Ready to Work: Nearly 25 Years of Boosting Employability Skills

In this, the fourth installment of “milestone” articles celebrating our 25 years as the voice of the tourism labour market, we look at programs that have provided thousands of Canadians with the entry-to-practice skills training required to work in a variety of tourism operations.

The first national program focused on preparing unemployed and underemployed Canadian youth for employment in the tourism sector was called Tourism Careers for Youth (TCFY)—it launched in 1994.

This integral program assisted Tourism HR Canada in addressing a key component of its mandate: attracting an increasing number of young people to consider the sector as one where they could have a successful and rewarding career. Aided by strong support from the federal government, Tourism Careers for Youth had great uptake across the country, with each region adding training components, like WHMIS and First Aid, to address specific priorities within their jurisdiction.

Propelled by the positive response, between 1994 and 2002 the program expanded to more regions and adapted to address specific labour market needs. This eventually led to the adoption of a new brand, Ready-to-Work (RTW), and the roll out of a new three-year contract (2002-2005) with the federal government.

Program Components Common Across Jurisdictions

  • Pre-employment classroom training: Instructor-led learning, including career planning, transferable skills, and occupational-specific technical skills
  • Workplace training: On-the-job, occupation-specific training from a workplace trainer, plus mentorship and feedback
  • Work placement: Participants attain gainful employment in an entry-level tourism occupation

With the new program in place, Tourism HR Canada worked closely with its network of provincial/territorial partners to strengthen the program while still ensuring a flexible application. Some of the key attributes that changed over this time included:

1.      Criteria for who was eligible to enroll in the program: The age limit for TCFY went from 27 when the program started to 30 at the time of the rebranding, and eventually it was eliminated altogether. Part of the impetus for the re-branding was the removal of “Youth” in the program title, since it was now available to a much larger pool of candidates.

2.      Expanded number of stakeholder groups accessing the program: Based on the labour market needs in different parts of Canada, specific demographic cohorts were accommodated and components of the program adapted to work for:

  • New Canadians
  • Indigenous Canadians
  • Young Canadians
  • At-risk youth
  • Persons with disabilities
  • Career changers

3.      Additional pre-employment learning content: With the introduction of new training resources like Emerit’s Workplace Essentials and Canadian Workplace Essentials, the RTW program benefitted by offering more comprehensive pre-employment training that included: entry-level and essential skill acquisition, language skills for ESL participants, cross-cultural awareness, communication skills, and career planning.

4.      Commitment of employers for job placement stage: Over the life of the RTW program, expectations for employers taking on participants for the “on-the-job” component were refined and codified. Employers were also supplied with training supports (including training materials) to assist in further training participants in the workplace.

While national funding for the RTW program ended in 2013, the model has endured, and the program still operates in some jurisdictions by tapping into regional and municipal funding.

Since its introduction, the TCFY/RTW program succeeded in providing job prep training, on-the-job training, and job placements for over 25,000 Canadians from incredibly diverse demographic profiles. Additionally, more than 4,000 of the individuals completing the program went on to earn a national credential, obtaining Emerit Professional Certification in occupations like Housekeeping, Front Desk, Food & Beverage Service/Bartending, Line Cook, and Heritage Interpretation.

Over its lifetime, the TCFY/RTW program provided a path to participation in the workforce to thousands of Canadians looking for work, also helping employers looking for qualified staff. Years of innovation, refinement, and built-in flexibility became the hallmark of RTW, and the program philosophy and various components continue to find their way into new programming and new labour market initiatives.

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