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Future Skills: Engaging governments and stakeholders to build a skills development ecosystem

Future Skills is part of the Government’s plan to build a resilient and confident workforce that reflects Canada rapidly evolving nature of work. It embraces user-centred design principles to inform the adoption of proven practices and evidence on skills development approaches, to ensure that Canada’s policies and programs are prepared to meet Canadians’ changing needs. It was designed in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, and informed by a large range of stakeholders.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Artificial intelligence, robotics, clean technologies, global competitiveness are just few of the disruptive trends that are changing the way Canadians work. These changes will also impact the way people develop skills and their ability to adapt and take advantage of new opportunities. In Budget 2017, the Government of Canada acknowledged the need for “new approaches to address skills gaps and support lifelong learning throughout Canadians’ working lives” and committed to investing in skills innovation to support skills development and measurement in Canada and to do it in partnerships with provinces and territories, the private sector, educational institutions and not-for profit organizations.

Future Skills results from recommendations made by the multi-sectoral Advisory Council on Economic Growth and the Forum of Labour Market Ministers (FLMM) that is composed of federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for labour market issues. In 2018, the Government of Canada announced in 2018 an investment of $225 million over four years, starting in 2018-2019, and $75 million per year thereafter in Future Skills to:
• examine major trends that will have an impact on national and regional economies and workers;
• identify emerging skills that are in demand now and into the future;
• develop, test and evaluate new approaches to skills development; and
• share results across public, private and not-for-profit sectors to support broad access to proven practices across Canada.

In spring 2018, Canada launched open calls for applications for membership to the Council and for proposals to setup and operate the Centre. In February 2019, Canada’s Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour announced related decisions:
• Future Skills Council - Fifteen technical and subject matter experts from Canada’s public, private, labour and not-for-profit sectors form the membership of the Future Skills Council. To ensure that the skills needs of all Canadians are taken into account, the membership is gender-balanced and represents Canada’s social and geographic diversity.
• Future Skills Centre - The research centre will operate at arm’s length from the Government of Canada to fund projects across Canada that develop, test and measure new approaches to skills assessment and development, to build evidence on what works for whom, under what conditions. Half of the Centre’s funding is dedicated to disadvantaged and underrepresented groups, including up to 20% of the funding to address the needs of youth.

Both organizations will engage widely and broadly with stakeholders of the skills development ecosystem to identify trends and priorities, increase collaboration and connection among all stakeholders, leverage expertise, mitigate duplication, increase complementarity with other investments, and promote the adoption of knowledge created to inform future investments. The mobilization of new knowledge and lessons learned is integral to Future Skills and instrumental to transform Canada’s skills development and training opportunities that are more responsive to Canadians’ changing needs.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

Through its extensive consultations and engagement with provinces, territories and stakeholders, Canada has heard that it is critical to include a mechanism that will support the adoption of evidence and lessons learned generated from credible innovation, experimentation and measurement. For this reason, Future Skills has built into its core mechanisms to support knowledge mobilization and the adoption of proven practices into programs and policies.

In addition, a developmental evaluation element is included in the functions of the new Future Skills Centre to provide for ongoing intelligence gathering and continuous improvement. This continuous feedback loop will allow for the Centre to adjust and course correct as it goes forward and succeed in fulfilling the objectives of the program. Canada also planned a year two review of Future Skills to provide for an opportunity to make the changes necessary to support the achievement of the initiative’s objectives and expected results.

What is the current status of your innovation?

Future Skills is currently in the preliminary stage of implementation. The members of the Council and the naming of the consortium partners who will operate the Centre were publicly announced in February 2019. Both the Council and the Centre are initiating their respective efforts with a particular emphasis on wide engagement across Canada.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

Future Skills was designed in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, and in consultation with more than 400 public, private and not-for-profit actors and stakeholders of the skills development ecosystem. In Canada, skills development for the effectiveness and efficiency of the labour market is a responsibility shared among all the governments, therefore the collaboration and partnership of all governments and stakeholders is essential to the success of Future Skills.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

By identifying skills and labour market trends and demonstrating what skills development models work for whom and under what conditions, Future Skills will provide governments, employers and training service providers with the tools and information they need to develop skills development and training policies, programs and investments to offer Canadians opportunities that meet Canada’s changing labour market, with a specific on the needs of underrepresented and disadvantaged Canadians.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

All components of Future Skills are currently engaging with provincial/territorial governments and with stakeholders to identify skills and labour market trends and research priorities.

The Future Skills Council is expected to provide its first recommendations on national skills development to Canada’s Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour in 2019. In collaboration with stakeholders, the Future Skills Centre will soon initiate research projects (prototyping, testing and measurement of skill development models).

The Future Skills Council, the Future Skills Centre and the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Office will actively engage with all the actors of the skills development ecosystem to support adoption of evidence and proven practices across all sectors – public, private and not for profit. This will result in a skills development ecosystem across Canada that is responsive to Canadians’ evolving needs and future-fit.

Challenges and Failures

A primary challenge has been to communicate effectively how Future Skills is more than a singular program and how it differs from existing programs. This is an initiative built on the recognition that skills development in Canada is decentralized; therefore, it requires the collaboration and mobilization of all actors of the skills development ecosystem. Through distributed leadership and by leveraging the expertise of partners and stakeholders of the skills development ecosystem, Future Skills will help build and strengthen multi-sectoral partnerships. The contribution and participation of provincial/territorial governments, employers, labour, not-for-profits, academia and employment and training service providers in Future Skills activities is a major success factor.

Conditions for Success

The support and feedback of key actors throughout the design and early implementation phases of Future Skills were instrumental in providing the foundations that would make it successful. Future Skills will have to continue building and nurturing these relationships to meet its objectives.

Future Skills will also have to demonstrate value added from existing efforts focusing on proactively addressing disruption in the emergent space. It will be important for the Future Skills Council to identify pan-Canadian priorities that are actionable; for the Future Skills Centre to produce reliable and credible results; and for the Office to support the adoption of evidence produced into policy and programs. The continuous engagement and mobilization of the labour market and skills development ecosystem is necessary to transform results into actions that will help develop a training system that is inclusive, future-fit and responsive to changing labour market needs.


The Future Skills Centre will develop, test, and measure skills development models. The Centre will replicate practices that will have demonstrated results for Canadians and test them in different contexts and for diverse populations. The Centre will also focus on addressing the needs of groups of the Canadian population underrepresented and disadvantaged in the labour force, including youth, women, Indigenous people, newcomers, racialized groups and populations living in rural and remote communities.

All components of Future Skills will work with partners and stakeholders to promote the adoption of this new evidence including proven practices to inform future policies and program investments by governments, employers, labour, employment and training providers, and other actors across the skills development ecosystem.

Lessons Learned

A two-year review process will be conducted to allow for an evaluation of the Future Skills initiatives.

Project Pitch


  • Implementation - making the innovation happen

Innovation provided by:

Date Published:

17 April 2019

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