Lost and Found: Pathways from disruption to employment

A new model for identifying pathways to connect displaced workers with employers experiencing talent gaps
October 23, 2019
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While upskilling mid-career workers has emerged as a major policy priority, many existing programs take a one-size-fits-all approach that fails to consider local demand or the interests and needs of specific job seekers and employers. As part of a multi-stage project, this new report by the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) presents a model to help workers recover from disruption more effectively, while also providing employers with new ways of sourcing talent. The report is accompanied by a playbook that provides policymakers, workforce developers, and educators with a step-by-step guide on how to apply and adapt this new job pathways model in different use cases, including specific geographies, industries, and organizations.

Lost and Found: Pathways from disruption to employment uses available labour market information (LMI) to illuminate potential pathways from declining jobs to ones that are growing, based on the similarity of required skills as well as individual- and employer-based factors. This research highlights that designing successful training or talent matching programs requires an understanding of factors that extend beyond skills, ranging from occupational licensing and credential requirements, to how employers recruit people, and an individual’s capacity and willingness to take on certain kinds of work, embark on a retraining journey, or move to a new location. 

“Canada needs smarter, data-informed services, policies, and digital tools to better match the supply of skills with demand across the economy,” says Sarah Doyle, Director of Policy + Research at the Brookfield Institute. “But labour market data won’t give us the full picture. Our research adds the human dimension. We’re investigating the needs and interests of job seekers and employers to understand what’s required to make transitions from declining jobs to growing ones work in practice. The result of the first phase of our research is a playbook that we think will be valuable for policymakers and service providers looking to design new solutions to help job seekers and employers connect.”

Key Report Findings
  • Labour market data can be used to identify potential pathways between jobs that are in decline and jobs that offer a more promising future⁠—and that local employers are looking to fill. This project combines data on, for example, the skills required in different occupations, local vacancy rates, overall employment numbers, historic growth, and pay to connect the dots between workers facing disruption at scale and emerging areas of opportunity.
  • However, a data-driven approach is insufficient. The perspectives of workers, trainers, and employers are also needed to determine whether a job transition is likely to work in practice. For example, a person’s identity, psychological readiness, access to social support, and financial and geographic mobility constraints may influence their ability and willingness to consider certain job opportunities. From the employer perspective, ease of recruitment and trusted signals of fit⁠—such as credentials, referrals, and common networks⁠—are equally important. 
  • Policies, services and digital tools that are aiming to identify high-potential job transition pathways and help people move along them should draw on labour market data while putting people at the centre of their design. One-size-fits-all approaches fall short.  
  • This new model can be widely applied. While it focuses on two specific cases (1- Motor Vehicle Assemblers, Testers and Inspectors Mechanical Engineering Technologists and Technicians and 2- Banking, Insurance and Other Financial Clerks Financial Sales Representatives), the data and framework can be reoriented to, for instance, help employers and service providers respond to recent or impending layoffs, employers identify new sources of local talent, or policymakers focus resources and tailor programs to respond to emerging areas of opportunity and need.
  • BII+E plans to refine this model through a subsequent phase of human-centred design research that will further explore worker and employer experiences. 

Lost and Found is made possible thanks to support from JPMorgan Chase & Co and collaboration with MaRS Data Catalyst and the Labour Market Information Council.

“Employers, workers, and training institutions face uncertainty about how a rapidly-changing economy affects the supply of, and demand for, talent,” said Owen Washburn, Vice President of Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase. “This research validates that through public-private partnership, we can build career pathways that respond to the changing nature of work and meet future skills demands.”

The report and accompanying playbook combine data analysis and qualitative research to bring new insights to policymakers, workforce developers, educators, and others interested in connecting displaced, skilled workers with employers experiencing talent gaps. This is the first phase of a longer term investigation into job pathways that goes beyond skill requirements alone to reflect the realities of how career transition and hiring processes work for specific geographies, industries, organizations, and individuals.

Lost and Found builds upon BII+E’s past work in a variety of areas, including research on automation, its Employment in 2030 initiative exploring which skills and jobs will likely be in demand in the next 10–15 years 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 gain the skills needed to transition into high-demand careers.


The Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) is an independent and nonpartisan policy institute, housed within Ryerson University, that is dedicated to building a prosperous Canada where everyone has the opportunity to thrive due to an inclusive resilient economy. BII+E generates far-sighted insights and stimulates new thinking to advance actionable innovation policy in Canada. For more information, visit brookfieldinstitute.ca.

Ryerson University is Canada’s leader in innovative, career-oriented education. Urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to more than 44,600 students, including 2,600 master’s and PhD students, 3,100 faculty and staff, and nearly 185,000 alumni worldwide. For more information, visit ryerson.ca.

For media enquiries, please contact Nina Rafeek Dow, Marketing + Communications Specialist at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.