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The post-pandemic economic recovery critically depends on whether the thousands of Canadians who have been laid off are able to regain employment. The 2021 federal budget announced additional funding for skills training and employment supports for those most affected by the economic shutdown. However, there is still a great deal of skepticism about the effectiveness of government-provided training for unemployed and underemployed workers.

In this study, the authors argue that doubts about the usefulness of spending public dollars on skills training are based on outdated perceptions stemming from past evaluations of large-scale training programs whose methodology is now being questioned. As part of their review of over 30 years worth of evidence from the United States and other countries, the authors identify the problems associated with these earlier evaluations and highlight the more nuanced conclusions of research led by practitioners in the past decade on what sort of training works, under what conditions and for whom. The key insight from this research is that government-sponsored skills training can be effective, and that it is most effective when it is aligned with employers’ needs and delivers the skills that are in demand in local labour markets.

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IRPP Study 84