Job Pathways: From theory to practice

A new model for identifying the pathways available to connect displaced workers with employers experiencing talent gaps

Project Team

Kimberly Bowman
Senior Projects Manager
Diana Rivera
Senior Economist
Annalise Huynh
Policy Analyst + Designer
Yasmin Rajabi
Project Manager
Sarah Doyle
Director of Policy + Research
Erin Warner
Marketing and Communications Specialist
Private: Sihwa Kim
Policy + Research Intern
Creig Lamb
Senior Policy Analyst
Viet Vu
Economist
Meghan Hellstern
Alumni, Senior Projects Officer

Why we’re doing this project

Workers who are displaced from their jobs, or facing disruption, have many of the skills and abilities to fill existing demand in other roles. However, barriers such as incomplete information, lack of tailored support, and unclear guidance may be preventing such transitions from happening. 

Recent shocks and disruptions arising from COVID-19 have affected millions of Canadians and their jobs, with some companies, sectors, and workers hit especially hard. These impacts come on top of existing drivers of change, such as digitization, automation and offshoring, which were already reshaping the landscape of skills demand in Canada. Some of these trends may accelerate or transform in the context of the pandemic, while new structural changes may affect the future of employment in Canada. In this context of significant disruption and uncertainty, new approaches will be needed to more effectively connect people with jobs and employers with people, as Canada’s economy recovers.

In the first phase of the project, we developed a unique model for identifying job pathways to connect displaced, skilled workers with high-potential or high-growth jobs. We initially developed and tested the model within the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), releasing both a report and a playbook for workforce developers, employers, policymakers, and service providers.

In the second phase of our research, we are combining this model with human-centered design approaches—including new insights and perspectives from both workers and labour market actors. We will be road-testing our unique approach to job pathways (a transition from one job to another) and identifying high-potential job pathways that are practical and relevant to workers and employers. Job pathways offer a transition from a job that is in decline or likely to be disrupted to another job that is growing, based on both a similarity of skills required as well as individual- and employer-based factors. We’ll be employing a mixed-methods approach that combines quantitative analysis and qualitative design research, developing a toolbox of approaches that can be applied to inform workforce development and retraining programs in sectors across Canada. 

This project builds upon our past work in a variety of areas, including our research on automation, our Employment in 2030 initiative that explores how a wide array of trends might impact future skill demand across Canada, and Palette Inc., a national nonprofit incubated at the Brookfield Institute in its pilot phase, which helps mid-career workers whose jobs are threatened by automation to gain the skills needed to transition into high-demand careers.

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Our Approach

Methodology

To bring new insights to policymakers, workforce developers, educators, and others interested in this challenge, the project will combine data analysis and primary research to explore how we can help workers recover from disruption more effectively, while also providing employers with new ways of sourcing talent. 

For this project, we are: 

  1. Developing and applying a robust and data-informed model in a way that meets the practical and real-life needs of employers, workforce developers, policymakers—and ultimately of course, workers themselves.
  2. Undertaking rapid scanning and market analysis, while drawing on insights from industry experts to understand trends and opportunities in the sector and geography of interest.
  3. Applying the pathways model to:
    • Identify pathways from origin jobs: roles where jobs are at risk of shrinking or disappearing in the near future.
    • Identify and develop pathways towards destination jobs: roles in potentially high-growth areas where training and employment supports could help direct people to quality jobs.  
  4. Developing and using a range of innovative qualitative and design-informed methods to consult with workers and understand their perspectives on what they look for in job and (re)training opportunities. 
  5. Testing improvements in our existing model and playbook, including: 
    • Pushing boundaries on the sources of data we use to generate and match jobseeker skills to occupations.
    • Identifying, prioritizing, and applying possible new factors to the model, as they’re identified by workers or jobseekers.
    • Sharing insights and new tools that we test and develop, which can help workforce developers and employers better understand training and redeployment opportunities. 
  6. Illustrating the utility of the model by identifying and examining a number of high-potential pathways,in particular focusing on the food retail sector in Ontario.
  7. Validating these high-potential pathways with employers, training organizations, and policymakers to understand how to most effectively guide workers through these pathways.
  8. Drawing on what we’ve learned to see if it might provide the groundwork for future research or interventions that support other job seekers and employers. 

Pathways in Canada’s Grocery Sector

In a time of significant disruption for workers and employers across Canada, we believe that the Job Pathways project represents an important tool to match skilled workers with in-demand jobs. We welcome partners, advisors, and collaborators who wish to learn alongside our team—or to apply our Job Pathways model to their own work. 

In 2020–21 we are undertaking an ambitious suite of research targeted at the Food Retail (Grocery) sector in Ontario. Canada is home to nearly 346,000 cashiers and nearly 181,000 grocery store clerks and shelf stockers. Workers in these occupations play a pivotal role in the Canadian economy. In recent years, we’ve recognized that these jobs were increasingly vulnerable to disruption due to forces like automation or online retail. The COVID-19 pandemic may be accelerating those trends, affecting hundreds of thousands of essential workers in communities all across Canada.

If you are interested in this project, please let us know by using the form below or reaching out to one of our team members directly.

Get Involved

Phase I: Expert Advisors

Zahra Ebrahim
Zahra Ebrahim
Zahra Ebrahim, Co-Founder, Monumental
AJ Tibando
Fellow
Executive Director, Palette Inc.
Daniel Munro
Research Advisor

Phase II: Expert Advisors

Zahra Ebrahim
Zahra Ebrahim
Zahra Ebrahim, Co-Founder, Monumental
Jyldyz Djumalieva
Head, Open Jobs Data team, Creative Economy & Data Analytics, Nesta
Madeleine Gabriel
Head of Inclusive Innovation, Nesta
IIE Work Stream Fellow
Gillian Mason
Principal, Gillian Mason Consultancy
Tyrone James Chua
Tyrone James Chua
Grocery Worker Advisor
Todd Bennet
Grocery Worker Advisor
Khushbu Patel
Khushbu Patel
Grocery Worker Advisor
Ruth Darlington
Ruth Darlington
Grocery Worker Advisor

Our Sponsors and Partners

This project is supported by JPMorgan Chase & Co.   

Job Pathways Phase II is an Employment Ontario project, funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. The views expressed in this project belong to the Brookfield Institute and do not necessarily reflect those of the Province. 

The food retail focus of Phase II is undertaken in partnership with the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW Canada). 

We are also grateful for the contributions of partners, including MaRS Data Catalyst and the Labour Market Information Council

We’re actively seeking funders and partners to support future phases of this research – including with other sectors and outside of Ontario If you’re interested in getting involved, please contact Mark Hazelden, mark.hazelden@ryerson.ca

Kimberly Bowman
Senior Projects Manager
Diana Rivera
Senior Economist
Annalise Huynh
Policy Analyst + Designer
Yasmin Rajabi
Project Manager
Sarah Doyle
Director of Policy + Research
Erin Warner
Marketing and Communications Specialist
Private: Sihwa Kim
Policy + Research Intern
Creig Lamb
Senior Policy Analyst
Viet Vu
Economist
Meghan Hellstern
Alumni, Senior Projects Officer

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Deep Dive

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Oct 26, 2020

Are you a grocery store cashier, store clerk or shelf stocker in Ontario? Take part in a research study exploring your experiences and opinions about work.
Call for Research Participants (Grocery Workers)

Sep 17, 2020

To determine the best way to support workers looking to transition careers, we begin by listening to their first-hand experiences. Learn how we're undertaking this work remotely amidst COVID-19.
How to Conduct Research Remotely during a Pandemic

Aug 26, 2020

We’re launching a new project that builds on our job pathways model, using human-centred design and leveraging data and local research with food retail workers and employers in Ontario
Illustration of masked woman stocking shelves next to light illuminating from partially opened door.

Oct 23, 2019

To cut straight to the heart of our research, we’ve created a playbook for policymakers, workforce developers, employers, and service providers to identify transitions from declining to growing jobs
A playbook to connect people looking for jobs with employers looking for people
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