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Publicly funded skills training works when aligned with employers’ needs, new IRPP study shows

May 18, 2021 Print

Montreal — Over the past year, thousands of working-age adults have been permanently laid off across Canada. A new study from the Institute for Research on Public Policy gives these workers reason to hope that properly designed skills training programs can help them get re-employed.

In the study, Karen Myers, Simon Harding and Kelly Pasolli (Blueprint) show that publicly funded skills training can be effective, despite common perceptions to the contrary, as long as it’s aligned with employers’ needs.

The researchers examine two training models that have been adopted widely in the United States and have been shown to significantly improve outcomes for participants. In sector-based training, providers identify employers’ needs in targeted industries and design programs that meet those needs; and in Career Pathways, sector-based training is combined with post-secondary credentials to help workers make career progress in growth sectors.

Four main factors help explain the success of these models in improving participants’ employment prospects and earnings:

  • establishing close collaboration between training providers and employers to identify in-demand skills,
  • carefully selecting training candidates interested in entering specific sectors,
  • ensuring flexibility in training program delivery, and
  • providing wraparound supports such as child care and career advice to mitigate the barriers to training faced by working-age adults.

“Research suggests that such demand-driven training models could play an important role in Canada’s labour market policy response to the pandemic,” the authors conclude, “but leveraging them to their full potential presents implementation challenges.”

To better align Canada’s skills development systems with employer needs, Myers and her colleagues call on policy-makers to actively explore the feasibility of adopting sector-based and Career Pathways training models in Canada. They should then test and scale up those that show promise. Building the necessary infrastructure, including strong networks among training providers and employers, and producing up-to-date labour market information will also be important.


Skills Training That Works: Lessons from Demand-Driven Approaches by Karen Myers, Simon Harding and Kelly Pasolli can be downloaded from the IRPP’s website (irpp.org).

The Institute for Research on Public Policy is an independent, national, bilingual, not-for-profit organization based in Montreal. To receive updates from the IRPP, please subscribe to our e‑mail list.

Media contact: Cléa Desjardins, tel. 514-245-2139 cdesjardins@nullirpp.org

Skills Training That Works: Lessons from Demand-Driven Approaches

Skills Training That Works: Lessons from Demand-Driven Approaches

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Media Contact

Cléa Desjardins
Communications Director
Tel. 514-245-2139 • cdesjardins@irpp.org