The federal government’s new Skills for Success program announced in May 2021 promised $298 million in funding over three years. Many of you were probably excited at the prospect of accessing those funds. However, unless you are among the select few invited to submit a proposal, at least for this fiscal year, you’re out of luck.
The Office of Skills for Success (formerly OLES) has listed its funding under a new (to me) category of “Funding opportunities for solicited organizations.” This category is “open to applicants invited by Employment and Social Development only.”
The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES) stopped issuing calls for proposals back in 2015. Since that time, I’ve heard through the grapevine that OLES has been inviting organizations to ‘bid’ on projects it has designed as well as accepting unsolicited proposals. This is the first time however that I’ve seen a formal public acknowledgement of the practice of inviting a pre-selected group to submit proposals.
Despite ending its calls for proposals, OLES managed to fund 144 projects from 2015-2016 until 2019-2020 according to Public Accounts. Fifty-eight individual organizations were listed as recipients (only those receiving more than $100,000 are named) over that five-year period. Those 58 organizations shared $80 million in project funding.
Now I’m sure the funded projects were all worthwhile but without a project database there’s no way of knowing what the projects were about. But my main point is the number of organizations the government works with is small. With the new “invitation only” approach, these 58 are the likely recipients of an invite but we’ll probably never know; transparency and accountability are missing.
Turns out OSS is not the only program using this new approach. As you can see from the screenshot below, this is now an accepted ESDC approach to funding. Makes me quite curious as to what the bureaucrats told the Minister about the reasons for recommending this approach as opposed to a public call for proposals, and how the invited groups are selected.
Maybe some of you have already received ‘the call’ while others are waiting for a call that will never come. Congratulations to the ‘in-crowd,’ whomever you are.