Knowledge Synthesis Grants

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Skills Development for Future Needs of the Canadian Labour Market

May 2013 Competition

Value and Duration
Application Process
Evaluation and Adjudication
Administrative Regulations and Related Information
Contact Information


The development of skills to meet the demands of the future labour market is crucial to increasing Canada’s productivity, fostering innovation and, ultimately, improving economic prosperity and quality of life.

Several recent reports have identified the need for greater focus on skills development. As outlined in the 2010 Review of Federal Support to Research and Development expert panel report, “Canada’s future as an innovation-based economy depends on ensuring there are sufficient numbers of talented, educated and entrepreneurial people.”

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) noted in its 2012 OECD Skills Strategy that “skills have become the global currency of the 21stcentury. Without adequate investment in skills, people languish on the margins of society, technological progress does not translate into economic growth, and countries can no longer compete in an increasingly knowledge-based global society.”

A recent surge in media attention points to the numerous challenges facing not only Canada’s current labour market, but also its future one. Among the enormous challenges facing skillsrelated policymaking are broad societal forces (e.g., shifting demographics, economic globalization and technological change), as well as other issues including possible geographic imbalances, shortages or mismatches of key skills, and underutilized talent.

In its support of research training, SSHRC has a direct interest in the development—within academia and across the public, private and notforprofit sectors—of those skills necessary to meet the future needs of the Canadian labour market. Furthermore, the social sciences and humanities offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise on labour market dynamics and skills development.

This knowledge base has the potential to help foster common understanding amongst policymakers, informing the next steps in the development of skillsrelated policies. At the same time, collaboration between academia, industry and government is imperative for building robust policies addressing Canada’s future labour market challenges.

The breadth of resources, opinions and areas of inquiry within this subject call for synthesis of the current state of knowledge, including assessment and evaluation of its overall quality, accuracy and rigour, and identification of knowledge gaps where more research is required.

Following consultation with a range of stakeholders, including Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, SSHRC has identified a number of policyrelevant issues and questions, and is offering a Knowledge Synthesis Grants funding opportunity focusing on skills development for future needs of the Canadian labour market.



The objectives of this funding opportunity are to:

  • describe the state of knowledge about the future skills needs of the Canadian labour market, in the context of slowing labour-force growth, increasingly globalized labour markets and economies, and continual technological change;
  • identify gaps between labour market demand for both generic and specific skills and the supply of skills (e.g., through K-12 education, postsecondary education, skilled trades and apprenticeship, employer-training and immigration-oriented programs);
  • identify the most promising policies and practices for better identifying and meeting future skills needs;
  • assess the quality, accuracy and rigour of current work in the field;
  • identify gaps in the knowledge and the quantitative and qualitative data available related to skills development and future needs of the Canadian labour market;
  • mobilize skills and labour market knowledge within the academic, industry and public policy sectors; and
  • form the basis of dialogue between academic researchers, industry stakeholders and skills-related policy-makers in government.

Knowledge Synthesis Grants are not intended to support original research. They are intended to support the synthesis of existing research knowledge and the identification of knowledge gaps in a format accessible to a particular audience—in this case, primarily government policy-makers, but also education and training institutions, and employers.

Within the two following themes, syntheses should address one or more of the following 10 subthemes.

Theme 1: Demand for skills in the future Canadian labour market: How are skill requirements changing, and what are the factors driving these changes?

  1. Drivers of change: In what ways are key social and economic trends (e.g., globalization, technological change, industrial transformation, demographic change, changing work practices and labour mobility) changing—and likely to further alter—the types of skills required to succeed in the labour market?
  2. Skill sets: Which skill sets are likely to be most needed, rewarded and capable of supporting an adaptable and productive workforce in the future economy? What balance or combination of transferable and specific skills should be emphasized?
  3. Models for projecting skills needs: What are the leading approaches and models (domestic and international, governmental and private sector) for identifying future skills needs? What is known about the accuracy of these projections? What other approaches show promise in providing better labour market information?
  4. Firm productivity and the demand for skills: How are firms using new combinations of technology and skilled labour to improve productivity and competiveness? What are the implications for the future demand for skills?

Theme 2: Supply and development of skills for the future Canadian labour market: How well is Canada supplying the kinds of skills most likely to be demanded in the future labour market, and what are the most promising approaches to improving this performance in any of the following dimensions?

  1. Elementary and secondary education: What is the role of K-12 education in the development of basic skills? Are there promising developments in curricula or pedagogy related to changing labour market needs?
  2. Postsecondary education (colleges, polytechnics and universities): To what extent are postsecondary institutions providing their undergraduate and graduate students with the skills necessary to participate and succeed in the Canadian labour market? What mechanisms are in place to ensure effective two-way linkages between postsecondary institutions and the evolving skills needs of employers? Which innovations in postsecondary education have the best track records for improving skills outcomes and/or reducing costs associated with skills development?
  3. Postsecondary education (apprenticeships and skilled trades): To what extent is Canada supplying a sufficient number of tradespeople with the right skills to meet future needs? What are the best practices in delivery models, assessment, training, and certification requirements?
  4. Employer training and skills strategies: At the firm level, what are the existing gaps—and emerging best practices— for improving productivity through developing a skilled workforce and/or attracting and retaining skilled labour? How do training strategies differ from industry to industry?
  5. Immigration: To what extent can immigration fulfil the future needs of the Canadian labour market? What are the expected skill profiles of future immigrants? Is Canada well positioned to attract and retain international talent?
  6. Underused/underdeveloped talent: How can underrepresented groups (including aboriginal Canadians, youth, persons with disabilities, older people and others) participate more fully in the Canadian labour force?

This call for proposals invites applications from researchers in any discipline that can inform and contribute to policies regarding skills development and the future needs of Canada’s labour market.


Value and Duration

These Knowledge Synthesis Grants are worth up to $25,000 over six months. Up to 10 grants will be awarded.

All synthesis reports must be completed by December 13, 2013. Successful applicants will be provided with a set of guidelines for completion of their final report. By submitting their application to this funding opportunity, applicants consent that, should they be awarded a Knowledge Synthesis Grant, SSHRC may share their resulting synthesis reports with other interested organizations and individuals.

Successful applicants or their delegates will be expected to attend two meetings in Ottawa to discuss the knowledge syntheses. Travel costs for these meetings should be included in the budget submitted as part of the application. Details on the meetings (tentatively scheduled for September 2013 and February 2014, respectively) will be provided to the successful applicants.




Applicants must be affiliated with an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution at the time of application.

Applicants who have received a SSHRC grant of any type but have failed to submit a final research report by the deadline specified in their Notice of Award are not eligible to apply for another SSHRC grant until they have submitted the report.

Postdoctoral fellows/researchers are eligible to apply for a Knowledge Synthesis Grant. However, in order for SSHRC to release grant funds, successful applicants must have formally established an affiliation with an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution before the grant is awarded, and maintain such an affiliation for the duration of the grant period.


Co-applicants may be individuals from any of the following:

  • Canadian: Postsecondary institutions; not-for-profit organizations; philanthropic foundations; and municipal, territorial or provincial governments.
  • International: Postsecondary institutions.


Any individual who will make a significant contribution to the research initiative is eligible to be a collaborator. Collaborators do not need to be affiliated with an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution.

Note that individuals from the private sector or federal government may only participate as collaborators.


Grant funds may only be administered by an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution.


Application Process

Applications must be presented in the following format:

  • body text in minimum 12-pt Times New Roman;
  • single-spaced; and
  • all margins at minimum three-quarters of an inch (1.87 cm).

The application must include the following:

  1. a letter (maximum four pages, not including references) containing:

    • a description of the knowledge synthesis project, including the significance, expected contributions and impacts of the proposed synthesis, contextualized within the current literature and accounting for previous work done in the
    • an outline of the relevant expertise and experience of the applicant/team;
    • a work plan, including timelines, and a description of the proposed methodology and approach;
    • the applicant’s signature; and
    • at the upper right-hand corner of each page, the applicant’s name and the theme and subtheme(s) under which the proposal falls;

  2. an itemized budget (maximum two pages), including justification of all proposed expenditures;
  3. a knowledge mobilization plan (maximum two pages), identifying the appropriate policy-makers to receive the synthesis results, and how the results will be shared with these policy-makers, and including a brief synopsis of past examples of successful knowledge mobilization the applicant/team has conducted with policy-makers;
  4. a half-page summary of the proposal written in clear, plain, non-technical language (by submitting an application, applicants consent that, should they be awarded a Knowledge Synthesis Grant, this summary may be used for promotional purposes outside the research community to inform politicians, the media and members of the public who request information about research funded by SSHRC.);
  5. a SSHRC Web CV for each applicant and co-applicant;
  6. a list of research contributions (maximum four pages) for each applicant and coapplicant, describing:

    • research contributions over the last six years (refereed, non-refereed and forthcoming contributions, creative outputs, etc.);
    • other contributions to research and the advancement of knowledge within the last six years, including research contributions to non-academic audiences (general public, policy-makers, private sector, not-for-profit organizations, etc.);
    • career interruptions and special circumstances; and
    • contributions to training within the last six years, including roles in supervising or co-supervising ongoing and/or completed theses, listing these by the student's level of studies.

  7. a separate page containing the signature of an authorized signatory from the applicant’s institution, certifying that the institution will administer any award in accordance with SSHRC policies; and
  8. a signed Consent to Disclosure of Personal Information for each applicant and co-applicant.

All application materials must be submitted in hard copy and be received by May 10, 2013.

Deliver complete applications by regular mail, by courier or by hand to the address below. Applications submitted in whole or in part by any other means (e.g., fax or email) will not be considered.

Tim Russwurm
Chief of Staff, Office of the President
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
16th Floor, 350 Albert Street
P.O. Box 1610
Ottawa, ON K1P 6G4
Tel.: 613-995-5488


Evaluation and Adjudication

SSHRC’s goal is to support, through this funding opportunity, syntheses covering a range of the subthemes outlined within each of the two broad themes (demand for skills in the future Canadian labour market, and supply and development of skills for the future Canadian labour market), without necessarily exactly allocating one grant to each subtheme. Where there are value-added differences in approach and coverage, more than one grant may be allocated to a single subtheme.

An expert adjudication committee will assess all applications, according to theme, using the following criteria:


  • expected contribution to the objectives of the funding opportunity;
  • significance of the chosen area(s) for synthesis, based on the issues identified in this call for proposals;
  • potential influence and impact in informing policy and practice in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors; and
  • identification of research gaps that might be addressed by a forward-looking research agenda in the chosen area(s).


  • ability to meet the objectives of the funding opportunity;
  • appropriateness of the methodology or approach and of the work plan, including timelines for the design and conduct of the activity; and
  • appropriateness of the requested budget.


  • qualifications of the applicant/team for carrying out the proposed project (including, expertise in the content area, synthesis methods, information retrieval, knowledge mobilization, etc.).


Administrative Regulations and Related Information

All applicants and grant holders must comply with the Regulations Governing Grant Applications and with the regulations set out in the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide.

For descriptions of SSHRC terms, see Definitions of Terms.

Successful applicants will be required to share the results of their project with SSHRC. SSHRC will use this information to develop its policies and practices. It may also share this information with other interested sectors of the Government of Canada, as well as other organizations. This does not in any way limit how researchers may otherwise publish or use the results of their research.


Contact Information

For more information about this funding opportunity, or for advice on how to prepare your application, please contact:

Tim Russwurm
Chief of Staff, Office of the President
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Tel.: 613-992-0502
Fax: 613-995-5498