“Train-to-hire” program for in-demand jobs to ignite inclusive local economic opportunities

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The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted social and economic factors leaving many Canadians unemployed. The national unemployment rate in November was 8.5% [1]and with the rise in Covid-19 cases and additional public health restrictions over the past month, any gains realized in the labour market from the prior months will be hard pressed to be maintained if ongoing pandemic developments continue.

In large metropolitan centres like the City of Toronto, the current market factors are contributing to the increasing disparity within neighbourhoods where unemployment is higher than the city and province. Leaders from various sectors of public, corporate, and community recognized early on the need to assist neighbourhoods that lacked cross-sector investment with support to reduce barriers and solve complex issues.

In 2018 the Inclusive Local Economic Opportunities (ILEO) initiative was created by BMO and United Way Greater Toronto. Today the ILEO initiative is led by 30+ corporate and community members as the ILEO Leadership table. The ILEO initiative has set out to develop a shared plan for a limited set of initiatives aimed at building inclusive local economic opportunity in Greater Golden Mile (GGM) a neighbourhood part of Scarborough, Ontario.

YouTube: BMOCommunity, BMO & United Way Greater Toronto, The Golden Mile

IBM Service Corps and Good Jobs Pilot

With IBM Canada as one of the founding board members of the ILEO initiative, our President and GM, Claude Guay engaged IBM Service Corps (ISC) to assemble a team to stand-up the ILEO Good Jobs Pilot. The Pilot would support a centralized, demand-driven skill development initiative for marginalized job seekers requiring technical training and a comprehensive suite of soft skills training, and wraparound supports.[2]

The labour market in industries significantly impacted like accommodations, food and retail services will safely over time rebuild and recover post pandemic. Emerging industries like financial, insurance, or public administration[3] are in-demand skills with immediate job placement requirements.

The Good Jobs Pilot engagement objectives:

1. Create the Good Jobs Model that was scalable, removed barriers to employment, and resolved workforce retention challenges through bespoke job training.

2. Pilot the Good Jobs Model with Sun Life Financial as the Employer to test the Model steps and to refine the key planning and delivery activities.

Myself and three other team members Annie Akpan, Olivia Donner, and Bianca Canave, hailing from across IBM brands and diverse professional backgrounds, were assigned to this amazing ISC opportunity. This ISC assignment was a local engagement for the Good Jobs Pilot with United Way Greater Toronto (UWGT) as our client/host organization.

The IBM Service Corps was established in 2008, where the most talented IBM employees are selected to engage in international, local, or virtual engagements to collaborate on economic and social challenges that communities face around the world.

Our Approach

Given our ISC engagement was only 6 weeks in duration, our Team used Agile delivery methods and the following approach to achieve Good Jobs Pilot objectives. First we were provided the West Philidelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI) workforce development model as a reference to adapt. The WPSI model was created in 2011 has since evolved into a successful job training program and replicated to be delivered in other neighbourhoods. We had the opportunity to speak with WPSI’s Program leaders, gathering insights and lessons learned from their model delivery helping define some of our ISC outcomes for the ILEO Good Jobs Model and Pilot.

Second using IBM’s Enterprise Design Thinking (EDT) principles our ISC Team facilitated workshops with UWGT and several Greater Golden Mile community agencies and organizations to gather inputs to better understand two types of GGM residents — long term and newcomer. We created empathy maps to produce reusable Model assets of GGM job seeker personas. The same EDT process was repeated with the Sun Life’s Executive HR leadership and Group Disability teams, in addition to interviewing three employees, to create the job role persona for the Good Jobs Pilot.

Third from the above inputs UWGT selected ACCES Employment as the Pilot’s Training Delivery Partner. ACCES’ Healthcare Connections program aligned best with Sun Life’s job role and their clients’ meeting minimum job seeker’s suitability criteria. To expand GGM job seeker recruitment, other community agencies were also included to assess their clients’ suitability to enrol in the job training program Pilot.

Fourth we conducted interviews for lessons learned with individual GGM community agencies who created and delivered similar job training programs. In addition, we completed a comparative assessment of ACCES Employment and Sun Life’s current training programs to identify training gaps. Our IBM SkillsBuild platform was recommended to bridge the learning gaps to add to the Pilot’s training program for Sun Life’s job role. Both the interviews and gap assessment clarified our understanding in outlining the steps required to design the bespoke program in the Good Jobs Model.

IBM SkillsBuild platform website

Lastly our ISC engagement’s used Agile delivery methods which required a strong governance structure for the Good Jobs Pilot. Continuous improvement was embedded within the Good Jobs Model to ensure collection of feedback from stakeholders and partners to evolve the Model. Our Steering Committee included UWGT and CEO’s from Metcalf Foundation, ACCES Employment, Toronto Employment & Social Services (TESS), and IBM whose expertise, guidance, and support in the evolution of the Model and Pilot. Our Working Group members from the same organizations provided our ISC team weekly feedback with inputs on key planning and delivery activities.

Our Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

With the Good Jobs Pilot engagement objectives, the ISC team established ILEO Good Jobs Model Guiding Principles and executed on our approach to design and build a MVP that can be improved over time by UWGT. Our final playback to the Steering Committee was our Good Jobs Model Playbook which included a journey map of the Model’s steps, a roadmap with implementation timelines and reusable assets.

ILEO Good Jobs Model Playbook, December 2020

Even though our ISC engagement has ended, there is still much more work planned ahead for the Good Jobs Pilot. UWGT will continue to lead the delivery of the remaining Good Job Model’s Steps:

  • Design the Program to close the training gaps identified and consider our recommendation to use IBM SkillBuild platform.
  • Recruit and Select Cohort for the training program with the Pilot Partners and other GGM community agencies. Wraparound supports needed for the program candidates are also to be determined.
  • Deliver the Program with the cohort starting in January 2021 for foundational job role training with ACCES Employment.
  • Place Candidates in Employment where Sun Life will hire those who successfully completed the foundational training to continue with the technical job role training.
  • Post program Support and Evaluation UWGT will gather feedback from the Pilot team and other stakeholders to continuously improve the Good Jobs Model for future job training programs.

Final Thoughts

Our IBM Service Corps team met our engagement’s objectives and delivered to UWGT’s requirement of Made-In-Toronto model addresses issues that hamper the success of other employment programming and works with employers to remove barriers to recruitment and retention of a diverse workforce.” Greater Golden Mile community partners are engaged and committed to continue collaborating with public and corporate partners to complete the current Pilot and evolve the Model to replicate for future Good Jobs training programs.

Our MVP of the Good Jobs Model provides the ILEO Good Jobs initiative long-term impact for workforce development for neighbourhood revitalization with:

  • Collaboration between multi-sectors and industries while advancing imperative societal actions that promote inclusion.
  • Create lasting inclusive economic prosperity for the neighbourhood.
  • Workforce recruitment and retention.
  • Scalable model that can be replicated with other neighbourhoods and or shared with other cities.

“I was so proud as a Board member watching our IBM Service Corps Team share their recommendations for United Way and what they had accomplished for a challenged neighbourhood in Toronto. I have to say that if the outcome is positive like this for every project that is undertaken, it would make society so much better.” Claude Guay, IBM Canada President and GM

The IBM Service Corps’ ILEO Good Jobs Pilot engagement has been an amazing opportunity to collaborate with other talented IBMers and partnering with local community and corporate leaders. Together we co-created an inclusive workforce development model with positive long-term social impact. The most rewarding outcome, the ISC team delivered a scalable model, that can be shared with other cities to create lasting inclusive economic prosperity for neighbourhoods.

For more about IBM’s Corporate Social Responsibility programs and initiatives, including the IBM Service Corps, visit IBM.org




Lifelong learner, Mother, Wife, Food Allergy Advocate, Consultant, Traveller, Foodie, She/Her

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Janice Mah

Janice Mah

Lifelong learner, Mother, Wife, Food Allergy Advocate, Consultant, Traveller, Foodie, She/Her

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