First social impact bond pilot has positive impact on unemployed Canadians

Ottawa, March 14, 2018 – The first national social finance project of its kind in Canada has completed its final round of essential skills training with important results for Canadians. All in all, 88% of the unemployed Canadians who received training as part of the Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) Essential Skills Social Finance (ESSF) pilot, achieved measurable skills improvements.

The ESSF pilot marked the Government of Canada’s first time testing elements of a social impact bond (SIB). Upfront capital for the training program was raised from private investors – Conexus Credit Union, the Catherine Donnelly Foundation, and Dave and Pamela Richardson and Family.

Based on the percentage of participants who achieved a 25-point skill gain at the end of the training, investors are receiving 96% of their original investment. Participants will be tested again, 12 months after the last evaluation, and the results of these tests could provide additional returns for the investors who already view their involvement as a successful experience.

The success of this outcome-based public-private partnership approach marks an important step for the Government of Canada, as well as impact investors, not-for-profit organizations and other governments seeking to develop programs with measurable social impact for Canada’s most vulnerable populations.

Douglas College, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and Confederation Colleges offered the training for the ESSF pilot, helping participants – many of whom had been unemployed for some time and faced multiple barriers such as poverty, mental health, limited literacy skills, limited work experience and isolation – access upskilling to build the foundations needed to succeed in the labour market. Providing this sort of essential skills training is a critical part of the mandate of colleges and institutes.

The ESSF pilot training was based on Douglas College’s Foundations Workplace Essential Skills Program, and included additional services targeted to meet the needs of the participants such as food and nutrition sessions, work placements or Toastmasters workshops. The pilot was funded by the Government of Canada’s Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program.

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“By supporting projects like these, more Canadians have enhanced their literacy and essential skills. Helping more Canadians get the skills and training they need to succeed will help continue growing our economy and strengthening the middle class. ”
The Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

“Looking forward, the lessons learned from the innovative ESSF pilot will support new social finance initiatives that leverage colleges’ and institutes’ expertise in various sectors, nationally and internationally, generating positive impacts for individuals, communities, and ultimately the economy.”
Denise Amyot, President and CEO, Colleges and Institutes Canada

“It has been exciting to play a role in the implementation of this ground-breaking project, and to witness the dedication of the participating colleges that ensured a positive impact on the pilot’s participants. The persistence demonstrated by colleges, and their students, is a perfect example of the impact that can be achieved when working with an engaged team of partners from across Canada.”
Valerie Lockyer, Executive Director, The Training Group, Douglas College

“The training I received with the ESSF pilot has changed my life. I’m now excited for the next stages in my life and to reach the new goals I’m setting with the skills I’ve learned and will continue to learn throughout life.”
Shari, ESSF pilot participant

“The opportunity for us to participate in the first social impact bond for the federal government has been a valuable learning experience. The positive impact the pilot has had, and will continue to have, on the participants is a testament to what can be achieved through private-public partnerships.”
Brad Fennig, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Conexus Credit Union


About Colleges and Institutes Canada:

Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) is the voice of Canada’s publicly-supported colleges, institutes, cegeps and polytechnics, and an international leader in education for employment with ongoing programs in over 25 countries. CICan’s members add over $190B to Canada’s economy each year and contribute to inclusive economic growth by working with industry and community partners to offer more than 10,000 programs to learners in urban, rural, remote, and northern communities.



For more information:

Julien Abord-Babin
Senior Strategic Communications Officer
Colleges and Institutes Canada
Tel. : 613-746-2222 ext. 3131
Twitter : @CollegeCan