Collabs are entrepreneurial skills development programs created in partnership with leading Canadian businesses and agencies.
Reskilling Retail Workers
VFC gathered a consortium of retail, innovation and technology sector leaders and prototyped a reskilling program for displaced retail workers.

The problem

Entry-level retail jobs are a Canadian youth resume standard, a vital rung on the employment ladder. In 2019, Canada's retailers employed +2.2 million people and generated $485B in sales.

This pillar of our economy faces significant challenges.

Short-term: In the first half of 2020, the pandemic led to the loss of 1.3 million retail jobs.

Long-term: According to McKinsey, retail is among the top three industries at high risk of automation.

Infrastructure: There are few options for youth to transition into these lower-risk occupations without significant retraining. And there are few scalable entrepreneurial pathways for retail workers to up-skill and re-skill.

The solution

VFC’s 4 Stage Live Co-creation Method

Combine community participatory research and methods with industry insights and data to identify the skills and competencies of displaced retail workers. We're modelling a way for other group initiatives to collaborate on the design, development, and impact measurement of sustainable reskilling programs through knowledge sharing and community approval.

Retail, Tech, Entrepreneurship, and Indigenous leaders design a training curriculum focusing on entrepreneurial skills development, role-relevant competencies and in-demand training focusing on inclusion and equity.

Prototype and Test:
Test our framework and curriculum with input from the retail sector workers the program intends to serve and Canadian employers hiring for in-demand technology jobs (e.g., sales and sales-adjacent, IT, development, technical support) in the retail sector.

Collect and develop feedback the stakeholders to inform the development of an evaluation framework using the Future Skills Centre “progress against shared outcomes” standards.

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Retail employee, retailer or startup? Contribute to our research today.
Entrepreneurial career paths for youth displaced from the retail sector.

Impact Alignment

The UN’s Millenium Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Call to Action 92 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada offer recognized targets against which we can measure the efficacy of this program.


This project's design meets the terms of its FSC "Shock-proofing the Future of Work" funding: 

  • Support for individuals: to help inform training and career paths for workers, especially those who face barriers based on geography, background or experience.
  • Support for organizations: to adopt new technologies and expand the understanding of a new health and safety environment, policy development and program delivery for large and small businesses, government, educational institutions and service delivery organizations.  
  • Systems change: to promote innovative approaches to policy and program development and re-engineering processes in large and small businesses, government, educational institutions, or service delivery organizations.

The Collab's goals intersect elements of four SDGs:

4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
10: Reduce inequality within and among countries.
17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

In the short term, the Collab offers a ready-to-launch program to deliver career pathways for youth displaced from the retail sector.

Business and Reconciliation 92

In partnership and with support from Indigenous organizations, we are ensuring the proper engagement of Indigenous leaders.

  • From research to design to prototyping, the project will require consent from Indigenous representatives.
  • Following the communities of practice framework, co-creation with the community is an essential part of this effort. We will not perpetuate colonial power dynamics.
  • We will not pursue economic development for Indigenous communities without respectful relationships and informed consent.

Reskilling needs to happen at the individual and corporate level:

  • The behaviours of the labour sector also have to change for reskilling programs to work. The co-creation and cross-sectoral approaches are deliberate in our desire to dismantle systemic barriers for Indigenous youth to enter and be properly supported in corporate and startup roles.
  • Indigenous inclusion in the technology sector ensures that Indigenous communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.
  • Indigenous land-based training and traditional indigenous knowledge play an essential role in the design of the reskilling program. The curriculum will promote intercultural competency and anti-racism.
Venture For Canada Logo
Designs and delivers innovative entrepreneurial skills programs for youth. In 2020, VFC supported over 1340 youth in fostering entrepreneurial skills through intensive training to secure employment at innovative Canadian SMEs nationally.
The Centre for Indigenous Innovation and Technology  Logo
A not for profit organization with the mission to address the underrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the technology and innovation sectors in Canada.
The Retail Council of Canada  Logo
Implements retail innovative practices. RCC is highly aware of the problem of automatization of retail jobs in Canada. RCC has developed training programs focused on skills development for retail.
Sales Talent Agency  Logo
Develops a proprietary methodology for coaching clients and hiring for sales. They have expertise in developing an ongoing support framework and methodology.
Riipen Logo
A Canadian digital platform that offers an innovative method for enabling employer-led skills and work-integrated learning experiences.
Shopify Logo
Leading Canadian technology making commerce available to everyone. Shopify’s Social Impact team has led DEI for tech in Canada preparing communities for the future of commerce. Shopify’s Dev Degree and skills development and technical programs for women and youth are renowned internationally.

"This is just one of the exciting shock-proofing projects that FSC is investing in to build a future playbook for shared prosperity and help Canadian workers and businesses seize opportunities in our future economy."
Pedro Barata
Executive Director
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About Us
One facet of VFC’s mission to develop career skills and opportunities for an emerging generation of entrepreneurial youth is to connect and collaborate with innovative, cross-sectoral organizations in program development, training, and systems change initiatives.
About You
Our Collab partners include Post-Secondary departments, professors and centres; Accelerators; Incubators; Venture Capital Firms, other non-profit organizations.