Chapter 7. Towards an action plan for jobs: Recommendations for better supporting local employment and economic development

Stimulating job creation at the local level requires integrated actions across employment, training, and economic development portfolios. Co-ordinated place based policies can help workers find suitable jobs, while also contributing to demand by stimulating productivity. This requires flexible policy management frameworks, information, and integrated partnerships which leverage the efforts of local stakeholders. This chapter outlines the key recommendations emerging from the review of local job creation policies in Canada, including Saskatchewan and the Yukon.


Recommendations for local employment and economic development of indigenous communities

This OECD review has looked at employment, skills, and economic development issues in the Yukon and Saskatchewan across four case study areas, which include Dawson City, Whitehorse, Whitecap First Nations and Regina. Relative to other jurisdictions in Canada, Saskatchewan and the Yukon have relatively low unemployment rates and a significant prevalence of employers reporting skills shortages, particularly in the resources sector.

With a focus on indigenous communities, the study has provided an opportunity to look at different governance models for First Nations and the interactions of local self-government administrative practices with surrounding municipal administrations, provincial/territorial authorities and the federal government. Both Saskatchewan and the Yukon have a significant number of indigenous communities, which face particular barriers to participation and labour market success.

In Canada, self-government agreements empower an indigenous community to govern in a manner that is responsive to the needs and interests of its people. While there are no self-government agreements currently in place in Saskatchewan, in the Yukon, they are changing the face of First Nations governance and altering the relationship between First Nations, the Yukon government, and the federal government. These agreements enable First Nations to change a long-standing narrative of deprivation and exclusion to one of inclusive growth, employment and prosperity.

Greater economic and social outcomes activities can be achieved by indigenous communities through stronger policy enablers and capacity building activities. This OECD review has demonstrated the interests of indigenous communities to lead employment and economic development activities in their community in collaboration with the resources, covenants and practices in the municipal jurisdiction(s) adjacent to the community, as well as the departments (ministries) implicated at the territorial and provincial level.

The following recommendations should be considered to boost employment and economic development activities within indigenous communities in Canada.

Recommendation: Recognise that provincial and territorial governments are playing an increasingly active role in indigenous communities and have considerable incentives to ensure successful economic and social development. This may well involve rethinking the federal leadership role in areas where provinces and territories have strong capacity and competence.

Where possible, the federal government should award more flexibility to its local and regional offices to work with provincial/territorial employment and income assistance programmes so they can better align services in the broader community with those offered in indigenous communities. It is critical to establish a local lens when developing policies and programmes for employment, training, and economic development (OECD, 2014a). At the local level, strategic initiatives to build resiliency, and achieve high employment can do much to change the economic and social future of a community.

Flexibility within social assistance policies is a key issue for indigenous communities as there are funding policy incentives within the system to keep individuals on social assistance rather than encourage integration into the labour market. The federal government should provide incentives to the provincial/territorial level to take a stronger role in coordinating services for First Nations, including those under federal responsibility. Currently, co-ordination and flexibility are problematic in part because some of the services are managed at federal and provincial government levels and do not effectively promote linkages with other programmes and activities locally.

Many of the current policy and programmes are designed in a centralised and specialised manner, which assumes that indigenous communities are separated from a broader social and economic environment and that indigenous people only access specialised services developed for their communities. The policy environment is considerably more complex and in some cases, First Nations communities may wish to align or in some cases integrate their services with those of the surrounding area to obtain efficiencies or to make them more effective. There could be advantages to be gained from policy integration by establishing locally based employment and economic development boards in some communities to formalise partnership working and better integrate activities as well as the involvement of employers. In areas where there are significant self-governing indigenous communities, the board should combine or co-ordinate services across communities.

In both Saskatchewan (Whitecap Dakota First Nation) and the Yukon, First Nation students are being taught by local school boards. These unique approaches have advantages in terms of teacher’s professional development and support, standards of schools and quality of curriculum while respecting the cultural integrity of First Nations education. For indigenous youth, closer integration appears to ease important transitions from primary school to high school and from high school to postsecondary education. The successful pre-K to 12 integration of Whitecap with the Saskatoon Public School Division provides a model that may be applicable in other First Nations communities across Canada. Critical to that success was the willingness of Whitecap Dakota First Nation, the Saskatoon School Board, and the federal government to work together to implement an arrangement that would improve student outcomes.

To take advantage of a changing policy landscape at the provincial/territorial level and to increase the ability of communities to organise activities that best respond to local needs, the federal government should seek to develop more indigenous policies and programmes jointly with the provinces/territories. Furthermore, where responsibilities cannot be devolved directly to the community level, the federal government should ensure that local representatives have the ability to work with community leaders and provincial/territorial authorities to affect action. This would mean that federal departments should review their programme procedures with a view to confer increased decisional authority to policy officers who reside in the local communities. Local federal officials are active in local economic and labour mechanisms where they exist and the federal contribution is appreciated. Intergovernmental co-ordination is becoming increasingly important to develop effective strategies to boost indigenous labour market and economic development.

Recommendation: Strategically use public procurement policies to add conditions on contracts around the employment of indigenous individuals and/or to increase the number of apprenticeship and training opportunities.

Canada has established important mechanisms to promote indigenous enterprise development through programmes both at the federal and provincial/territorial levels. During this OECD review, some promising examples were observed in the creation of specific indigenous and business partnerships but the majority of programmes and strategies do not include reference to job creation within the indigenous community itself. There is the possibility of more precise targeting of these programmes to direct the benefits towards local economic development and job creation and develop specific skills (e.g. literacy, numeracy) and apprenticeships within First Nation communities.

Some functions currently performed by the provincial or territorial government can be rethought in such a way as to create employment. In Yukon, officials at Community Services are reviewing delivery to see what services could be provided locally in the community. In Saskatchewan provision of policing, medical and day care services are being thought of for the surrounding region to give critical mass to facilities located on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation. Each innovation while small in itself has the effect of building community capacity and strengthening the local economy.

Public procurement also represents an important policy lever the government has at its disposal to promote job creation within indigenous communities. While some programmes exist, more needs to be done to ensure indigenous communities benefit from these funding arrangements in a manner, which promotes economic development within their community. Preferential treatment can be given to First Nation-owned businesses (e.g., either through set-asides or awarding additional points to First Nation-owned businesses in the bid process) while on the supply side, additional capacity building and outreach programmes which go further than providing information can help First Nations businesses in developing the capacities needed to win and deliver on government contracts. Incentivising other large government contractors to sub-contract with First Nation-owned businesses is another way to increase access to public procurement while also building the capacities of First Nation businesses to eventually become prime contractors.

Public procurement contracts can also be structured in such a way as to improve access to employment opportunities and training for First Nations people outside of First Nations owned businesses. Conditions can be put into public procurement contracts requiring that a certain number of employment or apprenticeship opportunities be awarded to First Nations people, or extra points in the bid process can be awarded to contractors with strategies in place to promote First Nations employment and training. Similar levers can be used via local planning decisions – for example, through conditioning planning approval on offering a certain number of employment or training opportunities.

Recommendation: Strengthen leadership capacities and facilitate information sharing to enable identification of the most promising conditions for success across Canada’s indigenous communities by establishing a repository of effective practices in promoting indigenous employment and skills development activities

The federal government should play a stronger role in sharing information across indigenous communities and building leadership capacities. This is particularly important for those First Nations communities, who have successfully concluded self-government agreements. This report has highlighted the efforts within the Yukon to develop local leadership, governance and public administration capacities through the First Nations Leadership training programmes delivered by Yukon College. This programme model is an interesting practice, which could be adapted in other communities across Canada. Greater information sharing could take the form of a “centre for excellence” – a constantly evolving repository of experience and best practices in managing change and establishing sound, transparent and accountable governance frameworks across over 600 First Nations communities in Canada. The concept of a “centre for excellence” has received support from indigenous groups, such as the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board.

Towards an action plan for jobs: Recommendations for Saskatchewan

This study has looked at the range of institutions and actors in Saskatchewan with a particular focus on local activities in Whitecap and Regina. A number of strengths and challenges were observed which should be considered to further promote job creation and skills development in Saskatchewan.

Recommendation: Promote stronger local employment and economic development networks and inject greater flexibility into the management and implementation of policies at the local level

The Saskatchewan Plan for Growth establishes the goal of creating an additional 60 000 jobs by 2020. The focus of the plan is through job growth in the non-renewable resource sector; agriculture and food related businesses; as well as investments in public infrastructure. The Plan for Growth has been effective in focusing and co-ordinating the efforts of various Ministries by providing an integrated approach and promoting better cross ministry policy co-ordination. However, formal governance arrangements to co-ordinate the work of various employment and economic development organisations at the local level appear weak. Mechanisms that naturally link municipalities to local labour market activity are not optimal. For example, social assistance and vocational education are administered provincially, whereas economic development is driven out of a stand-alone administration locally. In the area of employment services, there are an increasing number of organisations that offer what appear to be similar services to urban First Nations.

During this review, local employment service providers in Regina highlighted that more flexibility in the design and delivery of services would ensure they are able to adequately cater services to particular client groups. Local employment services face a changing client profile resulting from the increase in the number of individuals who face multiple barriers to enter employment, larger caseloads of people on income assistance, and increased numbers of indigenous moving into the city and looking for work. More flexibility would be to enable service providers to have a stronger role in negotiating programme design criteria such as the intensity of the intervention (e.g. how long a client is able to be served) as well as setting and/or negotiating performance targets which take into account local employment conditions.

In Regina, there was limited interaction among the various actors involved in economic, employment and skills development. No formal mechanism exists that connects labour force planning and skills development strategies with the economic development plans for the region. The co-ordination between Service Canada and provincial programmes also needs to be strengthened. Job seekers would benefit from greater co-ordination among service providers locally and better information about where to go to receive services.

Previous OECD research highlighted the critical role to be played by local boards in assessing local strengths, weaknesses, threats, opportunities, as well as linking supply and demand approaches to skills and employment, particularly in areas of low-skills equilibrium (OECD, 2014a; Verma, 2012). Saskatchewan should pilot the establishment of a local board in Regina to promote stronger linkages and co-ordination among the various policy portfolios. The board could bring together key players in the community to align services and agree on strategic objectives for local employment and economic development.

Box 7.1. Local boards in Ontario and the United States

Ontario, Canada: there are 25 Workforce Planning Boards who conduct localised research and actively engage organisations and community partners in local labour market projects. Every local workforce planning board publishes detailed reports about its labour market projects, activities and partnerships. Local workforce planning boards champion local workforce development solutions for their communities and help to strategically align the actions of all local stakeholders in the community. Previous OECD research looked at workforce planning boards in Hamilton and Thunder Bay and found that the boards serve useful roles as information nodes and have led to the creation of valuable and strong networks, which are a form of social capital (OECD, 2014b).

United States: Local workforce investment boards (WIBs) have played a strong role in creating more integrated strategies to address employment and skills within broader economic development strategies locally since 1998. There are over 600 WIBs across the United States, at the state and local level, and they are strongly business-led, being both chaired by business and having a majority of business members. Each local workforce investment area is governed by such a board, which is responsible for providing employment and training services within a specific geographic area.

Source: (2014b), Employment and Skills Strategies in Canada, OECD Reviews on Local Job Creation, OECD Publishing, Paris; OECD. (2014c), Employment and Skills Strategies in the United States, OECD Reviews on Local Job Creation, OECD Publishing, Paris, OECD.

Recommendation: Encourage labour market development stakeholders – including colleges and universities – to become more engaged in accessing, analysing, and producing local labour market information. This includes developing stronger forecasting methods of future skill needs as well as informing students of potential job opportunities

A key part of the policy/implementation cycle is having good information upon which to make decisions. Saskatchewan has relatively small cities and as a result little locally produced information is being used. Better local information would create greater capacity at the local level by providing more information on successful strategies for employment and skills.

Authoritative and updated skills profiles of local labour markets are important in framing strategies and strengthening accountability and can also galvanise local actors into a common agenda for action when used well (OECD, 2014a). The source for a majority of the data used at the local level is the census and the labour force survey (which does not include on-reserve information). For smaller areas, the long form census has been a significant source of data and information that was replaced by the Household Survey in 2011. The federal government recently announced a decision to reinstate the long-form census in 2016 and that will significantly improve the information available for analysis. To ensure robust information and evidence at the local level, new methods and opportunities could be explored to supplement data gathering and analysis in Saskatchewan.

Greater focus also needs to be placed on forecasting future skills needs and anticipating growth opportunities. Saskatchewan could establish a policy process which is focused on future skills planning to ensure that supply is geared towards the future needs of the provincial economy. Any potential establishment of a local board could also play a role in coordinating supply and demand labour market information; however it could also be generated through collaborations among local actors including economic development, the chambers of commerce and the universities and colleges.

Recommendation: Expand the use of demand driven training through stronger linkages with local employers (especially SMEs) and embed skills policies in economic development thinking

In Regina, the Regina Skills and Trades Centre seems to be particularly effective at training and placing participants and is a strong example of a demand driven approach to training in the province. Consideration could be given to expanding it both geographically and in other employment spheres. Working closely with the Regina Chamber of Commerce, it has a board of local business owners. Skills and Trades looks to place all graduates and uses the specific requirements of hiring companies as a way of adding specific employer value around courses that qualify for apprenticeship under the Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Certification Commission.

Increasing local engagement with employers should occur in an organised manner to minimise the burden on employers and to best use scarce resources. It is important to build on good bottom up collaboration and networks that already exist. In Regina, the Chamber of Commerce has been active in working with Regina Trades and Skills Centre as well as the Regina Regional Opportunities Commission to grow the local economy and the labour force. Local labour market services offices could play a stronger role in convening providers around creating an overall employer engagement strategy.

Going forward, skills policies need to be embedded in a broader drive to support economic development. This can include helping existing firms to move towards more skills intensive, higher value product market strategies. A situation of low-skills equilibrium can develop where there is a concentration of employers in a region that are pursuing price-based competition strategies, and that rely on low-skilled and standardised production. OECD research has shown that local public agencies can contribute to improving how skills are put to use through a number of different policy instruments, such as incentives for employers to invest in new technology and the promotion of more effective forms of work organisation (Froy and Giguère, 2010).

Recent studies have underscored Canada’s productivity challenge and potential improvements as they relate to better using skills (Drumond, Caveluck, and Calver, 2015). One such opportunity exists through the implementation of the Canada-Saskatchewan Job Grant. Building the capacity of firms to optimise the utilisation of skills and to make investments in their existing workforce will be essential as part of an overall productivity and innovation strategy in Saskatchewan. Local networks of employers and training institutions could be given a greater policy “steer” to co-ordinate and promote skills utilisation strategies across business in the local area.

For employment services, Saskatchewan could look to the Quebec model where Employment Quebec services are active in offering employers assistance with work organisation and human resources management practices (OECD, 2014a). Given the low unemployment rate in Saskatchewan, there is a stronger opportunity to focus on the existing workforce and how to lift overall productivity.

In many cases, innovation and local economic development can be promoted by boosting skills in traditionally low skill sectors, such as those related to resource development. For example, Saskatchewan polytechnic could play an enhanced role in working with firms in the energy, mineral and manufacturing sectors to improve local skills utilisation and improve productivity through management training and the co-development and dissemination of relevant R&D, product testing and technology transfer. Previous work by the OECD has highlighted the important role that can be played by colleges in fostering synergies between local companies and the educational and research infrastructure to promote skills development and help employers move up the value chain and expand their product offer.

Recommendation: Implement a comprehensive provincial youth employment approach which focuses on employment and job creation as well as smoother transitions into the labour market

When looking at unemployment across Canada, Saskatchewan compares favourably well but this macro-level indicator of economic health masks the challenges faced by certain groups and places in the province. While the youth unemployment rate also compares well across provinces in Canada, it is rising and youth face a number of significant barriers to entering the labour market. There is an opportunity in Saskatchewan to develop a forward looking provincial youth employment strategy, which ensures that youth are given sufficient support to develop the right skills that meet the needs of the labour market.

In thinking about the development of a strategy, Saskatchewan should consider how to enable greater youth ownership within the implementation of programmes and policies. This means looking for ways to directly involve youth in the development and implementation of programmes. Higher-skilled and more ambitious youth can serve as mentors and assist in targeted efforts and outreach, particularly for indigenous youth. Best practices highlight the importance of indigenous mentors, especially for indigenous youth. The province could undertake a strategic review with the goal of looking at existing funding policy mechanisms to ensure that incentives are provided to local service delivery organisations to reduce duplication and join-up efforts. This review would also examine potential actions which could be leveraged at the municipal level.

Addressing barriers to youth unemployment needs to be multi-faceted, especially in regions where multiple service providers co-exist. Outcome-based performance management systems can also have unintended consequences by injecting competition into the delivery of services as providers can be encouraged to cherry pick clients and focus efforts on those individuals most likely to succeed. This OECD study has highlighted the opportunity to co-ordinate services for youth in Regina, where there are a plethora of service providers.

For example, the Glasgow model could be examined for its applicability to larger cities in Saskatchewan, such as Regina and Saskatoon. The city of Glasgow, Scotland has re‐engineered its approach to supporting youth employability by shifting support from individual projects to one where the emphasis was placed on improving the entire ecology of interventions available and joining these up. This included establishing clear leadership responsibility, introducing shared targets for the city, establishing a Youth Gateway model to promote information sharing and joint service commissioning, and embedding schools into the partnership model. A number of changes to promote genuine collaboration were also introduced, including establishing a Service Level Agreement in 2009 outlining the roles and responsibilities of all key players and the introduction of youth employability groups to monitor progress on the ground. Under the banner of Glasgow Works, a co‐commissioning model was piloted where funders have adopted a more transparent approach to financing interventions.

Towards an action plan for jobs: Recommendations for the Yukon

This study has looked at the range of institutions and actors in the Yukon with a particular focus on local activities in Whitehorse and Dawson City. A number of strengths and challenges were observed which should be considered to further promote job creation and skills in the Yukon.

Recommendation: Build on the success of the Labour Market Framework by establishing local networks in communities in the Yukon that would be tasked with developing employment and economic development plans. These networks should involve employers and be closely connected to the training system

Yukon’s labour market activities are driven from the conclusion of a Labour Market Framework agreement, which was initiated in 2008 and combines a far-reaching series of stakeholder committees covering four thematic areas of the territory’s labour market strategy, including skills and training; immigration; labour market information; and recruitment and employee retention. The Labour Market Framework appears to be a useful mechanism for seeking local stakeholder input into policy and programme development and is a practice that merits examination by other jurisdictions interested in open policy development. Stakeholders play an active role in informing on-going policy discussions around labour market issues and programme design and implementation. One of the key features of the framework is to look for ways to create greater integration vertically (between different orders of governments), horizontally (among different Ministries in Yukon), as well as between non-governmental delivery organisations, labour representatives and employers.

Yukon is showing leadership in how it is establishing government-to-government relations with self-governing First Nations Communities. Local municipalities and First Nations appear to have strong collaborative working relations. Each First Nation has its own employment and training division as part of its administration. Services are loosely connected to those offered through the Yukon government and citizens can choose to use general services or those specifically connected to the First Nation administration. Services tend to be highly integrated and may involve tight co-operation between the First Nation development corporation and the employment and training division.

Local areas in Yukon have the dual challenge of building a resilient economy less dependent on public investments while also ensuring access to the labour market for more vulnerable populations. The Labour Market Framework has established a set of principles broadly accepted by key stakeholders and has mechanisms that allow for input into policy and planning. The Framework as it stands applies to the territorial level but there are opportunities to make it more sensitive to local conditions.

Local labour market networks could be established using the membership of the Framework Committees. These networks could be tasked with increasing the knowledge base on the unique conditions and challenges that exist at the local level in the Yukon and developing interventions and mechanisms that address those challenges. These networks could also contribute to stronger capacity building activities at the local level in the Yukon. For example, the networks could play an advisory role to the college in ensuring that courses are well aligned with local economic development opportunities as well as influencing the service delivery arrangements of employment services.

Yukon College has developed a First Nations Leadership Training (FNLT) programme in conjunction with Yukon First Nations that focuses on self-government. The First Nations leadership training is unique in its focus and is widely seen as an important part of building long-term success at the community level and ensuring the depth of leadership needed to govern all aspects of devolved responsibilities. Approaches which improve local governance capacities are welcomed and additional opportunities should be explored to encourage this type of activity.

Recommendation: Place a policy priority on increasing the engagement of employers with the vocational education system to ensure they are providing advice on the relevancy of programmes and curriculum

Mechanisms to increase the voice of employers in skills development opportunities remain underdeveloped in the Yukon. Efforts are being made through Yukon College which is developing an employer network to strengthen planning and performance management. Part of the challenge of developing stronger employer engagement mechanisms stem from the efforts of the College to respond to a broad series of priorities that include high public sector job demands for professional, technical and administrative personnel and an emergent need for leadership development among self-governing First Nations communities.

Yukon has a single postsecondary institution responsible for providing the very wide range of vocational educational courses associated with an expanding labour force. The college administration has been increasing the amount of contact with the local business community and acknowledges that more can be done. During this OECD review, business leaders noted that their voice remained weak and they are ready to participate in more efforts to align skills development opportunities with their needs.

Yukon College should ensure that the envisioned employer network plays a stronger advisory role in ensuring that programmes and curriculum are well aligned with local economic development opportunities. Yukon could look to Ontario, where programmes and courses delivered by each college are well informed by local demand. Each college has a Programme Advisory Committee, which reports to the President of the college through a Board of Governors. This Committee helps to define graduate requirements and course content (OECD, 2014a).

The College is also ideally positioned to work with the Yukon Government in workforce development strategies to increase employment opportunities. More efforts need to be place on upgrading the skills of already existing workers in the workplace. This can often be difficult as lower-skilled workers are typically less likely to participate in workplace training opportunities. The Yukon-Canada Job Grant will certainly offer an opportunity to provide more training opportunities in the workplace. Priority areas have been identified as Yukon Education has developed the Workfutures website which highlights the top 100 in-demand jobs. In the implementation of the programme, the government should ensure that training is also geared towards low-skilled individuals. The government should also consider how best to target workplace training opportunities to traditional low-skill sectors, such as retail and tourism.

Box 7.2. Targeting the tourism sector in Blackpool, United Kingdom

Tourism is central to the local economy in Blackpool, in the United Kingdom. Having long been a seaside resort that caters for high volume but low-spending customers, Blackpool is working hard to raise its game and attract higher spending customers through offering a higher quality tourism ’offer’. The town has been growing its branded attractions (e.g. Madame Tussauds, Nikolodean, Merlin) while also investing significantly in infrastructure (trams, cycles, buying the Blackpool tower for the public, new concert hall, refurbished front). It was recognised that capital and infrastructure investments alone will be insufficient to realising the town’s vision, and that alongside them there is a need for investment in skills, particularly in the area of customer service. This meant investment in specific skills (for example through local college courses geared to the tourism industry) but also more informal learning and knowledge sharing.

A particular emphasis has been placed on informal skills development to raise the aspirations of service personnel so that they project a better image of the town and at the same time become more committed both to Blackpool, their employers and their own personal career prospects. A good example of such an initiative is the Welcome to Blackpool initiative which trains local people (especially those working in hospitality, leisure, tourism, transport and retail sectors, but also local residents) in appreciating the history of Blackpool, current developments and future plans. Through course attendance participants learn more about Blackpool’s attractions and services. The knowledge gained can then be used to enhance visitor and local residents’ experience of Blackpool.

Employers have reported that the short course equips staff to deliver a high standard of customer service, which in turn impresses visitors to the town and encourages word of mouth recommendations and repeat visits to Blackpool. The initiative has shown that taxi drivers, those involved in tourism, and local residents can be excellent ambassadors for Blackpool It was reported that over 3 000 people (of all ages) have attended the course in two years and that more than 250 organisations have benefited. Such initiatives have been useful in increasing staff retention in local firms, which traditionally have had high turnover rates, linked to the seasonality of tourism in the town. High turnover rates have been seen by some firms as representing a challenge in terms of investing in staff training and skills upgrading. Growing staff retention has allowed local employers such as the Sandcastle Water Park to start working with individuals on personal development plans.

Source: Froy, F., S. Giguère and M. Meghnagi (2012), “Skills for Competitiveness: A Synthesis Report”, OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Working Papers, No. 2012/09, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Recommendation: Develop an entrepreneurship strategy, which focuses on youth and older workers and indigenous people as a tool for economic adjustment and job creation

Yukon has a culture of risk taking and self-sufficiency as well as an excellent track record of business creation. For both youth as well as older workers, entrepreneurship can support them to exit unemployment and generate economic value. OECD research has highlighted the importance of strong connections between vocational education and industry in promoting entrepreneurial activities. It is important that vocational education programmes stimulate entrepreneurial capacity and behaviour. This can be done by providing more opportunities for entrepreneurship in curricula, creating new guides and training for teachers, and developing new forms of assessment and accreditation.

Secondary school efforts can also focus on entrepreneurship education by using learning activities, which focus on active learning and real-life situations. Students should learn about business planning, accessing start up financing through the setting up of simulation or real businesses enterprises. Yukon College lists a course on “Introduction to Entrepreneurship”, which is designed to assist students with determining what they need to build a successful private business. In addition to supporting students in their effort to expand upon their ideas and develop a roadmap for their business career, the course is also designed to provide mentorship opportunities to participants. It appears that the course is not currently offered and it is not clear whether the reason is lack of demand or other reasons. Yukon should undertake a review of existing initiatives with the goal of strengthening the system and ensuring a focus on the development of entrepreneurship skills.

The Yukon Chamber of Commerce has played an important role in supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses in Yukon; therefore it would be a key partner in these types of efforts. A recent development is the creation of a Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce (YFNCC) located in Whitehorse. The YFNCC provides a base for First Nations entrepreneurs and businesses to come together.

Recommendation: Develop a youth employment strategy focusing on pathways to success with the goal of reducing early school leaving, increasing participation in postsecondary education and connecting low-skilled youth to the labour market

Measuring youth unemployment in the Yukon is not easy. Small sample sizes mean that some statistics need to be suppressed especially where both gender and age cohorts are specified. Most recent reports indicate that the rate is around 6.9% which less than double the overall rate of which is 3.7%. Underreporting in First Nations communities likely mean the rates are higher. An examination of the 2011 National Household Survey indicates that non-response rate was above 25% for Yukon making this data source unreliable.

This observation appears to be supported by data from Yukon Education on secondary school graduation rates. For 2014 the graduation rate was 79% for non-First Nations but only 48% for First Nations. During this OECD review, employers reported that Yukon youth are not often employment ready, are prone to erratic work behaviour and that young people too often do not have sufficient work experience and employability skills. Too many youth have low aspirations and are frustrated by what they see as a lack of opportunity. Motivating young people can help them to recognise their personal and professional strengths, break out of old patterns of thinking and realise that they can attain their goals.

Yukon is unique in having a pre-school to college system that can act as an integrated whole for both non-First Nations and First Nations. Some of this work is already in progress. The federal and Yukon governments, Yukon First Nations, and the Council of Yukon First Nations have signed an MOU to support the educational success of First Nations students in the territory. The agreement will help launch a long-term strategic plan for First Nations student’s life-long learning process focusing on the K-12 system. Yukon College also has a programme that targets early school leavers but more can be done and given the long term need of the Yukon to develop a skilled labour force, it is critical to ensure youth are supported in making labour market transitions. In many cases, youth require intensive and personalized support to build their ambition and motivation.

Mentorship programmes can have a positive impact; therefore Yukon should examine how to build stronger connections between youth and representatives from local employer groups and organisations. It is also important to establish stronger connections between local employers and high schools to make youth aware of the local job opportunities that are available and the expected educational pathways that need to be pursued for a job.

Recommendation: Establish a balance between employers needs for workers and job seekers needs for entry-level opportunities by instituting a requirement for a labour market assessment as part of the process of determining what skills will be sought through the Provincial Nominee Program.

The Labour Market framework has identified immigration as a key pillar signalling how important international migration is for labour supply. Yukon has been a welcoming place for newcomers and immigrants have made an important contribution to Yukon’s economy and society. Yukon has run a successful Provincial Nominee Programme, which enables the territory to select internationally trained and experienced foreign workers who have the skills needed in the local labour market, and nominate them to receive Canadian permanent resident visas to settle and work in Yukon.

A number of local employers in Whitehorse and Dawson City rely on the Provincial Nominee Programme to fill their skills needs. Employers cite reliability, strong work ethic, and low turnover as significant advantages of individuals who participate in the Provincial Nominee Programme. During this OECD review, employment service providers and job seekers reported that the extensive use of the Provincial Nominee Programme has reduced the supply of entry-level jobs and employment opportunities.

Going forward, consideration should be given to instituting a requirement for a labour market assessment as part of the process of determining what skills will be sought through the Provincial Nominee Program. The Labour Market Framework committees bring many of the relevant stakeholders together and could be used as the mechanism for identifying and proposing changes to the Programme.

Yukon could also look to establish stronger public-private partnerships to providing more entry level positions. Employer Resource Networks in the United States have been successfully used to address similar problems and represent a demand driven employer-led approach to providing entry level positions while providing employers with support they need to manage an entry level workforce.

Box 7.3. Employer Resource Networks in the United States

ERNs grew out of two concurrent initiatives in 2000 local employers’ need to reduce turnover among low-wage workers and a community consensus to reduce poverty. Issues that may catalyze an ERN model include: employee retention; presence of a skills gap between employer needs and employees’ current skills level causing vacancies in higher paying middle skilled jobs; poverty reduction in the low-wage workforce; family financial literacy and asset development; and decreasing public assistance expenditures.

Primary stakeholders: ERN stakeholders include small to mid-sized companies and their employees; public human services and workforce development agencies; private non-profits; community colleges and vocational training organisations; and local, regional and national foundations and United Ways.

ERNs are consortia of businesses created to share the resources and expense of building the skills and capacities of their entry-level, often disadvantaged, workers.

Small and mid-sized businesses pool resources to accomplish together what they cannot accomplish individually – composed of several (e.g., 6-8) small and mid-sized businesses.

Services are targeted to entry-level workers but open to all employees – targeted to those most at risk for job turnover – low-wage, low-skilled, entry-level workers. All employees are able to access ERN services as needed, however. Participation in ERN services is voluntary for employees. Although, supervisors may include ERN services as part of a corrective action plan for workers with poor performance or behavioral problems that are disruptive to the work environment.

The primary focus is job retention, with a strong secondary focus on skill building – designed with the explicit goal of improving job retention of the existing workforce, and providing opportunities for skill building and advancement. Trainings may be industry- specific or focus on general job skills training. ERNs also provide soft skills training on topics such as problem solving, time management, and conflict resolution.

Capacity is expanded through public and private partnerships – ERNs forge relationships with a mixture of local community partners – non-profits, public agencies, and community and technical colleges – to expand the range of resources they can make available to their employees. Where possible, ERNs rely on leveraged resources (funding and in-kind) from these partners or, because of the high volume of employees served or trained, pay for services from the community partner at a discounted cost.

ERNs provide a number of services to employers:

  • Short-term, “high touch” case management – aim is to resolve any personal and family challenges that interfere with employment, such as: lack of transportation, childcare, or housing; relationship stress; mental health conditions; and drug or alcohol addictions. “Retention specialists” link employees with existing service providers in the community that offer different resources and services.

  • Job and life skills training – create “shared-seat trainings” whose costs are shared by a number of businesses. Training may be: soft-skills training; job skills training (such as computer training); educational programmes (such as English as a second language and Spanish-language courses); and general trainings on asset development (financial literacy and home ownership).

  • Specialised resources and supports – help improve employees’ access to a range of work supports (e.g., preparation of income tax returns to ensure that eligible employees benefit from tax credits; wellness programmes with a focus on disease prevention and management, including health assessments, smoking cessation programmes, and fitness counselling).

The Success Coach from an ERN works with employees on-site at their place of employment before or after their work shift. ERN success coaches are not in central, social service locations but on-site at participating company workplaces. Their caseload is typically 1/3 that of a public case worker. Success coach accessibility and availability are keys to the ERN success: employees have immediate and direct access to counselling and referrals; and employers retain workers whose


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Froy, F., S. Giguère and M. Meghnagi  (2012), “Skills for Competitiveness: A Synthesis Report”, OECD Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Working Papers, No. 2012/09, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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