Curiosity leads to a national training project

By Sue Oguchi, lead curriculum developer and trainer for AWES

Where it started

“It would have been helpful for me to know about the essential skills framework when I was working as an employment counsellor.” – AWES workshop participant

This seemingly simple comment piqued my curiosity and led me to think more about employment counsellors and how and why the essential skills framework could be helpful to them. It led me to conceptualize a project in Alberta that would train career development practitioners to incorporate the tools associated with the federal essential skills framework into their services. It was the source of the idea that led to the federal project we are now implementing. It is funded by the Government of Canada’s Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program.

As an AWES trainer and curriculum developer (and as anyone who knows me will understand), I am a strong advocate of the federal Essential Skills Framework developed by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).  Essential skills are the skills that help individuals attain, maintain and retain employment. They lead to job promotion and success. They are also the skills that lead to meaningful engagement in our communities. Because career development practitioners (also known by about 100 other job titles) interact with job seekers on a daily basis, they are in a unique and strategic position to be connecting job seekers to appropriate pathways with the help of the essential skills framework and tools; however, many career development practitioners are not aware of the framework, much less accessing the tools.

Customized training

The Alberta project was funded by the Government of Alberta in late 2017 to explore the essential skills knowledge and training needs of career development practitioners to better support newcomer integration. The goal of the project was to ensure career development practitioners serving immigrants had the knowledge and tools they needed to identify essential skill gaps and to suggest appropriate training options for their clients.

The project stages were as follows:

  • Conduct needs assessment related to the career development profession
  • Develop training customized to the needs uncovered in the research
  • Provide training to career development practitioners
  • Support six practitioners directly to integrate essential skills into their practice
  • Evaluate the impact of training

What did we learn during the research phase?

A majority of those surveyed and interviewed indicated they lacked knowledge of the essential skills, complexity levels and framework. They were not aware of nor had tools to assess their clients’ essential skills levels. Finally, they did not know where to send clients for skills training.

What surprised us most?

  • Only 4% of the career development practitioners we trained knew the essential skills as described by the federal framework.
  • When asked to list the essential skills, only 34% of participants responded, and most of those did not list the essential skills identified by the federal framework.
  • Despite the lack of a consistent understanding of the essential skills framework, practitioners are required by the Alberta government to include it in their reporting.

What was the feedback?

The feedback and evaluation process overwhelmingly indicated that the workshop and mentorship process offered by AWES helped to increase career development practitioners’ knowledge of the essential skills framework, impacting their ability to support their clients.  Ninety-three percent of the career development practitioners who took part in the pilot project integrated essential skills in some manner into their employment services for clients.

The training was described by participants as informative, useful, relevant and comprehensive:

“I thought the workshop would be ‘just another flavour of the month’ and was surprised to see it is so well established and based on research.”

“I’m grateful for the training.  I was frustrated at the thought of two days of training in something I already know.  I actually didn’t know the 9 essential skills connected to the framework and thought the essential skills were attitude, punctuality, etc. Two days was very much needed.” 

Where did it lead?

This project was the springboard to the national Guiding Pathways: Integrating essential skills, funded by the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills.  AWES is excited to build on the same foundation as the Alberta project for career development practitioners across Canada to take advantage of similar training and process integration.

For more information about this and other AWES project contact:

This blog post is part of an ongoing narrative blog series designed to engage, inform and inspire participants, partners and stakeholders throughout the duration of the project.  

What is Guided Pathways?

 Guided Pathways: Integrating Essential Skills is funded by the Government of Canada’s Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program and runs from April 2019 through to February 2024.The project goal is to develop a training program for career development practitioners to integrate the essential skills tools into their practice and services.