Today the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour along with the Minister of Finance, made a full announcement about the Future Skills Centre and the Future Skills Council. (Eagle-eyed readers will have caught an error in an earlier blog post when I said that I had no idea who had won the competition for the Future Skills Centre – my aged mind failed to remind me that we knew last fall that Ryerson University was the successful lead candidate.)
The Future Skills Centre (previously known as the Future Skills Lab) will be run by Ryerson, the Conference Board and Blueprint. Blueprint is a policy research organization led by former Social Research and Development Corporation (SRDC) principal researcher Karen Myers, who is well versed in issues related to adult education, literacy and essential skills.
The Future Skills Centre will operate at arm’s length from the Government of Canada to fund projects across Canada that develop, test and measure new approaches to skills assessment and development.
According to the backgrounder released today, the Centre will distribute 50% of its funding to disadvantaged and under-represented groups including up to 20% for youth.
The big news today is the composition of the Future Skills Council which was announced today. The Council will make recommendation to the minister on skills development and training. The membership of the Council is:
- Denise Amyot, President and CEO, Colleges and Institutes Canada
- Jeremy Auger, Chief Strategy Officer, Desire 2 Learn (ON)
- Roberta Baikie-Andersen, Program Director of Inuit Pathways, Nunatsiavut Government (NL)
- Dr. Thierry Karsenti, Director, Centre de recherche interuniversitaire sur la formation et la profession enseignante (QC)
- Lisa Langevin, Assistant Business Manager, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 213 (BC)
- Mike Luff, National Representative, Canadian Labour Congress
- Dr. Alexander MacDonald, President and CEO, Holland College (PEI)
- Gladys Okine, Executive Director, First Work: Ontario’s Youth Employment Network (ON)
- Christa Ross, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Immigration, Employment and Career Development Division with the Ministry of Immigration and Career Training (SK)
- Melissa Sariffodeen, CEO and Co-Founder, Canada Learning Code (ON)
- Kerry Smith, Senior Director, Manitoba Metis Federation (MB)
- David Ticoll, Chair, National Stakeholder Advisory Panel, Labour Market Information Council; Special Advisor, Talent, Information Technology Association of Canada; Distinguished Fellow, Innovation Policy Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto (ON)
- Judy Fairburn, Board Director, Calgary Economic Development (AB)
- Dr. Paulette Tremblay, Chief Executive Officer, Assembly of First Nations
- Valerie Walker, Executive Director of the Business/ Higher Education Roundtable
- Rachel Wernick, Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
Ms Walker and Dr. Karsenti will act as co-chairs.
The Forum of Labour Market Ministers (FLMM) has a seat on the Council. Saskatchewan is the current host of the FLMM Secretariat. It is not clear if this seat is in addition to the names listed above or if Ms Ross is on the Council representing the FLMM.
I was pleased to see two labour and three indigenous representatives. Mr. Luff is the Canadian Labour Congress lead on literacy and essential skills issues. Dr. Tremblay did her PhD. at the University of Ottawa under the supervision of Dr. Maurice Taylor, a leading researcher in adult literacy.
Colleges and Institutes Canada’s participation makes sense given the role colleges play in adult upgrading. The ESDC representative Rachel Wernick served as Director General responsible for the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills from 2007 to 2010. From what I can gather based on a quick Google search, two members are from private companies in the business of digital learning.
No Council members come from the North, although the Nunatsiavut representative is from Labrador. There are also no members from Nova Scotia or New Brunswick both of which have active workplace skill development and essential skills programs.
The Centre and the Council will journey along a well-trodden path. The Canadian Centre for Business and Labour (CLBC), which grew out of the Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre, was for 22 years the national forum for dialogue among business, labour, government, and other players on skills issues. It closed its doors in 2007 after the Harper Government chose to no longer fund it. The Canadian Labour Force Development Board, founded in 1991, was another attempt to work horizontally with the various players and governments on these same issues. It folded in 1999 when it lost federal government support. Arising from the CLBC and the Canadian Council on Learning was the Centre for Workplace Skills and its Roundtable on Workforce Skills in the late ‘00s. This effort lasted about four years, again the victim of federal government neglect.
These earlier attempts demonstrate the logic in bringing the players together to discuss and make recommendations on skills development. Collaboration and cooperation are necessary ingredients to success. One only needs to look at the successful Quebec model Commission des partenaires du marché du travail to see how and why this works.
Unfortunately, you need someone willing to hear what is being proposed. My experience is that the federal government is keen to hear but not necessarily keen to act. With the earlier incarnations, no obligation existed to ensure that the federal government would follow any of the recommendations. While the federal government often required the most senior representatives of the various partner organizations, it was not willing to send its most senior officials to the table.
Navigating complex partnerships in the area of skills development, education and training is not for the faint of heart. I wish the Future Skills Centre and the Futures Skills Council all the best. I hope that this time, the federal government means what it says and will follow through and act on the advice it receives.