Skills for Success bridges critical gaps for workers and employers

By Lina Wencel

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Since the launch of the Skills for Success (SFS) model in 2021, there has been a notable shift in the approaches and priorities in training and skills development. Further propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, new technologies, and hybrid and work-from-home environments, a clear need for building resilience in workers and developing skills that are transferable between careers has emerged.  

The SFS model, a renewal of the Essential Skills framework, promises tools to better support workers, employers and practitioners as they navigate shifts. It is designed to better align with current and future skills needs and stay ahead of workplace trends. The new model also places greater emphasis on social and emotional skills such as adaptability, problem-solving, creativity and innovation, and collaboration. Despite the benefits and wide-reaching applications of the model, many are still unfamiliar with it and its use has yet to be systematically adopted by career practitioners and employment service providers.

With an estimated 50% of the Canadian workforce needing upskilling or reskilling by 2025, the Skills for Success model can alleviate many challenges faced by both workers and career practitioners. 

The model in practice 

As a key touchpoint for workers looking to improve their skills, career practitioners stand to benefit from integrating the model and its resources into their services.  

In Guided Pathways: Integrating Skills for Success, a recently completed training and development project operated by Alberta Workforce Essential Skills Society (AWES), 1,120 career practitioners across Canada learned about the skills model and its uses in the career development sector. Practitioners gained practical knowledge to apply the model beyond the training. This included learning how to assess skills, match clients with job opportunities based on skill levels and strengths, and plan, track and measure skills development. One of the project’s primary goals was to ensure that practitioners would complete the course with knowledge they could apply to clients’ unique scenarios and situations.

According to surveys that were conducted throughout the project by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC), prior to participating in Guided Pathways training, an average of only 50%* of career practitioners said they knew how to use the model’s tools and resources in practice with their clients. Only 47%* were able to assess client’s skills abilities and challenges. Even among those who used the Skills for Success model, there was still much variation in how they applied it to support career development services, as there was no standardized way to approach assessments or skill development planning.  

With clear direction and guidance on how to implement the model, three months post-training, 94%* of participating practitioners could use the model in practice and 92%* were able to assess their clients. By consistently using the SFS model, practitioners noticed:

  • Improved outcomes 
  • Increased confidence in their assessments 
  • More customized and tailored action plans 
  • More precise recommendations for job matching  
  • Better client rapport 
  • Less time spent searching for resources

Practitioners who have adopted the model into their daily practice stated: “I am able to focus on what the clients are asking for and I can lead them to it with the help of Skills for Success” and “[Clients] have to understand what skills they need to be successful in job searches and in the workplace…The [Skills for Success] training definitely helps me to deliver better knowledge in the field.”

The tangible effects of intangible skills 

In recent years, more emphasis has been put on workers having strong social-emotional skills to ensure they can manage and adapt to changes in the workplace. With this trend expected to continue, practitioners who take advantage of the available tools will guarantee success for their clients.

Social-emotional skills can be challenging to define and even more challenging to assess but can have a huge impact on one’s ability to find meaningful work. Wanting to help practitioners further tailor their work to clients, AWES conducted a pilot project to show practitioners the benefits of standardizing the use of these resources. In the pilot, run by AWES and Rad Science Solution, participants received additional training on social-emotional skills, including what they are, why they are beneficial and how to assess them using a new assessment tool. Having the opportunity to administer the assessment to their own clients, practitioners gained first-hand experience using social-emotional assessments and learned to provide actionable steps for improvement of these highly sought after skills. 

According to a report from the Conference Board of Canada, in 2022, nearly 80% of job postings listed social and emotional skills as a requirement. With this demand from employers, workers will need services that support the development of these skills so they can find and maintain meaningful employment. 

As practitioners worked through the social-emotional skills assessments with their clients, one participant observed that “This is an area that is not emphasized in career development, and yet it can be the crucial missing piece for finding the right work fit and being successful.” Another practitioner noted that the Skills for Success model encourages clients “to reflect on what they want and who they are. It gives a realistic review of where they are at, and it helps create a realistic plan to move forward.” 

The path forward 

It’s clear that the Skills for Success model delivers on what it promises: better skills for workers and stronger support for practitioners. AWES’ projects show that when equipped with the knowledge to implement the model in practice, practitioners save time searching for resources, their confidence increases, their client relationships improve and their guidance is more targeted. This enables them to provide the best possible services and career planning to their clients. In turn, workers can better understand themselves, their interests and their strengths, and develop a clear and holistic picture of the path ahead.  

With practitioners equipped with the SFS model and the future-focused resources it provides, and workers looking for support as they navigate the changing labour market, critical skills gaps that exist in the workforce can be closed. But first, the use of the model needs to be standardized to ensure consistent and accurate use with all clients. 

*This data was collected from surveys administered between May 2021 to June 2022. A total of 584 responses were collected for the pre-course data, and 232 were collected for the post-course follow-up data.  

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