial will measure the effects of the program on the skills and performance of apprentices and journeyworkers, as well as on the business outcomes of participating firms. The project is funded by the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills, Employment and Social Development Canada.

See other SRDC demonstration projects on skills development

Supporting infrastructure self-reliance in Indigenous communities

The Indigenous Communities Public Works Project is a demand-driven approach to workforce development in First Nations communities. The initiative aims to strengthen employment opportunities for unemployed or underemployed Indigenous people, while providing communities with local expertise to address their infrastructure needs. The project partners include the Okanagan Training and Development Council, the Westbank First Nation and ASTTBC, a not-for-profit, provincial professional association/regulator. SRDC will conduct a feasibility study to assess the implementation of the concept and its viability for wider implementation.

Understanding the barriers to adult learning

Survey data suggest that adults face a number of barriers when considering a return to school or participation in a formal training program. Yet little is known about the impacts of these barriers or the types of aid that would help potential learners to overcome them. Funded by the Canada Student Loans Program and the Government of Manitoba, this project investigates the feasibility of a research program to identify the behavioural factors affecting individuals’ take-up of learning opportunities and the roles essential skills play in adult learning decision-making.

Connecting Arabic-speaking refugees to employers in the hospitality sector

This pilot in Surrey, British Columbia uses the behavioural economics concept of “nudging” in order to understand the practices of smaller employers in the hospitality sector related to recruiting and hiring refugees. S.U.C.C.E.S.S., a major immigrant service agency, is conducting the program. SRDC is evaluating the impacts of several nudges intended to induce employers and refugees to participate in an employment program in the hospitality industry.

Somali youth and family empowerment project

RAJO, the Somali word for hope, is the name of a program intended to reduce violence and increase resilience among Somali-Canadian youth, families, and communities in Ottawa and Edmonton. Program staff will work with Somali youth and families using a tiered intervention model that has been adapted for refugee communities by Boston Children’s Hospital. This is the first time the program will be delivered in Canada. Funded by Public Safety Canada, Canadian Friends of Somalia is conducting the project in collaboration with the Somali-Canadian Culture Society of Edmonton, and Boston Children’s Hospital. SRDC has been engaged as the evaluation partner.

News from SRDC

New staff in SRDC’s Ottawa and Vancouver offices

SRDC is pleased to welcome Lucie Chrétien, Zinaida Foltin, Rebecca Gibbons, Randall Hivert, and Wendy Lee to the Ottawa office and Heather Holroyd to the Vancouver office.

Lucie Chrétien is SRDC’s interim director of finance. Lucie oversees all SRDC financial operations and liaises with auditors, bankers, and statutory authorities. Lucie has managed financial systems and people for over 20 years in the not-for-profit and health care sectors, among others. Before joining SRDC in December 2017, Lucie worked for the Council of Canadians, the Eastern Ottawa Community Family Health Team, and the Ottawa Hospital. Lucie has a Chartered Accountant designation (CPA CA of Ontario) and a B.S. in Accounting from the Université du Québec en Outaouais.

Zinaida Foltin joined SRDC as a research associate in April 2018. Located in Ottawa, Zinaida brings extensive quantitative, qualitative, analytical, and writing experience. Her research interests include the economics of education, social networks, and peer effects. Zinaida taught undergraduate courses at King’s University College, University of Western Ontario, and McMaster University. Zinaida holds a Master of Economics from the University of Western Ontario, and a Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Commerce from McMaster University. She is currently completing a PhD in Economics from the University of Western Ontario.

Rebecca Gibbons recently arrived at SRDC’s Ottawa office as a researcher with a wealth of experience in qualitative, quantitative and evaluation techniques. Rebecca has worked on projects related to health issues across the lifespan, including children’s outdoor play, youth programs, health inequities and access to healthcare. She has also contributed to the planning and delivery of community health promotion programs in Canada, Nepal and Belize. Rebecca holds a Master in Public Health from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelor of Arts in Health Studies from Queen’s University.

Randall Hivert comes to SRDC in the role of interim controller. Randall is working on accounting, budgeting, internal financial reporting and analysis. Randall has over 10 years of financial management experience gained in the health sector and automotive industry. Before coming to SRDC, Randall worked for Harley-Davidson Canada and NAV Canada. Randall holds a Bachelor of Commerce, Accounting (Honours) from the University of Ottawa, and is in the final stages of obtaining his CPA designation.

Heather Holroyd joined SRDC as a research associate in December 2017. Working in the Vancouver office, Heather brings 10 years of research and evaluation experience in academia and the non-profit sector. She has experience in project management, qualitative and quantitative methods, and report writing. Her areas of expertise include the social and economic integration of newcomers, community engagement, and poverty reduction. Heather holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of British Columbia, an MA in Sociology from the University of Alberta, and a BA in Sociology from the University of British Columbia.

Wendy Lee joined SRDC’s Ottawa office as a researcher in 2018. Wendy has a decade of experience conducting projects in child development, psychology, and educational outcomes. She is proficient in a range of research methodologies, including study design, literature reviews, qualitative and quantitative methods and statistical analysis. She has applied her skills in both laboratory and community settings and has significant experience mobilizing research results for the benefit of health professionals, service providers and community groups. Prior to joining SRDC, Wendy completed post-doctoral research and taught undergraduate courses at the University of Ottawa. Wendy holds a PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of Minnesota, and a BSc in Psychology Research, Cognitive Science and Linguistics from the University of Toronto.

Introducing Dr. Christina Hackett

Congratulations to senior research associate Christina Hackett on the completion of her PhD in Health Policy from McMaster University. Dr. Hackett’s dissertation focused on the quantitative and qualitative relationships among the social determinants of health, physical and mental health, and health-related quality of life of Indigenous peoples in Canada, as well as factors that influence Indigenous community health providers’ workplace mental health.

Latest from the BC Centre for Employment Excellence

“Collaborating for Employment Success” at the BC Career Development Conference

On March 5, Susanna Gurr and Greg Lockwood of SRDC presented progress on Biz Hub at the BC Career Development Association’s annual conference in Vancouver. Biz Hub stimulates innovation in the employment services sector through collaborations among service providers, researchers and participants. It combines process management and behavioural techniques to creatively diagnose and address bottlenecks in service delivery through small-scale experimentation.

Chris Callanan of the North Island Employment Foundations Society and Barbara Dobson of Goodson Consulting joined Susanna and Greg to talk about how Biz Hub works to the benefit of employment service providers and their clients.

For more information on Biz Hub, see the Centre’s web site.