Assessing and developing workplace employability skills with ESAT

Social and emotional (S&E) skills are a crucial component of success in the workplace. In the face of an increasing skills gap, employers and educators agree that S&E skills are growing in importance. Many workers and students need support to understand the expectations of employers, appreciate how their behaviour aligns, and determine when and how to adapt their behaviour to meet those expectations. Although proven methods exist to assess and develop such skills in community settings, educators and employers need tools to identify S&E skill gaps and build capacity in these areas.

Two people working together at a laptop in an open workspace with others

To meet this need, Futureworx has developed the Employability Skills Assessment Tool (ESAT), an online resource that enables teachers, counsellors and other service providers to support and engage clients in enhancing and developing the soft skills needed for labour market success. Adaptability, collaboration, creativity and innovation are among the qualities that employers have identified as essential to workplace success. 

In May 2021, the Future Skills Centre (FSC) announced an investment of $999,510 to analyze data in order to expand and adapt the ESAT tool and upskill people. This follows an initial investment of $100,000 in seed funding by FSC announced in June 2020. This project supports job seekers across Canada as well addressing the top issue facing employers – employee recruitment and retention.

The first phase of the program gathered feedback from ESAT users, confirming that users saw positive outcomes for participants, especially improved awareness of the value of S&E skills, competence and overall well-being. 

In the second phase, Futureworx will identify partners to provide programming for up to 1,000 participants between September 2021 and March 2023. They will test the effectiveness of ESAT, strengthen the current version of the tool by applying suggestions from the early phase, and examine how ESAT is implemented across organizations to adapt or modify it to serve diverse participants. 

Program organizers have learned from the first phase that the ESAT tool is easy to use, helps staff establish a common language around employability skills, and eases tension during potentially difficult conversations with participants. They have identified several elements that will be key to ESAT’s success. This next phase will expand the program, using a more formal and widespread research process that will support job seekers who require S&E skills to find and keep sustainable employment.

Evaluation Strategy

This project will be evaluated using tools and approaches aligned with its goals, context, and stage of development. The evaluation will focus on generating the right evidence at the right moment to move the intervention forward. Read more about our evaluation strategy.

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