Canada’s Future Skills Centre: generating evidence on what works in skills development

New technology and global competitiveness are transforming the way Canadians work. By 2020, many of the skills needed for good quality jobs will change. A Canadian workforce that incorporates new technology and adapts to change is key to Canada’s long-term economic growth. Building a skilled and resilient workforce ready to seize these opportunities is essential to a strong economy. New research is needed to understand the nature and scope of these issues and foster solutions that will be most effective in preparing Canadians for the future of work.

Funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program, the Future Skills Centre – Centre des Compétences (FSC-CCF) is a forward-thinking, six-year initiative established to develop, test and rigorously measure new approaches to skills development.

Ryerson University, the Conference Board of Canada and Blueprint were selected to partner and operate the FSC-CCF, with Blueprint leading the Centre’s evidence generation strategy and the evaluation of FSC-CCF projects.

Our approach to evidence generation

A core component of the Centre’s mandate is to generate evidence on what works in skills development. To achieve this goal, Blueprint will work with partners across the country to identify, develop and rigorously test innovative practices. We will use a tiered-evidence strategy—based on best practises from leading organizations— to help us identify, refine and gradually scale promising ideas. This approach will support the use of evidence at every project stage, from small, grassroots initiatives to largescale experiments. It will also enable us to:

  • Capture findings that are credible and useful
  • Manage risk as projects move through different stages of development
  • Enable partners to build their capacity to implement increasingly complex project and evaluation frameworks
  • Ensure that evidence informs further project iterations

While this tiered approach to evaluation will be a core part of the FSC-CCF evidence generation strategy, we know that new approaches will also be needed to generate the quality and quantity of evidence required to meet demand from policymakers and service providers.

To respond to this, we will be combining different approaches to evidence generation to create an effective, comprehensive approach that enables evidence-informed decision-making across the social policy ecosystem.

This evidence generation strategy will:

  • Ensure that service providers are engaged in the evaluation process, and build their capacity to learn, innovate, and improve their day-to-day operations
  • Leverage administrative data in support of the design, testing, and implementation of skills development policies and programs
  • Make evidence available to policy-makers, practitioners, and researchers in accessible and effective formats

We believe that too often there is a gap between the evidence produced and shared by researchers, and the day-to-day decisions of service providers and policy-makers. Our strategy will not only generate new evidence about what works, but will also build a culture of evidence-informed decision-making to ensure that learning and evidence are embedded in policy, program and practice decisions throughout the skills development ecosystem.