New study shows net benefits of Essential Skills training in the workplace - SRDC

New study shows net benefits of Essential Skills training in the workplace

August 18, 2014


Today SRDC is releasing the results of the UPSKILL: Essentials to Excel project. This study establishes a strong business case for well-designed Essential Skills training programs delivered in the workplace.

The decision to invest in workplace training is complex. To date few studies have reliably measured the effects of Essential Skills training or its return on investment. UPSKILL, sponsored by the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills — a branch of Employment and Social Development Canada, was designed to evaluate workplace Essential Skills training using state-of-the-art methods.

Focused on the accommodations industry, the study found that a well-designed program of Essential Skills training can deliver attractive returns on investment for employers. When bearing the full costs of training and release time for workers, firms are estimated to earn an average return of 23 per cent on their investment in the first year after providing training.

Employees also benefited in a number of ways from a small investment of time in the training program — typically about 20 hours. Literacy scores on a standardized test increased immediately after training and continued to rise through the following year as program participants applied their skills on and off the job. The proportion of participants who met industry certification standards for their occupation increased substantially compared to the control group not receiving training.

In addition to skills gains, program participants experienced significant improvements in job performance that were accompanied by a number of positive effects for businesses. A greater breadth of service quality and improved relations with customers were observed, leading to increased customer loyalty, repeat sales, and higher revenues. Increased task efficiency and accuracy led to fewer errors and lower costs of supervision. Ultimately, improved performance was accompanied by greater job retention, leading to higher earnings for employees and lower turnover costs for employers.

The benefits of UPSKILL training were not concentrated among those with higher levels of education or skill. In fact, the greatest impacts of training on skills and job performance were found among those with lower scores on the pre-training skill tests.

UPSKILL provides many insights on how to effectively engage employers, how best to implement Essential Skills training, and on the conditions that are more likely to lead to success. One of the keys to its effectiveness is in integrating Essential Skills training within the workplace in a way that is highly relevant to workers’ job tasks and employers’ business priorities.

The UPSKILL study involved 100 firms which were randomly assigned to a program group or a control group. Among the 1500 employees in the study, those in program group firms received the UPSKILL training and those in control group firms did not. Thus program-to-control-group comparisons provide direct measures of the impact of UPSKILL training.

The UPSKILL study benefited from the contributions of many organizations. The program was designed and implemented in partnership with the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council, the Training Group at Douglas College, SkillPlan, and more than a dozen industry training partners in eight provinces.

Read UPSKILL Highlights.

Read UPSKILL Summary Report.

Read UPSKILL Technical Report.


For more information on UPSKILL, please contact:

David Gyarmati (English inquiries)
Research director, SRDC
[email protected]

Jean-Pierre Voyer (French inquiries)
SRDC President and CEO
[email protected]

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