Displaced Workers Project

Man in a warehouse moving a blue canister
The Displaced Workers Literacy and Essential Skills (LES) project studies the gaps and needs of Canadian workers displaced from their jobs.

Workers who have been displaced from their jobs are from all parts of Canada, from all sorts of jobs, and are in all phases of their employment.

They are workers who have been displaced from their jobs through planned or unplanned circumstances such as mill closures, industry slow-downs, tourism decline or natural disasters. Many have lost jobs during, or as a result of, COVID-19.

Their lives and those of their families are often thrown into crisis when their job disappears. Finding new employment can seem like an impossible task. Low levels of LES are tied to an increased likelihood of poverty, and high levels of unemployment and poverty impact the health of communities.

Enhancing Displaced Workers’ Literacy and Essential Skills Project

The Displaced Workers project was initially a three-year federally-funded project designed to:

  • research Literacy and Essential Skills (LES) programs that currently exist
  • evaluate program effectiveness
  • identify gaps in the LES of displaced workers
  • identify gaps between the needs of displaced workers and existing programs and services available to them
  • develop promising practices and programs to support Canadian workers who have been displaced from their jobs

The project emphasizes workers who are hard to reach or reluctant to access skills training or employment services. Hard-to-reach learners are often from rural or remote communities.

The project was extended for six months to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions, and has since been extended to December 31, 2023 to develop five sites as full pilot projects.

A report summarizing the first phase of the project can be found in the reports and publications.

Project objectives:

  • to fill knowledge gaps about what does and does not work for LES training and support for displaced workers to improve their employability
  • to help employers understand what skills employees need for the jobs of the future
  • to identify and test effective LES programs for displaced workers

Phase one of the Displaced Workers project included the following components:

  • A BC Team of literacy outreach coordinators who reflected local knowledge and experience in 10 regions of the province.
  • A Canadian Network Advisory Committee who linked a network of literacy leaders from across Canada.
  • A team of 11 beta-testers in four provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario) who tested promising practices in 2021.

Using these teams, we gathered data through:

  • questionnaires to literacy and service organizations
  • surveys of workers displaced from their jobs
  • focus groups
  • interviews with workers, employers and service providers
  • case studies
  • beta-test projects

In addition, six of the beta-testing teams created curricula for their projects. These curricula are available for other practitioners to use.

This place-based information will be used to develop both place-based, scalable and transferrable training.

Canada-wide Questionnaire

BC Displaced Workers Survey

Case Studies

Beta-Test Projects

Beta-Test Curricula

Phase two of the project takes five communities and expands their beta-testing projects to pilot projects which are scalable and transferrable. It will be complete at the end of 2023.

Reports and data from across Canada show that large numbers of people are losing their jobs due to automation, shifts to digital technology, industry and global market conditions, and tourism/service industry decline due to COVID-19. While some industries have bounced back, many people remain displaced from their jobs or have been unable to find new jobs.

Workers who have been displaced in rural and remote communities often don’t have access to training locally or don’t have the technical literacy to access online training. Some remote communities don’t have adequate digital connectivity to make training programs available. Additional supports, such as transportation and childcare, may be needed

We are learning about the industries, gender, age, identity and education levels of displaced workers, and the services and training they need to find work.


For more information contact Heather Deal, Director, Adult and Workplace Learning, at hdeal@decoda.ca.