Having returned from visits to Canada and the US, I’ve had the privilege of exploring initiatives aimed at addressing ‘wicked problems’ faced by English-speaking OECD countries. These problems involve labour and skill shortages linked to immigration and education. As a consulting, training, and government bid writing business operating across diverse markets, we’ve gained insights into innovative practices that offer solutions transferrable across borders.

What does good look like?

So, what does success look like? Here’s a summary of the best practices we’ve encountered across four countries – the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – driving better outcomes for participants and employers:

  • Creating a policy framework that enables services to employers and aligns with workforce development agendas.
  • Enhancing the skill sets in the sector to support employers with the capabilities that private sector agencies offer. 
  • Convening and connecting ecosystem participants, in particular employers, service providers, education institutions and community organisations.
  • Treating employers as clients and engaging them directly on their workforce challenges.
  • Developing service standards for employer engagement like response times, satisfaction levels and follow ups.

Case Study: Prince George’s County, Maryland, USA

In Prince George’s County, Maryland, just outside of Washington, the community is contending with the Inflation Reduction Act, climate legislation that has increased demand from various employers, particularly in the green economy, as well as the biotechnology and semiconductors sectors. Additionally, the area faces a declining workforce due to an ageing population that is retiring and migrating to warmer regions.

The County has shifted its mindset from focusing on lowering unemployment to labour force recovery. This subtle shift places emphasis on creating a systemic approach involving employers, educators, community organisations,  and workforce agencies – rather than solely on the participant. 

Efforts have been made to engage justice-involved individuals, establishing sites within correctional facilities to provide training and support prior to release. Collaboration is key, with stakeholders required to invest in shared goals, ensuring measurable social impact, such as securing above-minimum wage employment and reducing recidivism, homelessness, and truancy rates.

Furthermore, educational institutions are collaborating with employers to align curriculum with industry needs, ensuring graduates are adequately prepared for the workforce. Schools are also employing teachers trained to discuss careers with students as young as 12 years old.

Case Study: Alberta, Canada

In Alberta, Canada, with its harsh winters and hot summers prone to bushfires, the challenge lies in attracting new Canadians to settle in the region, where job opportunities abound in a range of entry-level areas, particularly in the oil and gas fields. 

Government-backed initiatives focus on strategically connecting training companies and workforce agencies to equip Canadians with the skills needed to fill these roles. They call this rapid training, which provides basic skills in 10, 12, or 16 weeks. That’s enough to get you a job earning CA$500 a day. 

Incentives for participation include financial planning advice, childcare support, and transport to training. The simulator worksites are super impressive. For example, simulated truck driving offers participants a realistic and immersive experience, enabling participants to learn to drive quickly

Despite the initial costs, the investment yields significant returns, achieving high job placement rates. 

Conclusion

As we reflect on these global models, we’re prompted to consider our own contexts. What does innovation look like in our markets? Can we adapt and collaborate to address local workforce challenges? Identifying and overcoming barriers is crucial to unlocking the potential of workforce solutions in our communities.

In conclusion, these international workforce initiatives highlight the power of collaboration, innovation, and impact-driven approaches. By learning from diverse models and embracing collective action, we can chart a path toward a more resilient, inclusive, and prosperous workforce ecosystem for everyone.

Talk to Prospert about how learnings from these international models can benefit your organisation.