Employment and Social Development Canada’s inaugural Service Research Conference was held in Ottawa on November 28. The Conference brought researchers together to share insights and ultimately improve front-line services for Canadians. SRDC shared research results in two sessions.
SRDC president Jean-Pierre Voyer presented the results of several Life After High School studies in a session on behavioural insights. Life After High School nudges students towards postsecondary study using behavioural economics principles. Working in collaboration with Phil Oreopoulos of the University of Toronto, SRDC conducted randomized control trials of the program in British Columbia and Ontario, and managed its integration into the grade 12 curriculum in a number of Ontario schools.
In a session on predictive analytics, SRDC senior research associate Max Palamar presented how these techniques could be applied to the alignment of employment program features to client needs; planning and targeting of employment services resources; and improving outcomes for vulnerable jobseekers.
SRDC is delighted to welcome Tim Brodhead to its Board of Directors. Mr. Brodhead is a leader and expert in social innovation. He was President and CEO of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation for sixteen years. Prior to joining McConnell, Tim spent twenty-five years working in international development. Mr. Brodhead continues to hold leadership and advisory roles with a number of organizations addressing innovation and development issues.
Two SRDC research projects were presented at the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, APPAM, in Washington DC in November.
Reuben Ford discussed the long-term results of the Future to Discover demonstration project in a presentation entitled “Is Promising Student Aid Early a Promising Approach?” Spoiler alert: the answer is Yes.
Dr. Ford also presented a paper on Manitoba Works, an innovative workforce development program. Lead author Karen Myers describes it as a hybrid model in which service providers work closely with employers to understand their needs, while preparing job seekers to meet those needs. The program is designed for social assistance recipients who have multiple barriers to employment. Early results from a randomized control trial are promising, notably in reducing reliance on social assistance benefits.
The federal government provides almost $3 billion annually to provinces and territories through four transfer agreements to support training and employment programming. To ensure that the agreements continue to be relevant and responsive to labour market needs, all participating governments conducted consultations in the summer of 2016. SRDC was engaged by the Secretariat of the Forum of Labour Market Ministers to write a summary report on the outcomes of the consultations to inform the labour market agreements’ renewal.
SRDC organized a half-day session in September to share innovative approaches, research, and evaluation with senior officials of federal, provincial, and territorial labour market ministries. The session featured presentations on recent initiatives to identify best practices, improve program effectiveness, and foster innovation in employment and training programs. SRDC staff presented demonstration project results related to specific innovative approaches to employment and training programs, best practices in the delivery of those programs and the integration of research insights into practice, notably through the operation of the BC Centre for Employment Excellence. Senior provincial officials provided context on how these and other projects respond to their respective program and policy objectives.
In August, SRDC was invited by ESDC to hold a one-day seminar to present SRDC’s approach to working with provincial governments to improve the performance of their employment and training services. The agenda included: wide-ranging program reviews that ensure solid evidence is employed in the policy-making cycle; innovative employment programs that address the needs of disadvantaged groups; and knowledge mobilization projects — notably the BC Centre for Employment Excellence — that connect practitioners with useful research and evaluation insights. SRDC presented results from projects conducted in Ontario, Manitoba, B.C., and Nova Scotia. The event was hosted by ESDC’s Evaluation Directorate and the Skills and Employment Branch.
SRDC is conducting evaluations of two pilot projects for Essential Skills training based on innovative funding models. In both cases, private sector investors paying up-front for training will be reimbursed a portion of the training costs if participants achieve targeted skills gains. The projects are sponsored by Employment and Social Development Canada. Read Colleges and Institutes Canada’s recent press release on one of these pilots.