Inclusive Local Economies
Toronto Sector Skills Academy
Sector-focused workforce development is a promising practice to improve employment opportunities for low-income workers while supporting business competitiveness. Sector strategies are focused on two outcomes. One is helping workers move into better jobs by removing barriers and skills gaps, or building ladders. The second is improving the quality of low-wage jobs, or raising the floor.
To address the growing interest and need for sector-focused workforce development in Toronto, the Metcalf Foundation is establishing the Toronto Sector Skills Academy in partnership with the Aspen Institute. The goal is to build the capacity of leaders to grow, strengthen, and sustain sector strategies within the city. This leadership program is the first of its kind in Canada.
The highly regarded Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program created this leadership development model in 2005. Participants in the Toronto Sector Skills Academy will be Aspen Sector Skills Academy Fellows and will work with peers from a variety of organizations, learn from experts in the field, strengthen partnerships, engage in experiential learning with practical applications, and acquire new skills to explore, catalyze, and enable sectoral workforce strategies. Fellows will attend three retreats and three workshops over a 10-month period.
The Toronto Sector Skills Academy brings together leaders from community-based organizations, colleges, workforce development organizations, government agencies, labour, labour management groups, employer associations, and worker centres.
- be leading existing sector initiatives or leading industry programs that are seeking to develop sector strategies;
- hold positions of leadership and decision-making authority regarding sector-focused strategies;
- be based and active within the Toronto region;
- submit a letter of support from their manager approving their participation in the Academy; and
- commit to full participation over these set dates:
- Three 3-day retreats:
- Retreat 1 – November 1-3, 2016
- Retreat 2 – January 31-February 2, 2017
- Retreat 3 – May 15-17, 2017
- Three events/workshops held in Toronto (dates to be confirmed):
- Welcome Reception – October 14, 2016
- Spring Workshop – 2017
- Capstone presentation and closing reception – June 2017
The selection process will be based on demonstration of leadership competencies, commitment to improving job opportunities for low-income people, ability and desire to design and implement a sectoral employment initiative, and interest in learning about a variety of sectoral approaches and strategies.
Inclusiveness and diversity of race, ethnicity, and gender are core values of the Academy. Members from equity-seeking groups are encouraged to apply.
Applications to the Toronto Sector Skills Academy are now closed.
Application Guidelines & Other Resources +
What are sector strategies?
Sector initiatives are industry-specific workforce development approaches. The Aspen Institute has defined a sector strategy as a systems approach to workforce development, typically on behalf of low-income individuals, that:
- Targets a specific industry or cluster of occupations;
- Intervenes through a credible organization, or set of organizations, crafting workforce solutions tailored to that industry and its region;
- Supports workers in improving their range of employment-related skills and ability to compete for work opportunities of higher quality;
- Meets the needs of employers; and
- Creates lasting change in the labour market system.
Sector strategies promote systemic change by restructuring internal and external educational opportunities, employment and business practices, and public policies. That cultivates a win-win environment that can achieve changes beneficial to employers, low-wage workers, and low-income job seekers. Leaders in the field use a variety of strategies tailored to the regional economy, industry sectors, and worker populations.
- help workers move into better jobs by removing the barriers and skills gaps that impede them from getting those jobs; and
- improve the quality of low-wage jobs within sectors with poor job quality, such as jobs in restaurant and retail industries.
This work is accomplished in a number of ways. Sector leaders may offer training and skills development for specific industries and occupations, conduct research about the industry or working conditions, convene businesses to discuss their challenges, advocate for public policy changes, help workers organize, or provide other services designed to meet the needs of both workers and businesses. These initiatives often benefit companies by helping them have a more skilled workforce. Workers benefit by having improved incomes, benefits, and employment opportunities.
What will I gain from participating in the Toronto Sector Skills Academy?
You will gain in-depth knowledge of regional issues, build lifelong connections, and have an opportunity to transform, be inspired, and renew your passion for your work.
Participants are expected to apply the lessons they learn in ways that enhance their work and strengthen the capacity of their organizations to achieve lasting sectoral change. The Toronto Sector Skills Academy also offers structured mentoring, technical assistance, and peer support. The program culminates in a capstone project in which participants present solutions that address local workforce development challenges. Participants who complete the Toronto Sector Skills Academy become Aspen Sector Skills Academy Fellows.
Who should apply?
Leaders from community-based organizations, colleges, workforce development organizations, government agencies, labour, labour management groups, employer associations, and worker centres, or others currently involved in or considering implementing sector strategies within their organization or as part of a partnership.
What is the cost?
The Toronto Sector Skills Academy tuition is $1500 per participant, which covers food, lodging, and program materials for each retreat. The Metcalf Foundation is committed to ensuring that cost is not a barrier to participation. The Foundation will provide bursaries, as needed, to participants from non-profit organizations.
Do I need a letter of support from my supervisor?
Each application must include a letter of support from the candidate’s immediate supervisor endorsing the candidate’s full participation.
What is included in the curriculum?
The Toronto Sector Skills Academy utilizes curriculum developed and tested by the Aspen Institute’s national Sector Skills Academy model. This includes exercises and tools to help participants better understand how to implement and sustain a sector strategy; additional modules focused on individual leadership development are also included. The Toronto Sector Skills Academy includes presentations from national and local leaders including Sector Skills Academy alumni involved in sector work.
What is involved in the capstone project?
Participants work within small teams on a particular challenge or set of challenges faced by the local workforce development community. Recommendations will be presented to a group of interested stakeholders including, but not limited to, existing workforce development partners, employers, and/or funders.
Is it advisable to talk to program staff before I apply?
The goal of the Opportunities Fund is to improve the economic livelihoods of Toronto’s working poor through strategies that:
- make precarious jobs better (raising the floor) and support the upward mobility of workers (building ladders);
- reduce barriers for low-income entrepreneurs and alternative business models; and
- leverage the capacity of neighbourhoods to improve the economic livelihoods of low-income residents.
An equitable local economy is a complex challenge that requires multiple, well-aligned efforts by many partners, including business, labour, residents, non-profits, entrepreneurs, academics, advocates and governments. Metcalf encourages applications from collaborative groups and organizations whose ideas are grounded and informed by practice. Our aim is to help develop approaches, strategies, and policies that can create sustainable economic opportunities and improve the economic livelihoods of low-income people. The Foundation is committed to fostering connections and learning alongside its grantees.
Organizations may apply individually or in collaboration with others. Lead applicants must:
- be committed to improving outcomes for low-income people and communities,
- be based and active within the City of Toronto; and
- be registered as a charity through the Canada Revenue Agency.
For 2017 awards, letters of interest to the Opportunities Fund will be accepted on or before:
June 8, 2017
Application Guidelines & Other Resources +
My organization is not a registered charity but we are incorporated as a not-for-profit. Can we submit an application to the Foundation?
The Inclusive Local Economies Program can fund only organizations that have a current charitable registration number from the Canada Revenue Agency. If your organization is a not-for-profit — but not a registered charity — you can apply through a joint application with a registered charity with which you have a working relationship and whose mission complements your own.
Does the Foundation make Inclusive Local Economies grants outside of Toronto?
Eligible applicants must be located and operate in the City of Toronto. The Foundation does not make Inclusive Local Economies Program grants outside of Toronto.
Can a single organization submit more than one application to the Inclusive Local Economies Program?
While we recognize that organizations may be involved in many activities and projects, it is not the Foundation’s customary practice to consider more than one application from an organization in a given funding round. Please limit your request to one project unless otherwise arranged with Foundation staff.
What is the maximum/minimum size of a grant under the Inclusive Local Economies Program?
There is no maximum or minimum grant size; we simply ask that applications be submitted with budgets appropriate to the proposed work, organization’s size, and human resources capacity. We encourage you to look at the database of current and past Opportunities Fund grants to see the range of funding.
Can organizations apply for multi-year funding?
The Foundation will entertain proposals for multi-year funding; we ask that applications be submitted with appropriate financial requests consistent with the project’s scope and duration.
Why doesn’t the Inclusive Local Economies Program fund ongoing direct services programs?
Inclusive Local Economies funding is focused on developing long-term strategies that can improve low-income peoples’ economic livelihoods and access to quality jobs. Supporting existing service delivery is not considered a long-term strategy for creating sustainable economic opportunities.
Would Foundation staff be willing to review my proposal in advance of the deadline?
Foundation staff is happy to discuss potential applications and to help organizations craft a more focused argument for funding. We encourage you to contact us. We do not, however, read drafts of applications prior to their submission.
What additional information will help an application?
If deemed relevant to the application, additional printed material, such as annual reports, newsletters, research reports, or workshop proceedings can be attached as background information. However, it is not mandatory.