Innovating for Employment Success (IES)

About this research

Innovating for Employment Success (IES) was a research project that aimed to tackle the pervasive penalty paid by internationally trained professionals (ITPs) when they transition to the labour market in Canada. This penalty takes the form of little to no recognition of foreign work experience and qualifications resulting in employment that does not match pre-arrival skills and experience.

Click here to download the full report (PDF).

The bullets below summarize the impact of IES:

  • The Innovation Program training was predictive of employment readiness (test group 3.6 times more likely to experience a positive change)
  • 46% of test group increased their readiness compared to 19% of the control group
  • In relation to the sub-scales measured through the employment readiness construct more test group participants than control moved from insufficient to sufficient in the following: social support, job search, outcome expectancy and self-efficacy.
  • In terms of job search self-efficacy, measured from baseline to 12 months post the training using a job search self-efficacy scale2, test group participants experienced a greater average increase compared to control for the following items: resumes, information interviews, making a sales pitch, planning a job search schedule, finding out where job openings exist, using a variety of sources to find good job opportunities and searching for and finding good job opportunities.
  • In terms of overall job search self-efficacy from baseline to 12-month follow-up, the test group’s average score increased by 5.06 compared to an increase of 3.97 for those participants in control. This represents a slightly greater change by the test than that experienced by the control group.
  • Training was predictive of an increase in innovation skills
  • There was no measurable improvement for test group participants in the leadership skills measured.
  • There was a trend towards a minor increase in individual mean change scores for test group participants in relation to the communication and initiative skills measured compared to a decrease for the control group. For instance, on average, a test group participant’s score for initiative skills increased by 0.63 whereas for a control group participant they decreased by -0.24.
  • Of the participants who completed 12-month follow-up (N=68), 48% of those in test were in full-time employment, compared to 40% of those in control.
  • At 12-months post the intervention, 33% of the test group were in commensurate employment compared to 29% of the control group.
  • The training was not found to be predictive of full-time commensurate employment although there are positive trends in test group data.

Of note is the qualitative unintended outcome of the development of teamwork skills that emerged from evaluation data. While the test group experienced a negative mean individual change for this set of skills as measured through the MDQn, the majority of participants qualitatively identified the importance of learning teamwork skills and the value of being able to work in multicultural teams.  They suggested that this outcome could be further emphasized in future programs. The negative change in teamwork scores could indicate a subject effect whereby participants initially scored themselves highly in relation to this competence and then came to learn through an intervention that there was much that they did not know, resulting in a more accurate assessment at post-test.

Click here to download the full report (PDF).

The research project involved recruiting 80 ITPs and randomly selecting 40 of them to be part of a test group and 40 to be in a control group. Test group participants went through a four week Innovation Program which was a real life simulation of the Canadian workplace delivered by MOSAIC in partnership with Envisioning Labs.

Participants learned experientially about Design Thinking, while at the same time learning and practicing Canadian workplace skills. They functioned as consultants and were treated as such by the trainers and employer partners. They were to be assigned to Innovation Teams and matched to a problem from an employer partner that they worked on together, using Design Thinking, to solve. Throughout the innovation process, participants connected with employers to inform and present their solution designs. All 80 individuals received employment services through a WorkBC Centre under the Employment Program of BC.

“Having [to work] with the different person, different culture such a good experience for me in Canada. When you work in some kind of workplace you will work with different culture…different background…here I have the chance to work with different culture and different race and it was so important for me.. I tried to learn lots of from this kind of experience… I learn how to do it with the different person, [the] demotivated person in a team, how to do brainstorm… delegation work in the team. [I] like all kind of this experience (Participant No. 10).”

The table below gives a brief summary of the Innovation Program.

The Innovation Program

Module Length Content
The Canadian Workplace 1 week
  • Workplace communication
  • Presentation skills
  • Teamwork skills
Design Thinking 2 weeks
  • Design Thinking approach
  • Design Thinking methods
  • Meetings with employers (x 2)
  • Solution design and presentation to employers about solutions
Next Steps 1 week
  • Applying design thinking skills to job search
  • Leveraging/highlighting the skills developed for job search
  • Strengthening job search tools and strategies


Six employer partners, provided eight real-life problems for the participants to work on using Design Thinking methodology.  Participants worked in multi-disciplinary groups of five.  The employer partners were:

  • Seaspan Ltd.
  • Zaber Technologies
  • City of Vancouver, Department of Engineering
  • City of Vancouver, Equal Opportunity Employment Program
  • Sinclair Dental
  • Camp Pacific

The types of problems innovation teams worked to solve included: development of a new internet file structure; fostering diversity dialogue and learning transfer in an organization; enhancing promotional material, improving the front desk customer service experience, and promotion of internal training for employees.

Through this research, MOSAIC wanted to explore the potential for Design Thinking to help ITPs achieve employment that was commensurate to the jobs they had before they came to Canada. MOSAIC hypothesized that Design Thinking’s proven success in solving “wicked problems” similar to the ITP transition penalty could fast track participants’ employment readiness, development of needed workplace skills, and commensurate labour market attachment. This hypothesis formed the main aim for the Innovating for Employment Success (IES) project:

To explore the impact of learning and implementing Design Thinking methodology to a real life business problem on: internationally trained professionals’ career transitions, and their ability to secure full employment in an occupation that draws upon the skills and qualifications they obtained in their respective countries of origin.

MOSAIC received financial support from the BC Ministry of Social Development Social Innovation’s Research and Innovation funding stream in order to test this hypothesis.

Increasingly part of business school curriculums and gaining traction in a range of sectors such as IT, sustainability and more, Design Thinking is a process that uses various techniques to produce innovative ideas and strategies. It emphasizes observation, collaboration, fast learning, visualization of ideas and rapid concept prototyping  along with business analysis.  Multi-disciplinary teams usually collaborate to enhance implementation of such methods as user interviews, point of view analogy, ranking, user-driven prototypes and user observation.

Companies such as Apple and Sony employ Design Thinking. Thus, gaining an understanding of the methodology alone through the IES program could theoretically enhance an ITP’s attraction to a potential employer  and using the methodology within professionally and culturally diverse teams held the potential to foster a range of other impacts for ITPs, such as: partly overcoming the barrier of Canadian work experience; developing communication, initiative, innovation and leadership skills, and addressing a range of employment readiness facets.

Here are some links that have more information about Design Thinking:

The research design included pre- and post-test administration of two instruments to measure development of workplace skills and employment readiness: 1) the Management Development Questionnaire (MDQn – Alan Cameron, 2004), and 2) the Employment Readiness Scale (ERS – Valerie G. Ward Consulting, 2016). A baseline survey was also administered to explore demographic variables and job search self-efficacy. At six months after the intervention, a follow-up survey was administered to check employment outcomes, additional employment service usage and to re-measure job search self-efficacy.

In addition, the research and evaluation included gathering of qualitative data such as trainer feedback, participant training feedback, and in-depth interviews with 10 participants at six-month follow-up about their experience of IES. Five key informants were also to be interviewed to offer insight about the service and policy impact of IES.

“[The] discussions were very useful…in Canada having discussion, having feedback, I have not this experience from my background. [I learned] we have not to be afraid from having discussions, have to talk about everything at first” (Participant 4).

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This program is funded by the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia.

Government of Canada & Province of B.C.