Findings from the Contextualized Essential Skills Demonstration Project
In December 2017, the Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation engaged Blueprint to lead a demonstration of a promising essential skills training model for frontline workers in Ontario’s hospitality and retail industries. The model integrated technical sector-specific content with essential skills to help employees increase both their skills and productivity. The project also addressed the question of how best to deliver sector-specific essential skills training in Ontario.
The results of this project are now available and include a number of valuable lessons that could directly inform the future work of organizations interested in applying workplace essential skills training in Ontario.
In total, 146 frontline workers completed the training. The results demonstrated that the model has the potential to add value for both employees and employers.
Although the essential skills gains experienced by participants were modest, both participants and employers found the curriculum to be relevant and useful, and reported that they were very satisfied with the training. Most employers also perceived the training to be well-aligned with their business objectives and described increases in the customer engagement, listening ability, sales strategies, and attitude of their employees.
The project also generated some valuable learnings about implementing this type of model:
- Employer recruitment strategies should be tailored to both the sector and to the way in which small to medium-sized businesses operate in the sector.
- Training should be designed and delivered with a clear target audience in mind in order to ensure that training is closely aligned with participant needs and skill levels.
- Sector-based essential skills projects must consider the impact that policy, seasonal, and regional factors can have on recruitment, training coordination, and the overall success of the project.
Additional factors identified that could support the success and enable the scaling of workplace contextualized essential skills training programs in Ontario included strategic partnerships between industry and essential skills trainers, additional support for training coordination, and the alignment of training with existing funding envelopes.
The Contextualized Essential Skills Demonstration Project was based on an innovative program implemented at Douglas College in British Columbia called the Workplace Training Program. The Workplace Training Program curriculum was adapted and updated for the Ontario market and renamed Customer Service Results (CSR). OTEC was engaged to lead the implementation of the project and deliver the training alongside Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) network organizations, with LBS training providers supplying recruitment support and co-delivering some of the training sessions with OTEC.