Demand-Led Systems Change in the Employment and Training Sector

A project in partnership with Social Capital Partners.

Wrong toolThe Challenge

Growing numbers of Canadians face long-term unemployment and lack the essential skills and supports required to compete successfully in today’s labour market. Overrepresented in unemployment statistics are population groups such as persons with disabilities, youth and newcomers to Canada. The Canadian government spends billions of dollars annually on pre-employment training and skills development with limited evidence of lasting benefit.

Finding Solutions

We have partnered with Social Capital Partners to tackle these systematic challenges. It is our belief that the best way to achieve sustainable impact is to apply market-based solutions. By aligning employment and training programs much more closely with employers’ current and future needs, we aim to equip job seekers with the skills, knowledge and tools required to find decent work and build rewarding careers. Essentially, we seek to close the current gap between demand and supply, helping employers to solve their recruitment and retention challenges by connecting them with diverse pools of job seekers who have been supported and upskilled to succeed in today’s marketplace.

We believe that the current network of non-profit employment service and skills training providers must shift from a primarily supply-based perspective, in which the job-seeker is often viewed as the primary or sole customer, to a market approach informed by recognizing that employment services must be significantly more responsive to employers in order to provide job seekers with meaningful assistance and direct connections to jobs. Our strategy is therefore to change the existing supply-demand interface to ensure that both employers and job seekers are equally valued and better served, and in doing so, offer solutions that benefit everyone.

We also believe that, in order to monitor, measure and incentivize systems change, we need to hold the transformed system accountable to a more robust and outcome-based performance management framework, wherein success is equated with the number of job seekers who are not only placed in decent jobs but are also supported to perform well at work, stay employed and develop in their longer-term careers.


We will work together with our stakeholders, including, people facing employment barriers, prospective employers, employment service providers and public-sector decision-makers, to come up with models and strategies to make this transformation.

To test our proposed demand-led solution, we recently engaged provincial and federal government partners to launch demonstration projects in multiple sectors and provinces, beginning in 2014. We have already brought employers on board, identifying their pain points and engaging them as design partners in the demand-led approach to employment and training services. For example, we have involved participating employers in developing the “value chain” of assessment, training and retention supports that we will provide to local job seekers facing barriers to employment in order to prepare them to meet or exceed employers’ requirements.

Our demonstration projects will:

  • Test the demand-led value chain of pre and post-employment supports geared to upskilling job seekers facing employment barriers into decent jobs and helping them to succeed once hired
  • Serve hundreds of job seekers facing employment barriers through 7 consecutive cohorts over the next 2.5 years, supporting iterative learning and continuous improvement
  • Assess which key levers along the value chain produce optimal results for employers and job seekers and have the most potential for scalability across industries, regions and occupational clusters
  • Analyze control group data shared by employers to measure how performance and retention outcomes achieved by our project participants compare with those of other new hires from non-governmental channels (e.g. advertisements, staffing agencies)
  • Prove business case to employers by ensuring that employees from our project do as well as or better than other new hires, demonstrating strong return on investment (ROI) from hiring job seekers facing employment barriers through a demand-led system
  • Prove business case and calculate ROI for government by demonstrating how demand-led transformation can drive the publicly funded system to do a much better job of placing unemployed Canadians into decent, sustainable and rewarding work.