Literacy and essential skills

Labour Market Transfer Agreements summary report

Employment and skills training programming and services in Canada are supported and delivered by federal, provincial, and territorial governments. The federal government provides almost $3 billion annually to provinces and territories through four major bilateral transfer agreements to support training and employment programming for Canadians. The design and delivery of the programs and services funded under these agreements are the responsibility of provinces and territories. This includes programs and services for unemployed workers eligible for Employment Insurance (EI), individuals without recent or sustained labour market attachment (non-EI insured), low-skilled workers, employers, persons with disabilities, and older workers. The 2016 Federal Budget announced new investments for 2016-17 totaling an additional $175 million. This is the first step in a plan to boost support for skills and training through the transfer agreements. To further ensure that these agreements continue to be relevant, flexible, and responsive to new and emerging labour market needs and priorities, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments have collaboratively embarked on a process in the summer 2016 to gather stakeholder input on these important investments. SRDC summarizes the outcomes of the consultations related to the labour market agreements renewal in this report.

Start-end date: August 2016 - September 2016
Sponsor: Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité sociale du Québec

An Innovative Cluster Training Model for New Brunswick Small Business

Development and pilot testing of a multi-level cluster-based training model for New Brunswick small businesses, who lack the capacity for traditional workplace training approaches. The project documents best practices in cluster training and refines existing needs assessments and evaluation tools for pooled small business delivery. The new model will be pilot tested with 6 firms and up to 24 employees in 2-3 clusters. SRDC is leading the evaluation in partnership with the Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick (TIANB) with funding from New Brunswick’s Department of Post-secondary Education Training and Labour.

New Brunswick Government news release

 

Start-end date: July 2016 - March 2017
Sponsor: Tourism Industry Association of New Brunswick

Mentorship and Skills Development in BC's Construction Sector: A Needs Analysis

The large majority of technical training in the skilled building trades takes place on the job through mentoring relationships. Employers report mentorship as the key to developing a qualified tradesperson — however, they also report the quality of mentorship as drastically uneven. Many tradespersons are required to mentor apprentices but have never been prepared adequately to do so. This project supports the development and evaluation of mentorship training models in BC’s construction sector. The focus is on the electrical trade, the largest of skilled building trades in BC. The design includes a sector needs analysis where we explore the most prominent skills and job performance gaps and business needs through key informant interviews and a province-wide survey of electrical contractors. The primary goal of this analysis is to understand the role that quality mentorship can play in addressing these skills and performance gaps and to support the design and evaluation of a mentorship training model in a subsequent pilot.

Government of British Columbia news release

 

Start-end date: May 2016 - March 2017
Sponsor: Electrical Joint Training Committee

Cross-sector knowledge translation and engagement on UPSKILL Health

Upskill Health is a supplementary analysis of data collected through UPSKILL to explore the health-related outcomes of workplace LES training in terms of the physical and mental health of individual workers, as well as workplace performance and business outcomes. Upskill Health builds evidence on the impact of concrete interventions to address key social determinants of health such as literacy and employment, and informs workplace skill development policies and programs by demonstrating that there are measurable health and business outcomes associated with improvements in LES.

With continued financial support from PHAC, SRDC is developing a knowledge translation and engagement (KTE) strategy to share the results and implications of Upskill Health with key government and external stakeholders in the business, LES, and mental health communities. This strategy of facilitating cross-sector dialogue is intended to support the Agency in its mandate of leveraging action on social determinants of health.

Start-end date: March 2016 - March 2017
Sponsor: Public Health Agency of Canada

The Role of Employment Social Enterprises in Supporting Transitioning Youth

The BC Centre for Employment Excellence and its partner, the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria, are conducting a demonstration project to evaluate the role of Employment Social Enterprises (ESEs) in supporting the labour market transitions of youth facing barriers to developing their career potential. The project partners with local social entrepreneurs, employment service providers and employers to generate work placements in new or existing ESEs that focus on employing barriered youth, giving youth participants the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and skill development that is in line with local labour market opportunities. This project is designed to fill a gap in knowledge with regard to understanding the role that transitional placements in ESEs can play in improving employment outcomes for at-risk youth.

Start-end date: February 2016 - January 2019
Sponsor: British Columbia Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation

Determinants of Participation in Indigenous Labour Market Programs

The primary goal of this project is to identify barriers to participation in ESDC Indigenous Labour Market Programs: the Aboriginal Skills and Training Program; the Skills and Partnership Fund; and the First Nations Job Fun (joint project with IAND). The project includes: a document review and environmental scan of program evaluations and recent policy research; key informant interviews with program agreement holders; and an exploratory analysis of program administrative data.

Start-end date: February 2016 - March 2016
Sponsor: Employment and Social Development Canada

Essential Adult Skills Initiative (EASI)

The Essential Adult Skills Initiative (EASI) is a pilot project using the OECD’s newest version of the PIAAC assessment instrument, Education and Skills Online. The pilot is designed (a) to explore the practical challenges of administering the test to substantial numbers of PSE students and (b) to establish the utility of Education and Skills Online to assess PSE student skills. SRDC is advising the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario on planned survey design and analysis including sample size estimation.

Start-end date: January 2016 - December 2016
Sponsor: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

The role of subjective attitudes and beliefs in financial decision-making of Canadians

While many Canadians lack basic financial literacy, mounting evidence from behavioural economics suggests that financial decisions are also frequently undermined by psychological factors. Even with the requisite financial knowledge and literacy skills, people are prone to various kinds of cognitive biases when making financial decisions such as those related to evaluating risk and uncertainty or the time value of money. This project undertakes an analysis of the 2014 Canadian Financial Capability Survey (CFCS) with the aim of understanding the role of cognitive biases in the financial decision-making of Canadians, with a particular focus on youth, aboriginals, and those with low incomes.

Start-end date: September 2015 - March 2016
Sponsor: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

The role of financial literacy on financial decisions and retirement preparedness among seniors and older adults

Recent evidence suggests that many seniors and older adults may struggle to manage their finances. On assessments of financial capability, Canadian seniors and older adults fared poorly on objective measures of financial knowledge including those with high self-rated skills. These gaps may have serious consequences for financial decision-making, particularly among those heading into retirement. This project analyzes the 2014 Canadian Financial Capability Survey (CFCS) to understand the challenges that Canadian seniors and older adults face with financial literacy, how these relate to financial outcomes, and retirement preparedness.

Start-end date: September 2015 - March 2016
Sponsor: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Essential skills and OHS training pilot project

This project examines the role that essential skills can play in occupational health and safety (OHS) training. The project adds essential skills training in numeracy and document use into existing hoisting and rigging OHS training, examines the challenges of this addition, and estimates the impacts of the essential skills training on trainees’ performance on the assessments already used after the training, as well as their performance on numeracy and document use essential skills assessments.

Start-end date: July 2015 - December 2016
Sponsor: Institute for Work and Health

Analysis of PIAAC Data and Development of Evidence Base on Adult Learning for Ontario

This study examines the literacy skills proficiency distribution among key subgroups in the province of Ontario including recent immigrants, Aboriginals, Francophone, youth, and older workers. The objective is to inform policy direction with respect to resource targeting for adult learning initiatives in the province. Among other sources, the project utilizes the latest data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).

Start-end date: March 2015 - September 2015
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

Essential Skills in Douglas College

The Essential Skills in Douglas College (ES in DC) program is offering up to 20 hours of in-class Essential Skills training to students in selected programs. By targeting the training to learner needs, and utilizing occupationally-relevant materials, the program aims to increase students’ literacy and essential skills, and their academic success. The study includes a research framework, designing pre- and post-training student surveys, and analysing administrative data from school records and literacy scores in addition to the survey data. Using historical program data from the school records, SRDC conducts a comparative analysis to estimate program impacts in addition to measuring the outcomes of interest.

Start-end date: August 2014 - August 2015
Sponsor: Douglas College

Essential Skills Social and Economic Impacts

Essential Skills Impacts is the first phase in a larger project to assess the extent to which gains in Essential Skills (ES) are associated with long-term gains on a wide range of social and economic outcomes, including health outcomes, involvement with the criminal justice system, and early childhood education. This project uses the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy’s longitudinal databases to link gains in Essential Skills to a series of socioeconomic indicators of interest. As a preliminary step, the study reviews the reliability and validity of the ES assessments currently being used in Manitoba.

Start-end date: June 2014 - October 2015
Sponsor: Workplace Education Manitoba

UpSkill Health and Mental Health Outcomes Study

This project is a sub-study of the original UpSkill project, which used an experimental design to evaluate the impact of workplace Literacy and Essential Skills (LES) training on individuals and firms in the tourism accommodations sector. This sub-study conducts an in-depth analysis of how literacy influences health and mental health for both workers and firms, using the considerable data collected through UpSkill. The study identifies the potential of non-health interventions such as LES training to improve population health.

Start-end date: January 2014 - September 2015
Sponsor: Public Health Agency of Canada

Evaluation of Social Finance Pilots

SRDC is conducting an evaluation of two pilot projects for Essential Skills training based on performance-based funding models. One project is being managed by Alberta Workforce Essential Skills, and will provide workplace essential skills training to lower-skilled employed persons. The other is for low-skilled unemployed persons and is headed by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges. In both cases, private sector investors paying up-front for training will be reimbursed a portion of the training costs if participants achieve targeted levels of skills gain. The research includes a range of outcomes of interest including indicators of employability and performance measurement, and will analyze the return on investment in training.

Start-end date: January 2014 - December 2018
Sponsor: Employment and Social Development Canada

Design of a Learning Management System for the Training Group at Douglas College

The project designs a common learning management system (LMS) for the Training Group at Douglas College so that the organization can conduct business analytics and analyze program outcomes in order to inform program development and to demonstrate outcomes achieved to program stakeholders. The project involves analyzing existing data management information collected for individual programs, identifying common and unique data collection needs across programs, and analyzing funder reporting needs and trends to design a common, standardized learning management system and reporting protocol.

Start-end date: December 2013 - August 2014
Sponsor: The Training Group at Douglas College

Manitoba Works! evaluation

The purpose of the research is to test the Government of Manitoba’s Manitoba Works! employment service model in the real-world setting of Manitoba’s new and evolving employment continuum and to assess its effectiveness for improving the labour market success of individuals who are receiving EIA and/or have complex needs. The research will assess gains on outcomes of interest among participants compared to non-participants, model cost-effectiveness, model implementation, and identify key success factors.

Start date: November 2013
Sponsor: Manitoba Department of Jobs and the Economy

Pay for Success

A pilot project aiming to develop and test an innovative performance-based approach to funding Essential Skills service delivery in the provinces of Manitoba and Nova Scotia. This pilot project is the first Canadian test of a “pay for success” model for Essential Skills delivery. The model is designed to stimulate innovation in service delivery, encourage a community of practice for delivery of Essential Skills services, and improve longer-term employment outcomes for underrepresented groups in the labour force.

Start-end date: September 2013 - June 2017
Sponsor: Workplace Education Manitoba

Skills Bridge essential skills pilot project in BC

Skills Bridge offers Essential Skills training with the aim of ensuring that participants in academic, trades training, and apprenticeship programs emerge fully ready for employment. The pilot project is an outcome evaluation of a system of Essential Skills coaching at three sites – Douglas College, North Island College, and SkillPlan. The performance measures include Essential Skills learning gains, student engagement, and grades. The study develops an evaluation framework and survey instruments, and includes a cost-effectiveness analysis. Implementation of Skills Bridge at the three pilot sites informs a larger consortium of educational institutions implementing Essential Skills training for their students. SRDC is a research partner in the pilot project funded by the participating colleges and industry training institutions.

Start-end date: September 2013 - April 2014
Sponsor: DataAngel Policy Research Inc.

The Foundations Pilot Project

This project is a three-year initiative led by the Training Group at Douglas College, British Columbia. It tests: a) whether a skill assessment and upgrading program delivery model targeted specifically to meet the needs of low-skilled job seekers can be successfully implemented across several sites nationally, and b) what impacts the program may have on a variety of outcomes, such as participation in college-level training, employment, and labour market advancement. Approximately 500 job seekers were recruited, half of whom were randomly assigned to receive program services while the other half served as a control group. The study includes an evaluation framework and research design, as well as implementation, impact, and cost-benefit analyses.

Start-end date: July 2013 - June 2016
Sponsor: Training Group at Douglas College

Review of Employment and Training Programs

The purpose of this Program Review is to assist the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in developing an evidence-based framework for the potential integration and ongoing evaluation of employment and training programs. To achieve this SRDC uses a comprehensive approach including: environmental scan, review of program documents, extensive discussions with MTCU staff, analysis of existing state of knowledge reviews that SRDC has conducted, key informant interviews with other ministries, value for money techniques, stakeholder consultations, policy analysis, and program design. Based on findings from the review of in-scope programs and consultations with key stakeholders as well as an analysis of the existing research on effective and/or promising approaches to employment and training services, SRDC develops high level recommendations for a potential future state of the Ontario employment and training system.

Start-end date: December 2012 - December 2013
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities

SustainAbilities essential skills upgrading project in the Athabasca Oil Sands area - Phase I

Development of a research framework and instruments to support an outcomes evaluation for the SustainAbilities project – a large-scale workplace Essential Skills training initiative in Wood Buffalo Oil Sands region, with some 3,000 frontline workers annually. Phase I involves the design of the research framework and baseline survey instruments. Future phases will involve the design of protocols for implementation research and survey instruments for assessing post-training outcomes, including performance outcomes of workers and firms.

Start-end date: October 2012 - January 2013
Sponsor: DataAngel Policy Research Inc.

Digital Essential Skills Online Training in Rural Small Businesses

SRDC participated in this project to develop, implement, and evaluate an online digital skills assessment and training program intended to increase the digital skills of rural small businesses and their employees, as well as the capacity of businesses to increase these skills. The training was piloted in 10 small businesses, 2 in each of 5 rural communities across Canada, with up to 100 employees participating. SRDC designed skills assessment, employer and employee surveys, and interview protocols and analyzed the data gathered, in order to evaluate the implementation of the digital skills assessment and training tools and to measure the effects of the training on rural small businesses and their employees.

Start-end date: October 2012 - February 2016
Sponsor: Restigouche Community Business Development Corporation

Evaluation of the Northern Skills Training Pilot Initiative

This project evaluates the Northern Skills Training Pilot, an essential skills training initiative aimed at up-skilling low-skilled unionized employed workers in the forestry and mining sectors in three northern regions of British Columbia. At the start of the evaluation, the initiative involved approximately 300 participants, but this number increased to nearly 600 during the evaluation. The evaluation determines (a) the extent to which targeted workers are receiving and responding to the employer outreach activities and making applications to the program, (b) whether the essential skills training is being delivered as expected, and (c) whether the essential skill levels of program participants are increasing following engagement with the NST Pilot services.

Start-end date: October 2012 - June 2013
Sponsor: B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training

Understanding the impact of numeracy and literacy skills on financial capability

In collaboration with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, this SRDC study explores the link between Essential Skills and financial capability as well as the impact of workplace-based Essential Skills training on financial capability. Financial capability is defined as the ability to make informed financial decisions. This research study is part of the broader UPSKILL: Essentials to Excel demonstration project and aims to provide a better understanding of the relation between two domains of financial capability (managing money and planning ahead) with the TOWES essential skills scores (numeracy and document use). The study also explores other links between financial capability and important psycho-social outcomes and job performance indicators.

Start-end date: September 2012 - February 2014
Sponsor: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Labour Market Study of Literacy and Essential Skills Workers

SRDC was commissioned to design, administer, and analyze the results of a first-ever national online survey of professionals involved in the delivery of literacy and essential skills services as instructors, skills assessors, and program developers. As there was no survey sample frame, it was necessary to first engage organizations involved in the delivery of LES services in some way and to ask them to assist SRDC by forwarding the survey invitation and link to employed or contracted workers who deliver LES services. Organizations approached include those that deliver LES services directly, as well as those that do so as part of other services they provide to targeted groups such as persons with disabilities, Aboriginal persons, and new immigrants. The project also involves protocol design for key informant interviews conducted by the client with LES stakeholders to review the survey content. This survey is part of a larger labour market study of essential and literacy skills workers.

Start-end date: June 2012 - August 2013
Sponsor: Canadian Literacy and Learning Network

Expert panel – Evaluation of the Workplace Skills Initiative

SRDC was asked to participate in an expert discussion panel as part of the evaluation of the Workplace Skills Initiative (WSI). WSI provided funding to projects that tested approaches to workplace skills development and human resource management in Canada, with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises. The evaluation determines the extent to which the WSI was effective in achieving its objectives and identifying best practices and lessons learned for future programming.

Start-end date: December 2011 - January 2012
Sponsor: EKOS Research Associates Inc.

Pay for Performance Project

SRDC collaborated with Workplace Education Manitoba (WEM) to explore ideas for experimenting with different performance-based funding (PBF) approaches for Essential Skills training. The project investigates the state of knowledge in PBF and identifies key lessons learned, opportunities, and promising directions. Building on promising directions, SRDC designs program model(s) for pilot testing in Manitoba and Nova Scotia and an evaluation to investigate the model(s) effects.

Start-end date: December 2011 - June 2012
Sponsor: Workplace Education Manitoba

BC Workplace Training Project

SRDC collaborated with Douglas College to design and conduct an evaluation of an Essential Skills training program designed to upgrade the transferable skills of 1,200 eligible participants working in the tourism and retail sectors throughout British Columbia. The Workplace Training Program is funded by the BC Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation. The program is delivered by the Continuing Education and Training Association of BC (CETABC), which is a consortium of post-secondary institutions. The evaluation involves both implementation and outcomes research.

Start-end date: December 2011 - March 2013
Sponsor: The Training Group at Douglas College

The SCALES Project

This project is a three-year initiative led by CONNECT Strategic Alliances that seeks to provide career practitioners with tools to identify and meet the Literacy and Essential Skills (LES) needs of unemployed or underemployed Canadians, in an effort to enhance their employment prospects. The purpose of the SCALES project is to increase the capacity of employment counsellors to develop return-to-work action plans that include LES assessments, and to develop a set of tools and best practices that will integrate a range of LES approaches into active employment measures. CONNECT engaged SRDC to develop a field research strategy and research instruments for the purpose of investigating the needs of career practitioners in identifying and addressing clients’ LES needs. SRDC also analyzed the research results and submitted a final report to inform tool development.

Start-end date: January 2011 - May 2011
Sponsor: CONNECT Strategic Alliances

ESWS Service Delivery Model in Action

A follow-up study of the Essential Skills Workplace Services (ESWS) delivery model, which was implemented from 2008-2010 by The Training Group at Douglas College in partnership with a national consortium of colleges specializing in workplace essential skills training. This research study aims to provide a rich understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of the ESWS model along with a series of practical lessons in its implementation. Particular attention is given to the fundamental role of employer engagement and how essential skills training and its benefits are best communicated in a workplace setting.

Start-end date: December 2010 - March 2011
Sponsor: The Training Group at Douglas College

Workplace Literacy and Essential Skills Initiatives: Measuring and Legitimating Success to Expand Access

A demonstration project designed to develop and apply a comprehensive evaluation model to measure the long-term outcomes of workplace literacy and essential skills initiatives in Manitoba and Nova Scotia. It builds on an evidence-based model developed in New Zealand that integrates quantitative and qualitative measures. The model has been modified to the Canadian context and applies to 20 selected workplace LES initiatives in Manitoba and Nova Scotia, provinces that have invested in sustained workplace essential skills programs for two decades. SRDC is responsible for the evaluation framework and research strategy.

Start-end date: July 2010 - December 2012
Sponsor: The Centre for Literacy of Quebec

Family Partnership Framework for Integrated Family Literacy Planning Project

To provide advice and technical assistance for the development of a partnership framework and cross-ministerial engagement strategy that forms the basis of a province-wide family literacy strategy.

Start-end date: February 2010 - October 2011
Sponsor: Ontario Literacy Coalition

Adult Learning and Returns to Training

The design and implementation of an integrated and multi-disciplinary research program to measure a comprehensive range of economic and social returns to learning to inform adult learning policy development.

Start-end date: February 2010 - November 2013
Sponsor: Employment and Social Development Canada
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UPSKILL: Essentials to Excel - Literacy and Essential Skills in the Workplace

A large-scale demonstration project to measure the impacts of literacy and essential skills (LES) training in the workplace. The project uses a random assignment design to provide the most reliable measures of the impacts of LES training on workers skills, their job performance, and other outcomes relevant to workers and firm-level objectives. Approximately 80-100 firms and 1,200 workers participated, half of whom received training; the other half served as a control group in the study.

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Start-end date: February 2010 - February 2014
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Office of Literacy and Essential Skills

Learning and Active Employment Programs

An examination of the participation of low-skilled adults in literacy and employment training programs and the role that literacy and other factors have in explaining take-up and program effectiveness. Drawing on lessons from an initial qualitative study and consultation phase, design options for experiments are proposed to improve the take-up and delivery of public training programs.

Start-end date: August 2009 - September 2010
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Design of a Demonstration Project to Evaluate Workplace-based Literacy and Essential Skills Training

A design for a demonstration project using random assignment to measure the impacts of Literacy and Essential Skills (LES) training in the workplace.

Start-end date: May 2009 - September 2009
Sponsor: Human Resources and Skills Development Canada

Skills Upgrading for Ontario Working Age Adults: An Environmental Scan of Programs, Gaps, and Opportunities

A review of existing workforce and workplace-based skills training in Canada and selected international jurisdictions. The study provides a detailed examination of the most promising models and conducts a preliminary analysis of the feasibility of implementing them in an Ontario context.

Start-end date: April 2009 - August 2009
Sponsor: Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities