AspireAtlantic Logo

AspireAtlantic is a demonstration study seeking to implement and test an evidence-based employment services model in Nova Scotia and PEI.

AspireAtlantic Overview


WorkAdvance, the model upon which this project is based, is designed to help unemployed and low-wage workers connect to higher quality local jobs in high growth sectors. It was developed using research and was tested in three U.S. cities, demonstrating positive economic outcomes for participants.

The primary goal of WorkAdvance is to move unemployed and low-wage working populations into sectors that offer better pay, benefits, and advancement opportunities.

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The WorkAdvance Model

The WorkAdvance Model is made up of five core components: 

  1. Intensive screening of the participants to ensure that participants are set up for success
  2. Pre-employment and career readiness services to make participants employment ready
  3. Occupational skills training to develop sector specific skills for the in-demand jobs in the sector of focus
  4. Job development and placement services to match the participants with jobs in the targeted sector
  5. Retention and advancement services to help the participant advance in their career

Diagram adapted from the WorkAdvance Logic Model
MDRC. (2016). Encouraging evidence on a sector-focused advancement strategy: Two-year impacts from the WorkAdvance demonstration. Retrieved from MDRC website:

The Demonstration Study 

AspireAtlantic is divided into two main phases: 

1) Design Phase

The Design Phase is a pre-implementation phase focused on gathering existing and new contextual information and working with identified stakeholders (e.g., Service Provider Organizations (SPOs), sectoral representatives, and low wage or unemployed individuals) in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to help inform the adaptation of the WorkAdvance model.

The main goal of these activities is to optimize the model for the best chance of success in the Atlantic Canadian context. This phase will end with an implementation plan and a group of partners who are committed to moving forward with Pier Labs into the next phase. This includes the submission of a proposal for the second stage of funding.


2) Study Phase

The intent of the Study Phase is to use a rigorous research design, such as a Randomized Controlled Trial, to test whether the adapted model is effective or provides value over and above existing employment services in Nova Scotia and PEI.

Questions we aim to answer through this study are:

  • How effective is the adapted WorkAdvance model in moving unemployed and low-income individuals into higher quality jobs (i.e., higher paying, benefits, advancement opportunities)?
  • What kind of impact does this type of employment program have on other aspects of quality of life for low- income individuals and their broader household?
  • What kind of impacts does it have for employers?


AspireAtlantic is a multi-year initiative. The Design Phase is anticipated to be completed by December 2020, with the Study Phase spanning from approximately 2021-2026.


Project Team

Jocelyn Brown

Research Lead

Diana Parks

Program Director


Jennifer McGill

Project Manager


Contact the Team