Recognizing the need to advance our strategy through evidence-based research and policy, First Work set out to establish our first strategic research plan. This plan represents the emphasis of First Work’s research efforts over the course of our current strategic plan and articulates priority research topics that will enable us to deliver on our mission. Our research priorities will be reviewed on a rolling basis and will be re-established upon development of the next strategic plan. Ultimately, all research efforts will be conducted with the aims of:

– Advancing our ability to advocate for the needs of the sector and for youth across Ontario;
– Promoting engagement and continuous development of our member organizations; and
– Enabling sector excellence through innovative, evidence-based solutions and policies.

First Work has established four research themes:

Ontario’s employment service providers serve more than 70,000 youth per month with an overall placement rate of 71%. While much is known about the impact of employment service providers on an aggregate level, more research is needed to truly understand the long-term impacts of ESP services on youth career trajectories and on the economy at large. This research theme will emphasize initiatives that help us better understand the impact and effectiveness of the employment services sector and help make the case for the investment necessary to deliver on the needs of youth throughout the province.

In 2020, Ontario’s employment services sector will undergo a significant transformation with the introduction of Service System Managers (SSMs). While there is a precedent for this model, including in British Columbia, the impact of this type of system transformation in Ontario is unknown. First Work, in partnership with experts in the field of public policy, will seek to understand the impact of Ontario’s system transformation, identify potential revisions to the SSM pilot framework, and encourage structural and systemic changes that positively influence youth employment outcomes.

Digitalization is fundamentally reshaping education, skills development and the path to employment for youth. This creates both uncertainty and opportunity. As system navigators, employment service providers have an important role to play in helping youth understand and access the wide variety of tools and technologies available. As part of this research theme, First Work will identify opportunities for technology integration and seek to understand the impact of digital employment tools on youth employment outcomes.

Youth face significant barriers to employment and, according to Statistics Canada, report the highest levels of unemployment of any age group. When age compounds with other factors such as minority, newcomer or low socio-economic status, employment disparities are exacerbated further. With the goal of improving employment outcomes for all youth, First Work will investigate opportunities and approaches that target priority populations including First Nations, racialized, newcomer, and neurodiverse youth.


For further information on First Work’s current research initiatives, or to propose a collaboration, please contact Shifat Ara, First Work’s Lead Researcher, at


First Work’s Jobseeker Research: State of the Unemployed in Ontario 

First Work is recruiting jobseekers to participate in a survey for First Work’s Jobseeker Research: State of the Unemployed in Ontario 

This research will document the experiences and opinions of jobseekers to better identify gaps and barriers in the current supports system, while helping to inform the bridges needed to enhance employment success. 

Are you unemployed? Take the Jobseeker Survey now & enter a chance to win $50. 

What to expect:  

• Complete the Jobseeker Survey 
• Entry in draw-to-win for gift cards valued at
• nsights will help better understand the experiences of jobseekers

•Potential to be participate in an interview (if interested,
+$50 incentive)

We’re seeking the input of hundreds of jobseekers in Ontario. Why? Because your experiences and opinions are critical to how employment services are designed and delivered. Are you a young person (under 30) looking for a job without success? 

• Have you been forced to switch careers after decades in a job?
• Are you under 30 and not employed or participating in any education or job training?
• Have you been laid off and are willing to share your experience to help other jobseekers?  

This is a great opportunity to support fellow Ontario jobseekers as your experiences are critical for improving the journey to employment for all.  

Jobseekers who complete the survey will have potential to be further interviewed, if interested. 

This is a fantastic opportunity to: 

• build confidence, 
• contribute meaningfully to workforce policy, and
• test advocacy in action. 

The survey process is completely anonymous, and you will only be required to submit any contact information if you wish to participate in the draw-to-win prizes or the interview. Upon project completion (September 2021), survey results will be included in a final Report which will be disseminated widely across Ontario.   

Take the Jobseeker Survey now. 


Exploring Opportunities for Senior-Youth
Intergenerational Mentorship

With 4 generations now in the workplace, there is opportunity to support the development of age diversity in the workforce by championing intergenerational mentorships. Age diverse workplaces benefit from the wide range of experiences, beliefs, and motivations amongst the various generations, and the same benefits can be applied to intergenerational mentorships.

Find out more below on the benefits of intergenerational mentorship and recommendations on how to establish a program of your own.

DOWNLOAD: Exploring Opportunities for Senior-Youth Intergenerational Mentorship


New Horizons Better Together Project

In 2019, First Work was selected to lead a research initiative known as Better Together. The aim of this research, funded by the New Horizons for Seniors Program, is to understand how seniors and youth can help one another thrive in the changing world of work.

In sectors such as retail, hospitality, tourism, manufacturing and more, seniors and youth increasingly occupy similar types of roles. However, significant generational differences can lead to tension and conflict – undermining workplace harmony and staff satisfaction. Despite this challenge, the opportunity for mutual support and learning is also significant. While youth are often valued for their energy, ingenuity, and adaptability, seniors are similarly valued for their wisdom, patience, and discipline. Together, seniors and youth have the potential to influence their workplaces in profound ways, and to support one another in living healthy, happy, and productive lives.

The purpose of this study is to understand the ways that mentorship programs can create reciprocal benefits for seniors and youth, and to identify best practices for structuring programs that allow seniors, youth, and the workplaces in which they operate, to flourish.

Project Integrate: Exploring Future Employment Pathways

Career paths have become less predictable and today’s youth face significant challenges making sense of the ever-changing world of work. A recent McKinsey report forecasted that by 2030, from 75 to 275 million workers will need to change careers. Artificial intelligence and big data are bringing disruption to the workforce, but they have also brought promising advancements in workforce innovation and HR technology. Sophisticated job matching, assessment and market analytics tools are increasingly accessible, but their adoption across the employment and training ecosystem remains inconsistent.

In 2019, First Work – in partnership with Ontario Tourism Education Corporation (OTEC), MaRS Discovery District and the Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity – began working on an initiative funded by Canada’s Future Skills Centre. This initiative, called Project Integrate, aims to establish a blueprint for a seamless, tech-enabled and future-ready youth employment pathway.

First Work was selected to conduct preliminary research and stakeholder engagement for the project. The aims of our research were to identify the various employment and training technologies being used across Canada, as well as to understand the enablers and barriers to the adoption of promising new technologies. Findings from our research have been summarized in a report entitled: Encouraging Adoption of Employment Tools & Technologies among Youth-Serving Employment Service Providers in Canada.

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