Our Impact
Network Building

Reskilling Retail Workers 📖

A collab with

The problem

In the first half of 2020, 1.3 million Canadian retail jobs were lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and retail was among the top three sectors with the largest drop in labour demand. It is also an industry where 21% of jobs are at high risk of automation with few or no options to transition into lower-risk occupations without significant retraining, according to a 2019 McKinsey study

In Canada, gaps exist in foundational skills development and training opportunities for youth looking to bridge their post-secondary to work transition. The pandemic and automation have widened these gaps, and displacement factors disproportionately affect women, Indigenous, and racialized communities, with data showing that the most vulnerable were not only the hardest hit but are also expected to experience the longest recovery.


The Reskilling Displaced Retail Workers Project is a project funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre and developed in four phases based on Blueprint’s framework of aligning evidence generation to the innovation cycle. The four-phase project supports the design of a reskilling program focusing on racialized and Indigenous youth in Ontario. 

In 2022, we concluded the final three phases of the project by applying design-thinking principles to foster program co-creation, prototyping and testing. 

Design-Thinking & Rapid Decision-Making

As strong proponents of design thinking methodology and external engagement, we partnered with AdaptiveX to lead a series of Rapid Decision Making Sprints (RDMs) to generate innovative solutions to address the challenges outlined in our problem statement: 

How might we provide career development programs for displaced* Indigenous, racialized, and equity-deserving youth with experience in retail that leads to career pathway opportunities in in-demand roles in the tech/startup sector or tech roles in the retail industry?

Creating and Testing the Prototypes

After assessing over 100 program design concepts co-created by our Project Collaborators through an impact evaluation weighted toward high impact and low implementation barriers, we generated 10 key concepts to test and gain feedback from 20 prototype participants from three different audience groups (participants, employers and coaches/mentors).

Consultation and Collaboration

For the participant lens prototypes, we partnered with Immiducation, a career and education network of immigrants by immigrants, and its Founder Janey Buzugbe, and Indigenous youth employment specialist consultant and Native Canadian Centre Board of Director Member, Jessica Tabak, to recruit participants for a series of focus groups comprising 1 in-person session and 4 virtual sessions.


  • RRW was selected for the 2022 Spring Cohort of the RBC Social Impact Learning Program (SILP), a collaboration between RBC’s Corporate Citizenship and Leadership Development teams and Taproot Foundation. Over 10-weeks, our RBC team supported us in developing sustainable funding models for the RRW program. 
  • We successfully applied for and received a $10,000 contribution to implement RBC’s recommended strategies. 
  • Through our quarterly reporting for FSC, we were identified as 1 of 9 (out of 100 total) as a key project that is testing innovative and unique approaches and we were approached by Blueprint to collaborate on further reporting and featured knowledge mobilization. We are 1 of only 2 projects selected from our Shock-Proofing cohort.

We extend our gratitude to all our supporters, partners, and the RRW Steering Committee for their invaluable contributions and support in co-creating a project and implementing processes that are being highlighted as leading in innovation and program design.

Read the full Phase III report on our blog.
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