What is Skilling UP?

Skilling UP is an innovative workplace training project designed to increase skill gains of employees in the manufacturing sector through Workplace Essential Skills (WES) training. Workplace Essential Skills’ gains have been proven to increase performance and productivity which impacts bottom line and competitive advantage.

The Skilling UP program is effective because it is delivered in the context of what the learners are doing at work each day, which results in a high level of engagement. An Organizational Needs Assessment (ONA) is completed before the training curriculum is designed, so that training material is directly tied to company documents and procedures, and to concerns expressed by front-line workers and supervisors during ONA pre-training interviews.

Workplace essential skills training helps companies help their employees do better, with results such as:

  • reduced health and safety incidents
  • better productivity and customer service
  • fewer errors and less waste
  • effective employee engagement and retention, communication and teamwork, process improvement and problem-solving skills


Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) research proves essential skills training improves teamwork and communication skills that are critical to safety, productivity, and workplace efficiencies. Targeted Essential Skills training leads to less time per task, less waste and fewer errors.

AWES developed the Skilling UP program, the first Essential Skills training of its kind in Canada that provides concrete proof that workers apply and retain what they have learned.

The most effective way to reach people who need Essential Skills training is to access them at work. According to a study by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) workers who receive essential skills training are more likely to stay with the employer who offered them this training, and are less likely to be unemployed in the year following ES training (UPSKILL: A Credible Test of Workplace Essential Skills Training, SRDC). UPSKILL program group members were also 10 percent more likely than the control group to experience simultaneous gains in multiple psychosocial indicators of confidence, self efficacy, trust, and future orientation. These were accompanied by significant increases in receptivity to continuous learning.

Why is The Skilling UP program so effective?

  • We show employers how essential skills relate to their business goals, describe the nature of their employees’ essential skills “problem,” and demonstrate the benefits of higher levels of Essential Skills and skill upgrading.
  • We walk each factory floor or work site, talk to all employees, and review each company’s internal documents, templates, and manuals, so we can customize curriculum to meet each company’s specific needs. We engage management to learn what they want to improve and why.
  • We assess employees to predict where issues might arise.
  • We understand production schedules and demands and will work around company schedules.
  • We provide training by experienced instructors who have worked with hundreds of employees across Canada and across industries.

The result for every client is fully customized training, tied tightly to company outcomes, tasks, and procedures.

Sample Training Model
Business Issue Performance Issues Possible Solution ES Training
Supervisors spend too much time solving problems that employees could manage. Employees don’t know when to take initiative for solving problems or they make wrong decisions.


Employees don’t engage fully in teams or work independently to solve problems.

Use problem solving and decision-making models for common workplace issues.


Thinking strategies from simple to complex.

Oral Communication


Critical thinking

Decision making

Problem solving

Document Use

Employees are slow to adapt to new equipment and processes or are not running equipment properly causing re-dos, waste, and safety issues. Employees can’t understand SOP for equipment and/or work guidelines.


Employees don’t know how to report equipment malfunctions or understand workplace responsibility.

Simplify documents.


Improve communications and problem solving skills.

Integrate mentorship/training system.

Document Use


Problem Solving

Reading Text

Oral communications

Working with others

Lack of communication between employees delays meeting progress, leads to near-misses or incidents, and impedes team work. Employees don’t have the skills or ability to respond objectively.


Employees don’t know how or when to ask questions or express their opinion or persuade assertively.

Improve standard communication functions, listening skills and checking for comprehension. Oral communication


Thinking Skills

Working with others

The Skilling UP Program is the result of a partnership between AWES and the Government of Canada’s Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program.  It was supported by SkillPlan, DataAngel, the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) and Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium EMC).



**For the pilot project, Skilling UP reimbursed participating companies up to 50% of training costs provided employees met a minimum required skill gain. While the reimbursement offer was part of a government initiative and is no longer available, the Skilling UP training framework still provides exceptional, measurable skill gain results.

Link to Interim Report prepared by SRDC

Social Finance Final Report by SRDC