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Three things we can learn about workforce innovation from Canada

  • Joanna
  • April 19, 2016

How do you know that an idea’s time has really come? In the United States, these days, it’s on the rare occasion that members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are pushing for the same initiatives.

But how can you be doubly sure? Perhaps it’s when our neighbors to the north are doing the same thing.

Workforce innovation and opportunity efforts aren’t just getting attention in the U.S. The government of Ontario has recently announced that is is establishing a new center to help grow the province’s economy “by ensuring jobseekers and employers benefit from the most evidence-based and effective employment and training services.”

Sound familiar? Indeed, a lot of the framework for the Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation could have been pulled straight from the draft plans being released across the United States in recent months.

What we’re particularly interested in, though, are some of the ways the Canadians are approaching the issues that are different. Here are three of them:

  1. The Ontario plan is tied directly into the largest infrastructure investment in the province’s history — and that makes a ton of sense. It’s no secret that efforts to build roads and bridges create jobs, at least while the projects are underway. Using that temporary workforce expansion to offer people on the economic margins access to job training and skills makes a short-term boon into a long-term benefit.
  2. Retirement savings plans are a key component of the Ontario workforce innovation effort. That’s exceedingly reasonable, too. Individuals shouldn’t just be trained to work, after all. They should also be trained to plan for their short- and long-term future.
  3. The Ontario center isn’t just a hub to help people develop job skills and find work, it’s also the epicenter for a research effort that will help pilot and evaluate innovative employment and training projects. Innovation is worthless without evaluation, after all. Having impartial, expert third parties evaluate the success of various initiatives is a key to deciding whether to shift their strategies later on.