Building the essential skills Foundations of job seekers
The Foundations Workplace Skills Project, a three-year initiative led by the Training Group at Douglas College, found that literacy and essential skills training can lead to significant benefits — like higher wages and occupationally relevant skills — for unemployed job seekers. SRDC used a randomized control trial design to evaluate the impacts of the program, the first such evaluation of a program model specifically targeting essential skills development among the unemployed.
Foundations is a multi-stage training model that embeds essential skills assessment and upgrading within career development services. Participants create an inventory of their own skills while researching the skill requirements of their targeted occupations. They then develop and follow individual training plans to close the gap between their skills and those required in the target occupation. The evaluation design enables direct comparisons of outcomes for program participants versus a control group which had access to all other existing services for job seekers.
The “Foundation” of the program is to develop the essential skills of participants. Indeed, the study found that participants’ scores in numeracy, document use, and reading had increased significantly by the end of the 12-week program. Participants were also more likely than the control group to use such skills in everyday activities a year later. Similarly, Foundations had a positive impact on career adaptability and the propensity to engage in further career-related training.
Foundations participants and those in the control group were equally likely to be employed during the 12 months covered by the study. However, participants in the program were more likely to be in high wage jobs, in higher skilled occupations and be satisfied or highly satisfied with their job. They were also less likely to be overqualified, according to their educational credentials, for their job.
Sub-group analyses indicated that results depended to some extent on the characteristics of participants. For example, program impacts on wages and occupational skill level were particularly strong for highly-educated recent immigrants. Among the Canadian born, those with lower levels of education benefited in terms of skills use, career adaptability and subsequent training.
Previous studies had found correlations between higher literacy skill and employment-related indicators. The Foundations Workplace Skills Project adds rigorous evidence on the benefits of occupationally-relevant essential skills training for job seekers.
Read the implementation and 12-week impacts report.
Read the 12-month impacts report.
Can Paying for Success improve employment services?
Pay for performance models reward employment and training service providers at least partially on program milestones and results rather than just the number of people enrolled in the program. SRDC’s evaluation of the Pay for Success demonstration project indicates that such program models are feasible and can add value for program participants, workforce development organizations and funding agencies. The study found that the attainment of such results requires significant investments in consultation, planning, training, monitoring and ongoing program adjustments.
The Pay for Success Project was a partnership among Workplace Education Manitoba (WEM), SRDC, and the Provinces of Manitoba and Nova Scotia, funded under Employment and Social Development Canada’s social innovation initiative. Three employment-related training organizations, offering skills development to a range of target groups, were recruited to participate in the project. While Pay for Success was adapted to the unique circumstances of each organization, each implementation included incentives for reaching program milestones, achieving results for participants and introducing service innovations.
Overall, the program led to a more insightful and adaptive approach to service delivery among the organizations involved in the pilot. The incentive structure helped them to see service delivery as a pathway leading to more comprehensive program planning, deeper engagement with employers, and a fuller range of supports to help job seekers meet their training objectives.
The study found outcomes like skill scores and employability indicators improved for participants. However, it was not possible to directly attribute such results to the pay for performance aspects of the model due to other service innovations introduced during the pilot.
A series of recommendations is intended to make funding agencies and service delivery organization aware of the conditions, resources and supports required for the broader implementation of pay-for-performance principles in the workforce development community.
Read the report.
Raising the Grade for disadvantaged youth
Developed as a partnership between the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada and Rogers Communications, Raising the Grade aims to promote academic engagement among young people and increase their rate of high school completion and participation in post-secondary education. SRDC’s evaluation of the development and outcomes of the program supported efforts to overcome the challenge of implementing a national program in a short time frame and maximize its benefits for participating youth.
Raising the Grade was designed to provide young people at risk of dropping out of high school with academic support, technology-based learning opportunities, career exploration and discovery, mentorship, and positive, supportive relationships.
The partners brought different strengths to the project. BGCC and participating Clubs have experience and expertise in academic support program design and delivery, engaging children in club activities, and supporting them through positive relationships. Rogers provided funding and technological expertise.
Over the course of the program’s implementation in 37 Clubs, Raising the Grade evolved from a fairly narrowly prescribed set of supports for a particular target population to a more wide-reaching program with a range of available supports that can be customized to participants’ needs. Nevertheless, the evaluation highlighted the importance of one-to-one mentoring and skill development as core elements of the program.
While the evaluation was not designed to provide rigorous measures of program impacts, it did provide solid evidence that the program was particularly beneficial for the key target group of youth at risk.
Read the report.
Evaluation of Student Financial Assistance Programs for Aboriginal Learners
SRDC is undertaking an evaluation to provide recommendations on improving access to postsecondary education for Aboriginal learners. Key questions include: whether Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP)-eligible First Nations and Inuit students who are turned down for PSSSP funding apply for provincial and federal student financial assistance; whether these learners are more likely to abandon or delay their plans for postsecondary; whether Aboriginal learners are more debt-averse than non-Aboriginal learners; whether certain groups are more likely to apply for and receive assistance; whether Aboriginal learners who receive assistance are more likely to default on loans, and if so, what are the reasons for this.
These questions are being answered through a combination of three research and evaluation activities: reviews of existing research evidence on learners' financial barriers to accessing post-secondary education and available sources of financial aid, as well as evidence on debt aversion; analysis of administrative records on applicants and recipients of federal and provincial aid; and primary data collection with Aboriginal people. The project will conclude with recommendations for federal and provincial governments to improve post-secondary education access for Aboriginal learners, including an impact analysis of proposed program changes.
Enhancing Volunteer Recruitment and Retention
The study explores the motivations and constraints facing volunteer firefighters to support the development of an enhanced set of recruitment and retention practices, particularly in rural communities. The project is a partnership with the Community Development and Homelessness Partnerships Directorate of Employment and Social Development Canada, funded by the Canadian Safety and Security Program. The project seeks to augment existing outreach strategies and messaging to create better alignment with volunteers’ motivations and constraints through multiple methods, including behavioural-based analyses. The feasibility of the new model will be tested through a small-scale pilot.
Patient Portal Value Proposition
SRDC is working with Canada Health Infoway to assess the value and impact of Canadians’ access to online Personal Health Records (PHR) in terms of accessibility, quality, and productivity in healthcare. As a part of this study, SRDC is completing a targeted literature review and evidence synthesis focused on the value of Canadians of being able to access their online healthcare information. This work will support the development of a quantitative model estimating the value of such access for citizens and health system stakeholders. SRDC will also help to identify critical success factors that maximize the benefits of online PHR access. The primary audiences for this project include federal and provincial/territorial ministries of health, health systems organizations, and digital health leaders.
News from SRDC
Latest from the BC Centre for Employment Excellence
The team at the Centre is pleased to share the 2016-17 CfEE Annual Report. Click here to view it in full.
This year’s report summarizes the Centre’s fifth year of operations. Since launching in 2012, the Centre has supported training and capacity building for service providers and career development practitioners in BC. In this short period, the Centre and its partners have established a promising institutional approach to foster and support knowledge and innovation – a model that has been adopted and adapted in three other provinces.
The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction’s funding agreement to support the Centre’s core activities ended on May 31st. However, the Centre’s Web site and its information and resources will continue to be available to support BC’s employment sector. Over the coming months, the Centre’s team will be looking for ways to keep the web site active and some of its core content up-to-date for its 2,500 monthly visitors.
The Centre will remain active in research and innovation projects, both with ongoing projects and the pursuit of partnerships with community partners, employers and others to find innovative solutions to real-world problems. Ongoing projects include:
- Employment Navigator Pilot Project with Lookout Emergency Aid Society and Open Door Group;
- Youth Social Enterprises Pilot Project with Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria;
- Income Calculator BC with Disability Alliance of BC, Turn2Us and Back in Motion/Avia Employment Services;
- Biz Hub with several pilot sites in WorkBC Centres;
- BC Partners in Workforce Innovation with Employment Action Committee (comprising Community Living BC, Open Door Group, Neil Squire Society, Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion, Flaherty and Associates and MacLeod Silver HR Business Partners), 20 employers/industry partners, and approximately 25 service delivery partners; and
- Evaluation of Micro Credentials for Adult Learners (Decoda Literacy Solutions).
For more information on these projects, please see the Research and Innovation section of the Centre’s web site.
New researchers in SRDC’s Ottawa and Vancouver offices
SRDC is pleased to welcome Caroline Babin and Sophie-Claire Valiquette-Tessier to the Ottawa office and Michael Hewlett to the Vancouver office.
Caroline Babin brings multidisciplinary academic expertise in social sciences and considerable professional experience to her role as a research associate at SRDC. Caroline has worked at the National Public Health Institute of Quebec, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health. Her professional interests include the health and well-being of vulnerable populations, as well as the issues of equality and equity. Caroline is applying her expertise to health and education projects at SRDC. She holds a BA in Social Work from Laval University and an MA in Sexology (Research-Intervention) from the Université du Québec à Montréal. She has also completed doctoral studies in Population Health at the University of Ottawa.
Sophie-Claire Valiquette-Tessier, a PhD candidate in Experimental Psychology at the University of Ottawa, recently joined SRDC as a researcher. Mrs. Valiquette-Tessier has experience applying both quantitative and qualitative methodologies in evaluations covering government, private, and community organizations. She has conducted evaluation and research projects exploring issues such as single parenthood, university studies, and immigration.
Michael Hewlett comes to SRDC with experience spanning impact, process, and economic evaluations. Most recently, Michael has been providing evaluation services to Winnipeg projects serving low-income students, high schoolers and refugees. Mr. Hewlett holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts & Science from McMaster University and an MSc in Evidence Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation at Oxford University. While an undergraduate, Michael co-founded the McMaster Social Innovation Lab: a 45-member start-up that helps students develop interventions by teaching them design thinking, guiding them to apply their academics to social problems and the engagement of key stakeholders. Michael will initially work on projects in the education and employment services sector.
Congratulations to our colleague Basia Pakula!
All SRDC staff would like to congratulate our colleague Basia Pakula who just completed her PhD in Population and Public Health, with a concentration in Epidemiology, from the University of British Columbia. Dr. Pakula’s dissertation provides the first national estimates for mental health disorders among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual Canadians. Her analysis reveals sexual minorities face a disproportionate mental health burden, linked to stress and social isolation. Her research will be informing policies seeking the elimination of mental health disparities.