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A Skills Agenda for the Future, Now

By Pedro Barata

In these times of fundamental disruption and uncertainty, Canada is blessed with tremendous leadership and courage. Our governments are acting swiftly to shore up our collective health and wellbeing; health providers are selflessly providing essential care; the media is keeping us informed; and a remarkable array of workers in utility, mail and waste management, as well as retail, transportation and delivery, cleaning, etc. are ensuring that our essential needs are well taken care of.

To all these first responders and frontline workers we owe an immense measure of gratitude and respect.

While yielding to this essential first wave, we at Future Skills Centre (FSC) have focused our energy on building a strategy to support Canada’s shift into the “reset” phase of economic recovery. Helping prepare Canadians to get back to work, with the right skills to succeed now and into the future, will remain crucial in a continuously changing economy.

Person working with child playing

FSC Taking Action in Recovery Efforts

The FSC consortium — Ryerson University, Conference Board of Canada, Blueprint — are already working alongside our partners to adapt our current strategy and deploy new approaches to training, evaluation, research, and other practical tools that can help equip Canadians with the skills they will need in a rapidly changing times.

These are four components of our strategy, which will continually evolve as an overall recovery agenda starts to take shape:

Listen to Canadians

  • Understanding how the pandemic has affected perceptions of job security among workers and anticipated employer responses in the face of job losses, will be key in orienting a recovery effort. A survey on Employment and Skills (that was already in the field as the global pandemic was declared) by the Environics Institute for Survey Research in partnership with FSC and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, will provide important insights.

Go where needs are greatest

  • FSC will launch partnerships in the coming weeks with 30 innovation projects to support tens of thousands of Canadians prepare for a transition to a changing economy now and in the future. Backed by a two-year, $36-million investment, these interventions will be real-time experiments in how to shore up a skills agenda for today and tomorrow in sectors including health, oil and gas, manufacturing, services industries, etc.
  • Recognizing that the economic crisis is already disproportionately affecting some industries, we are accelerating investments in select sector-based responses. The first of these projects in the hospitality and tourism sector, will be launching shortly and will test innovative approaches to supporting displaced workers, with a view to contributing to learning “what works” as we adapt to ongoing disruption.

Adapt & Learn

  • We have made it a priority to work with our funded partners to ensure we remain flexible in our current work. Led by our partners at Blueprint, we are working with closely with each of our innovation project partners to support them in using data to generate actionable insights, respond with agility, and over time to rigorously measure impact. This collaborative approach will contribute to a broader evidence base on what works, while also informing the day-to-practices and decision-making of skills practitioners through the coming months.
  • Building on these first steps, we are consulting with partners to shape a new skills innovation response fund to support sectors and organizations in bridging immediate responses with lasting solutions for the future, in late spring early summer.
  • In the next month, FSC will launch a Community of Practice digital platform, led by Ryerson University’s Magnet, to connect individuals, employers, organizations, governments, and others involved in the skills ecosystem. This platform will provide access the latest research, share best practices, and provide tools for collaboration as we learn from one another in developing solutions across regions, sectors, and workforce segments.
  • We are shifting upcoming regional soundings to online formats and exploring how to best engage our partners through future consultations and conferences.

Lead with Evidence

  • The changing nature of work is increasing demand not only for technical skills, but also for social and emotional skills, like resiliency. Now more than ever, we need to invest in interventions that build our workforce’s ability to adjust to a fundamentally changed labour market. This was the focus on a recent research paper by Conference Board of Canada, and will remain a priority for FSC’s research agenda through the recovery.
  • As we learn more about the shape of the recovery, FSC–in concert with our consortium partners at Ryerson’s Diversity Institute and the Conference Board of Canada– will be drawing on the expertise of many collaborating organizations and experts in Canada’s skills ecosystem to contribute to an understanding of “what now?” when it comes to continuously defining a future skills agenda.

Since launching just over a year ago, our pan-Canadian Centre has begun testing and learning from innovative approaches to training and skills development. While our core mandate is not going to change, it is also true that when it comes to skills changes, the future is very much now. Agile, innovative, and forward-looking solutions are going to be crucial to respond to uncertain labour market adjustments now, while keeping an eye to ongoing changes.

We look forward to working with you, our partners, as our strategy necessarily continues to evolve, adapt and shift. As has been said often in these times, and we hope will remain true well into the future, we’re all #InThisTogether.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me at pedro.barata@fsc-ccf.ca.


Pedro Barata

Pedro Barata
Future Skills Centre, Executive Director

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