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Essential Skills Social Finance Pilot

CICan is proud to lead the first national project in Canada to test a ground-breaking social impact bond approach providing essential skills training to unemployed Canadians. Helping students access upskilling to build the foundations they need to succeed in the labour market is a critical part of the college and institute mandate.

The Essential Skills Social Finance (ESSF) pilot offers training – financed by investor capital – based on Douglas College’s proven Foundations Workplace Essential Skills Program, with additional services offered to meet the needs of participants, such as food and nutrition sessions, work placements or Toastmasters workshops.

The Social Research and Demonstration Corporation is tasked with evaluating the participants’ essential skills gains following the training. This gain is what determines the amount of investor repayment.

Essential Skills Social Finance Pilot information sheet


Most of the participants were removed from the labour market and faced multiple barriers accessing work, such as isolation, extremely limited digital literacy skills, mental illness, previous substance abuse, no access to transportation, a lack of work experience, having children or dependents in their care, or not having completed high school.

After taking part in the program, participants are better prepared to adapt to changes in the workplace. The unemployed adult Canadians who received essential skills training feel more confident, job ready and eager for the next stages of their life.

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


Fast Facts

  • 1st national pilot in Canada testing a social impact bond model
  • 88% of the participants achieved measurable skills improvement
  • Investors are a credit union, foundation and impact investors

Funded By

Employment and Social Development Canada

Sustainable Development Goals

  • Goal 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth
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