Pier Labs awarded $3.59 million for AspireAtlantic initiative

Pier Labs awarded $3.59 million for AspireAtlantic initiative to prototype and implement evidence-based employment program

Pier Labs


Pier Labs, Davis Pier’s Social Innovation Outpost, has been awarded funding from the Future Skills Centre to continue the work of the AspireAtlantic program,

 which aims to help unemployed persons and low-wage workers move into more skilled jobs with advancement opportunities. 

Future Skills Centre is investing $3.59 million to prototype and implement the evidence-based model adapted in phase one of the project. The goals of this phase are to increase the capacity of the Atlantic employment ecosystem to implement evidence-based programs while also demonstrating a proof of concept for the model.

AspireAtlantic seeks to bridge the gap between the needs of workers and employers, identifying local sector demand and working with employers to develop skills training and job placements. The program will be delivered through a collaboration among service provider organizations, sector councils, and industry associations supported by the Pier Labs Technical Assistance team.

Successfully implementing AspireAtlantic over the next 2.5 years will build capacity in the Atlantic region and demonstrate best practices and share lessons learned that will culminate in a guide for other jurisdictions that are interested in this model.  More details about these key partnerships and sectors will be available in the coming weeks.

More about AspireAtlantic:

In response to the gaps in the current employment services landscape in Nova Scotia and PEI, the AspireAtlantic project was funded by the Future Skill Centre to complete a 9-month design phase to adapt the successful and rigorously tested sector-based workforce development model, called WorkAdvance, to the Atlantic Canadian context. Developed and evaluated in the United States, the WorkAdvance model has a strong emphasis on post-employment services and is focused on upward mobility by moving unemployed and low-wage working individuals into “middle-skill” jobs.

The Pier Labs team conducted a needs assessment to identify sectors with a skills gap, job seekers needs, and current strengths and gaps of the existing employment services delivery organizations. Based on this needs assessment, the team developed the AspireAtlantic model, an adapted version of the WorkAdvance model.

Where the first phase focused on the needs assessment and design of the AspireAtlantic Program, the second phase will focus on prototyping and implementing the model.


“We are thrilled to have been selected by Future Skills Centre to continue our work on the AspireAtlantic program.  By using evidence and social innovation, this work has the potential to develop a new approach to helping job seekers not only find employment, but progress in their careers.  We are also excited to test new models of collaboration that combine the technical expertise of Davis Pier and Pier Labs with the service delivery and sector experience of our partners.  Our hope is that we can test a new way of collaborating and innovating in the employment space.”

– Mike Davis, CEO, Davis Pier and Board Chair, Pier Labs

“We are pleased to support the AspireAtlantic project in an effort to help individuals gain skills training and credentials that move them into jobs with greater opportunities for advancement,” says Pedro Barata, Executive Director of the Future Skills Centre. “This program builds on a successful model and is a great example of FSC’s focus on providing responsive career pathways and replicating what works.

“As we continue to recover from COVID-19, our government is helping jobseekers enter the workforce and fill in demand jobs. That is why we made sure that Budget 2021 creates almost 500,000 new job and training opportunities for workers over the coming years. These investments through the Future Skills Centre will help Pier Labs continue to provide training to help adult workers develop sector-based skills.”

– Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, Carla Qualtrough 

“The Department of Labour and Advanced Education sees this project as an opportunity to test career progression through advancement supports, ensuring that individuals can continue to develop their capacity and growth in the jobs and sectors they enter.”

– Honourable Lena Metlege Diab, Minister of NS Department of Labour and Advanced Education

We’re pleased to be part of AspireAtlantic and the innovative work being done to help connect workers with employers in our province. This investment by the Federal Government will ensure all Nova Scotians are able to develop the skills they need to create opportunities for their future.”

– Honourable Kelly Regan, Minister of Community Services – Nova Scotia

About Pier Labs:

Pier Labs is a federally incorporated non-profit research organization that seeks partnership with various sectors, including not-for-profit, for-profit, academia, foundations, and government to help solve some of the toughest social policy problems our country is facing.​ Supported by Davis Pier Consulting, Pier Labs seeks to improve the wellbeing of citizens and communities using social science, behavioural science, and social innovation. 

About the Future Skills Centre

The Future Skills Centre (FSC) is a forward-thinking centre for research and collaboration dedicated to preparing Canadians for employment success. We believe Canadians should feel confident about the skills they have to succeed in a changing workforce. As a pan-Canadian community, we are collaborating to rigorously identify, test, measure, and share innovative approaches to assessing and developing the skills Canadians need to thrive in the days and years ahead. The Future Skills Centre was founded by a consortium whose members are Ryerson University, Blueprint, and The Conference Board of Canada, and is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program.


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