Contextualized Essential Skills demonstration project

Testing essential skills training for frontline workers in hospitality and retail

A significant proportion of Ontario’s workforce has gaps in essential skills. Research has demonstrated a strong relationship between essential skills and earnings, highlighting the importance of ensuring all individuals have opportunities to upgrade these skills.

In response to this need, the Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation (OCWI) engaged Blueprint to lead a demonstration project of a promising sector-specific essential-skills training model for frontline workers in Ontario’s hospitality and retail industries. The model integrated technical sector-specific content with essential-skills training to help employees increase both their skills and productivity. Supervisors also received training to strengthen their leadership skills.

Blueprint engaged OTEC — a training, consulting, and workforce development organization — to lead the implementation of the project and deliver the training. Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) network organizations provided support with recruitment and LBS training providers co-delivered some of the training sessions with OTEC.

The Contextualized Essential Skills Demonstration Project was based on the Workplace Training Program, an innovative contextualized essential-skills program implemented at Douglas College in British Columbia. Douglas College supported this project by updating the Workplace Training Program curriculum — renamed Customer Service Results (CSR) — for the Ontario market and delivering “train-the-trainer” sessions to OTEC and LBS providers.

Our evaluation found that CSR has the potential to add value for both employees and employers. While participant essential skills gains were modest, both participants and employers reported that they were very satisfied with the training, and that they found the curriculum to be relevant and useful. Most employers found the training to be well-aligned with their business objectives and reported increases in their employees’ customer engagement, listening ability, sales strategies and attitude toward their job.

Several lessons emerged from the project that could directly inform the future efforts of workforce development organizations interested in implementing workplace essential skills training in Ontario. Outreach and resources to support small and medium-sized businesses to coordinate training, and ensuring training is aligned with needs of the target audience, were two factors identified as critical to the long-term success of workplace essential skills training.  

Read the Contextualized Essential Skills Final Report or our Report in Brief.

A significant proportion of Ontario’s workforce has gaps in essential skills. Research has demonstrated a strong relationship between essential skills and earnings, highlighting the importance of ensuring all individuals have opportunities to upgrade these skills.

In response to this need, the Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation (OCWI) engaged Blueprint to lead a demonstration project of a promising sector-specific essential-skills training model for frontline workers in Ontario’s hospitality and retail industries. The model integrated technical sector-specific content with essential-skills training to help employees increase both their skills and productivity. Supervisors also received training to strengthen their leadership skills.

Blueprint engaged OTEC — a training, consulting, and workforce development organization — to lead the implementation of the project and deliver the training. Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) network organizations provided support with recruitment and LBS training providers co-delivered some of the training sessions with OTEC.

The Contextualized Essential Skills Demonstration Project was based on the Workplace Training Program, an innovative contextualized essential-skills program implemented at Douglas College in British Columbia. Douglas College supported this project by updating the Workplace Training Program curriculum — renamed Customer Service Results (CSR) — for the Ontario market and delivering “train-the-trainer” sessions to OTEC and LBS providers.

Our evaluation found that CSR has the potential to add value for both employees and employers. While participant essential skills gains were modest, both participants and employers reported that they were very satisfied with the training, and that they found the curriculum to be relevant and useful. Most employers found the training to be well-aligned with their business objectives and reported increases in their employees’ customer engagement, listening ability, sales strategies and attitude toward their job.

Several lessons emerged from the project that could directly inform the future efforts of workforce development organizations interested in implementing workplace essential skills training in Ontario. Outreach and resources to support small and medium-sized businesses to coordinate training, and ensuring training is aligned with needs of the target audience, were two factors identified as critical to the long-term success of workplace essential skills training.  

Read the Contextualized Essential Skills Final Report or our Report in Brief.

Want to learn more? Read all nine research papers for a wide range of ideas to strengthen career guidance:

August 23, 2022

A Roadmap for Change: Building Responsive Career Pathways in a Post-Pandemic World

This paper offers considerations for strengthening and aligning our careers and employment systems to better serve Canadians across their career trajectory.

English ReportFrench Report
August 23, 2022

Applying Behavioural Insights to Career Guidance

Offering forward-looking, customized, high-quality and accessible career guidance to a wide range of Canadians is possible. This paper identifies behavioural and motivational barriers to accessing career guidance and offers a promising path ahead.

English ReportFrench Report
August 23, 2022

Breaking Down Barriers to Career Development

Career guidance systems could be designed with a whole-of-person lens. This paper considers promising practices in breaking down barriers to career guidance for Canadians.

English ReportFrench Report
August 23, 2022

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Responsive Career Pathways

The path to accessing career guidance is challenging for racialized people, women and newcomers to Canada. This paper offers opportunities to strengthen our publicly-funded employment systems to effectively address labour market inequity.

English ReportFrench Report
August 23, 2022

Glossary of Terms

This document provides consistent definitions for the terms that are applied across all of the research papers for the Responsive Career Pathways initiative.

English ReportFrench Report
August 23, 2022

Labour Market Information in Responsive Career Pathways

Finding ways to make labour market information accessible and useful for service providers and individuals is key for creating more responsive career pathways.

English ReportFrench Report
August 23, 2022

Navigating Canada’s Messy Education and Training Marketplace for Career-Focused Learning

Adult learners have to navigate an increasingly diverse, fragmented and complex education and training marketplace. This paper assesses options helping Canadian learners navigate their education and learning choices.

English ReportFrench Report
August 23, 2022

Responsive Career Pathways Research Brief: Guiding Careers for the Future

The Responsive Career Pathways Research Brief consolidates key findings from our past 9 research papers in partnership with the Future Skills Centre. In this brief, we outline key innovation challenges and opportunities for career guidance services in Canada, and highlight common barriers to accessing these services.

English ReportFrench Report
August 23, 2022

The Career Development Profession in Canada and the Emergence of Online/Multi-Modal Practice Delivery

Career development practitioners have a critical role to play in helping Canadians prepare for the future of work. This paper tackles questions about the role of career development practitioners and the evolution of their practice.

English ReportFrench Report
August 23, 2022

The Role of Employers in Responsive Career Pathways

Employers are critical in establishing more responsive career pathways for Canadians. This paper outlines some of the challenges and opportunities employers are facing related to the future of work and skills.

English ReportFrench Report
August 23, 2022

Use of Technology and Tools in Responsive Career Pathways

The role and use of technologies that help individuals and career practitioners navigate career pathways are rapidly evolving. This paper outlines potential ways responsive career pathways can be enabled by technology.

English ReportFrench Report

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