First Work works collaboratively with our members, government, and workforce development partners to conduct research to push forward positive change.

Strategic Research Plan

Recognizing the need to advance our strategies through evidence-based research and policy, First Work has established 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 First Work 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.
For further information on First Work’s current research initiatives, or to propose a collaboration, please contact Anushka Shahjahan, [email protected].
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I’m Anushka, Research Lead at First Work! Reach out to me if you’ve got ideas for demand-driven policy solutions for our workforce.

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.

Currently Funded Projects

As part of our mandate, First Work conducts project-based research on workforce development issues affecting the sector and young jobseekers. Through the input of our members, First Work tackles various labour force issues either in partnership with like-minded organizations or through our internal capacity.

Below is a sample of the latest findings from First Work’s research.

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

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.

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.

As career paths have become less predictable, 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.

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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Jobseeker Survey

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