Social Services Labour Market Research Project: Final Report Released

For the past three years, The Federation has been working with SPARC BC and CSSEA on a research study of the community social services sector labour market. In August, we submitted the Final Report of the Social Services Labour Market Research Project (SSLMRP) to the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training (MAEST) and last month we received approval and were given permission to release the report and the aggregated data publicly. Both are now available on our website.

As some of you may recall, this project was initially developed as a direct result of the work members and sector allies did at The Federation’s 2018 Social Policy Forum (which focused on issues related to the strength and sustainability of our sector). Recruitment and retention challenges were a central theme that emerged over those two days.

Participants recognized that these challenges were not new, but that a major roadblock we were facing was a lack of data about the sector. As a result, our members made clear that a priority for The Federation would be to better understand and address these issues.

We now have the findings and data—both anecdotal and empirical—to explain the nuanced, complex challenges faced by this sector. And we also have the analysis, recommendations, and next steps to address those challenges. And some of those steps are already underway.

The findings of the Social Services Labour Market Research Project (SSLMRP) have informed the rollout of the Community Social Services Training Fund that is now available to community social service organizations across the province. Both the two main grant streams and the series of subsidized workshops are addressing training needs and skill gaps identified by the Social Services Labour Market Research Project and the Training Fund offerings were developed in a way that would mitigate many of the barriers otherwise experienced by northern, rural, and remote organizations.

The report’s primary recommendation—the development of a labour market strategy for BC’s community social services sector—also aligns with work that the Social Services Sector Round Table has begun on creating a Strategic HR Plan for the sector (with a compensation framework being the first item on the agenda). We are using the report in our work with post-secondary institutions around more closely aligning their curricula with organizational needs and the findings related to recruiting and training new employees and volunteers are informing our engagement with the government around employee screening and procurement reform.

And this is only just the beginning. Some initiatives that were underway before the Final Report was released will be aided by the data and insights it contains. Other initiatives and advocacy will be inspired and sparked by the ideas and recommendations within. A lot of hard work went into this project and I am both hopeful and excited about what will come of it.

Next week, The Federation and our colleagues at MAEST will be presenting the Final Report to the Social Services Sector Round Table to connect the dots between the report’s findings and recommendations and the strategic priorities of that group. In the coming weeks and months, we will be making more presentations and sharing key findings and information with members and sector partners—so stay tuned for events, infographics, and webinars.

SSLMRP Key Findings

  • Most Strategic Leaders (over 75%) reported that the level of difficulty in recruiting paid employees was either higher or much higher than it was three years ago.
  • Over two-thirds (69%) of Strategic Leaders Survey respondents said the level of difficulty retaining paid employees was either higher or much higher than it was three years ago.
  • When asked to identify the top three challenges facing them in their current position, Frontline Workers Survey respondents identified stress (70%), low pay (61%), and workload (49%).
  • The large majority of Frontline Workers Survey respondents (81%) reported that the best way to encourage them to stay longer in their current position would be better pay.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of those who responded to the Frontline Workers Survey either strongly agreed or agreed that they need more education and training to advance their career in the community social services sector.

Thanks & Recognition

Funding for this project was provided through the Canada-British Columbia Labour Market Development Agreement’s Sector Labour Market Partnerships (SLMP) Program administered by the BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training (MAEST). I’d like to thank our partners within MAEST and at CSSEA and SPARC BC for their work throughout the various stages of this long and very important project.

I would also like to recognize and thank the many members and frontline staff who took the time to participate in our surveys, interviews, focus groups, and advisory committees over the past three years. Your experiences and insights have already proved to be a valuable resource and we are all very much looking forward to the changes they will help to inform.

If you would like more information about this project, the Final Report or our various next steps do not hesitate to contact me.

Rick FitzZaland
Federation Executive Director