Regional Workforce Development in Rural BC
The purpose of this research project is to advance innovation in regional workforce development through the facilitation of informed decision-making, the weaving of related networks, and the piloting of best practice approaches. This regional 3-year project conceptualizes workforce development in terms of creating globally competitive industries, building an entrepreneurial region, development a workforce with 21st Century skills, and weaving supportive civic networks.
The project is designed to address three key objectives. The first is to collect, compile, and mobilize available labour market data in order to equip our region’s decision-makers with the information they need to make informed decisions related to the workforce and economy. The second is to assess the state of network relationships linking workforce development and economic development practitioners. This baseline account will allow network members to engage in strategic efforts to improve collaboration. The third objective involves piloting innovative, best practice approaches to workforce development. Selected interventions will consider regional priorities, opportunities and lessons learned from elsewhere. This applied research project is well positioned to mobilize efforts aimed at fostering experiential learning, strengthening our learning region and more purposefully positioning Selkirk College as an active partner in the region’s economic development landscape.
Research Rationale & Target User Groups
Many regions are witnessing a growing gap between the types of skills that are available in the workforce, and those that are required by employers. Researchers have acknowledged that this challenge primarily stems from the failure of workforce development services to keep pace with the increasingly complex and dynamic needs of the modern economy.
Target user groups include educational institutions, industry associations, governments, economic development practitioners, employment service providers and policy-makers. The project is designed to complement the Regional Skills Training Plan that was released in 2013 as a result of work undertaken by the Kootenay Regional Workforce Table (KRWT). Participants in the KRWT will be key project partners, alongside sub-regional groups that have identified workforce development as a priority.
Guiding Research Questions
- What types of information and knowledge mobilization approaches best support informed workforce and economic development decision-making in the Columbia Basin-Boundary region?
- How can workforce and economic development networks be strengthened to support desired outcomes?
- How can workforce development best practice approaches most effectively be applied in the Columbia Basin-Boundary region?
The research will employ a mixed method approach, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Statistical and geospatial analysis will be used to better understand regional labour market data. A participatory, embedded case study-social network methodology will be used to better understand the mobilization of knowledge, role of networks and implementation of best practices. Efforts will be made to involve students and faculty in this research.
The collection and mobilization of labour market data is expected to include interviews with industry association representatives, compilation of data from major statistical agencies and available local data, an assessment of the capacity and capabilities of the regions’ colleges to meet existing and emerging labour force needs, and the development of information projects customized to target audiences.
Activities related to the role of networks in regional workforce and economic development will include a benchmark network analysis in year one and a network analysis again in year 3. The intention is to understand if, how and to what extent interventions aimed at strengthening the regional network have been effective.
Activities focused on piloting interventions are expected to include the development of a Regional Workforce Innovation in Economic Development Plan (building on the Regional Skills Training Plan), the recommendation of interventions to the Regional Steering Committee based on regional priorities, opportunities and lessons learned from elsewhere, and the monitoring of impacts of interventions on desired outcomes.
Knowledge Mobilization and Products
Knowledge mobilization activities should be targeted at likely end-users, including the KRWT Steering Committee, colleges, school districts, secondary school guidance councilors and teachers, industry associations, Columbia Basin Trust, First Nations, economic development stakeholders, local government, provincial policymakers, employment service providers. Knowledge products and outreach and extension activities will primarily follow a ‘meet them where they are at’ approach (i.e. presentations to College Boards, KRWT Steering Committee, economic development organizations, Regional Economic Development Practitioners Network).
To learn more about workforce development, please access the Knowledge Briefs below:
This brief considers workforce development broadly, including actions related to education, training, and skills development, such as Kindergarten to grade 12 education, post-secondary education, professional job training, placements/apprenticeships, career advancement, lifelong learning, and everything in between.
This brief considers youth related training and education initiatives that enhance the skills base, employability, and quality of life of youth. Common success factors are identified drawn from multiple examples of youth training and education initiatives.
This brief considers why youth engagement is critical for countering youth out-migration and increasing opportunities in rural communities. Engagement has been linked to benefits such as: doing better in school, increasing sense of responsibility, better decision-making, and increased sense of ownership and legitimacy.
This brief considers youth retention as defined as any initiative resulting in a stable youth population within a region. In this way youth retention is not limited to keeping existing youth, but also includes repatriation and attraction. Relevant opportunity and quality of life factors are identified.
This brief considers how actors in a region learn together to promote local innovation. Based on a review of academic research, optimal characteristics of learning regions are identified.
Creating Quality Jobs Framework International Economic Development Council. (2010). Creating Quality Jobs: Transforming the Economic Development Landscape.
Note: The Applied Research & Innovation Centre at Selkirk College through the work of the Regional Innovation Chair in Rural Economic Development secured $738,000 of cash and in-kind funding (including $240,000 from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) to advance this regional initiative.
To learn more about this broader initiative please view the SSHRC Workforce Development Summary Brief.