Current disruptions in the labour market are leaving many workers and employers without the support they need to build new skills or attract the right talent. Our State of Skills report series explores the evolving landscape of skills development and gathers insights and evidence to better understand what works, for whom, and in what context. Our focus is on breaking down the key gaps in workforce policy and practice, addressing the systemic barriers that hinder innovation and scalability of good ideas across the country.

Effective employer engagement in skills development

Employers are often overlooked in the design phase of skills enhancement programs. Evidence from our research shows that actively engaging employers at the inception stages of skill interventions is crucial to ensuring their success, as projects without early employer involvement run the risk of recruitment challenges and overall skills mismatch.

Additionally, providing early, resource-intensive support by intermediary agencies can help alleviate employer capacity constraints. For a country as diverse as Canada, finding the right balance between region and industry-specific skill needs is crucial to informing sustainable workforce development policies. This multi-pronged approach not only improves individual trainee outcomes, but also equips firms to navigate future labour market challenges with increased agility.


Insights from our partnership with Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst developed a model that offers an accelerated, firm-specific training program, leveraging strong employer engagement. The Accelerated Cybersecurity Training Program was launched to address a talent shortage in cybersecurity and attract more professionals from diverse backgrounds.

Evaluations suggest positive impacts on:

  • earnings – the percentage of respondents earning at least $60,000 per year grew from 29% at the program start to 49% at program completion and 76% three months after the program’s end;
  • skills – 91% of graduates believed they acquired the skills and knowledge to be successful in a cybersecurity career;
  • employment – overall employment increased from 61% at the program’s start to 79% three months after the program’s end.

Get the project summary and evidence reports

Better labour market transitions for mid-career workers

Mid-career workers are disproportionately affected by longer periods of unemployment, underemployment, and loss of earnings as new technologies, demographic shifts, and other forces drive change in the labour market. Lessons from our projects underscore the need for more anticipatory skills solutions that work to mitigate the impact of potential layoffs and displacements before they occur. Additionally, integrating confidence-building objectives into skills training, so that workers can more easily overcome their reticence about learning, is another key insight.

For workers, cost and time are significant barriers that disincentivize the pursuit of skill building opportunities. Our programs targeted these hurdles by removing financial obstacles, for example, by providing free skills and career development support or by making participation easier to fit into people’s lives outside of work. Greater access to quality upskilling and reskilling opportunities should be seen as solutions for workers facing redundancy, career transitions or layoffs.


The trucking industry, in particular, is facing acute shortages of workers with an estimated 10,000 unfilled jobs within the sector in Atlantic Canada alone. The situation underlines the need to focus efforts on retention and upskilling for mid-career workers and attraction of a steady flow of potential new entrants with the skills to operate new technologies in the field.

Our pilot project with the Trucking Human Resources Sector Council Atlantic aimed to determine the effectiveness of using emerging technology, specifically portable virtual reality training simulators (VRTS), to enhance the skills of mid-career truck drivers and train new drivers.

Lessons coming out of this project include:

  • offering practical guidelines for implementing VR training, highlighting its cost-efficiency and effectiveness;
  • increasing productivity by allowing safe and realistic practice environments;
  • VRTS units proved valuable as an assessment tool, identifying skills gaps and facilitating targeted training interventions to address those gaps.

While there were some challenges reported, especially with workers unaccustomed to using technology, almost all companies continued using VRTS as a tool to assess and enhance their drivers’ skills.

Get the project summary and evidence report