Demonstrating Career Pathways in Ontario

December 2017 – January 2019

A critical challenge in workforce development is finding new ways to prepare individuals with limited skills and work experience to obtain skilled jobs, particularly those that require post-secondary education. Career Pathways presents a potential solution to this challenge.

Career Pathways is a post-secondary training model that helps individuals move from lower-skilled to highly skilled jobs by organizing training into a series of modular steps, with each step leading to successively higher credentials and employment opportunities within a specific sector or occupation. The model has been widely implemented and tested in the U.S., where early findings have been promising.

Recognizing that the province needs new ways to enable individuals with relatively limited skills and work experience to fill in-demand jobs, the Ontario Centre for Workforce Innovation (OCWI) engaged Blueprint to lead and implement a demonstration project in Ontario to assess the potential of the Career Pathways model.

Our two-pronged strategy included an evaluation of promising training models and an exploration of policy and systems implications. To evaluate promising training models, we partnered with Conestoga College to evaluate two programs aligned with the Career Pathways approach: Supportive Care and Warehouse Essentials. Both programs provide entry-level job training and lead to eligibility for advanced standing in a skilled occupation program. Our evaluation included participant surveys to measure skills gains, employment outcomes, and career goals; interviews with staff and instructors to understand program development and rationale as well as successes and challenges in program delivery; and interviews with employer partners to assess their perceptions of program relevance and value.

To better understand the broader systems change implications of Career Pathways as a potential skills training solution in Ontario, we reviewed promising practices and strategies for implementation, consulted key stakeholders, and analyzed the alignment between the Career Pathways approach and Ontario’s current policy context.

Our evaluation demonstrated that the programs implemented by Conestoga College engaged a diverse group of participants—many of whom faced barriers to employment and further education. The majority of participants completed the programs, reported high levels of satisfaction, and were employed following the training, and most stated an interest in further training and employment within the sectors targeted by the programs.

At the same time, the project highlighted some questions about the scalability of the model within the current system, emphasizing the need for further research and dialogue with colleges and other stakeholders to better understand the opportunities and remaining questions associated with the Career Pathways approach.

Please download our Career Pathways Final Report or read our Report in Brief for more detailed information.