Making the Business Case for Workplace Essential Skills Training: Evidence from UPSKILL

Webinar, Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 1 PM EDT

Presenter: David Gyarmati, Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC)

Is it worth the investment for employers to provide literacy and essential skills (LES) training to the least skilled in the Canadian workforce? Research in the last decade has revealed significant gaps in literacy and Essential Skills (LES) in the Canadian workforce that can contribute to lower firm productivity, lower wages, reduced job stability, and higher health risks from workplace injury. While much anecdotal evidence suggests LES training may be helpful in eliminating skills gaps, its use in the workplace remains low relative to the size of the apparent need. Part of the reason for low firm investments is the lack of a credible business case providing clear evidence of a positive return on investment (ROI).

Now, findings from UPSKILL, a Pan-Canadian research and demonstration project, help make the business case for investments in LES training.

Launched in 2010, UPSKILL engaged over 100 firms and nearly 1,500 workers in the hotel and accommodations sector in the Tourism industry in eight provinces across Canada. It used a random assignment design as the evaluation method to provide reliable measures of the impacts of LES training in the workplace. The findings indicate that workplace LES training has large positive impacts on workers’ skills, job performance, and a range of economic and social outcomes for workers and firms. A benefit-cost analysis also reveals a fairly significant positive return on investment. Nevertheless, the study also finds that the pattern of impacts varies significantly across firms in ways that have important implications for the design and delivery of effective training programs. Understanding these factors can lead to policies that support both larger employer investments in workplace training and higher return on investment.

UPSKILL was sponsored by the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) and managed by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC). Key partners in the implementation included the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC), The Training Group at Douglas College, and SkillPlan, with over a dozen provincial partners involved in LES training delivery.

David Gyarmati, SRDC Research Director, will highlight key results from this groundbreaking evaluation and implications for policy and practice in workplace LES training.


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