Virtual Symposium on Skills Translation

Illustration of a girl on a laptop with different floating icons around her

Virtual Symposium on
Skills Translation

Presented by 
College Student Success Innovation Centre

Date: Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Time: 8:45 am to 12:00 pm (EDT)
Location: Virtual (Zoom Webinar)
Cost: Free

Do postsecondary institutions and employers “speak the same language” when it comes to skills?

In our Virtual Symposium on Skills Translation (Tuesday, May 2, 2023), we shared the outcomes of our Future Ready Skills Translator (FRST) project and explored the translation of skills-based performance expectations between postsecondary and employment contexts.

This event featured presentations by the CSSIC and Labour Market Information Council (LMIC) on defining and classifying skills, as well a panel discussion on the role better skills translation between postsecondary and employment contexts might play in addressing concerns about a “skills gap,” with panelists from the American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), Future Skills Centre (FSC), Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) and LMIC. CSSIC also announced a new funding opportunity for scholars whose research supports student success.

The recording, along with bookmarking and closed captioning, is available below and on YouTube


CSSIC acknowledges the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) on behalf of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)'s College and Community Innovation (CCI) Program.

Symposium Program

All times in Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

TimeProgram Information
8:45-9:00amWelcome and Introductions
Katie Burrows (Vice President, Students, International and Alumni, Mohawk College)
9:00-9:30amDefining and Demystifying Skills
Laura Adkins-Hackett (Economist, LMIC)

“What is a skill?” The definition of skills can often differ depending on the individual and the context, which means people have their own interpretation of what skills entail. This session will address variability within skills definitions by providing an overview of what constitutes a “skill” in the context of the labour market. After establishing a shared understanding of the term, LMIC will delve into skills-based labour market information and the ways in which skills data can be utilized to guide and/or support career planning, training and development, and hiring. 
9:30-10:00amThe Future Ready Skills Translator
Pamela Ingleton (Director, CSSIC)

This session will provide an overview of CSSIC’s Tri-Agency-funded FRST project, wherein we developed and piloted a process to facilitate more precise and rigorous, two-way skills translation between postsecondary and employment contexts. In partnership with three local, cross-sectoral employers (Gerrie Electric, Thrive Group, Walters Group), Mohawk faculty, and student research partners, we were able to generate custom job-specific skills profiles that formed the basis of scenario-based AI simulations capable of self-assessing authentic, contextual demonstrations of the identified skills in a virtual environment. We will share quantitative and qualitative findings from our pilot implementations and discuss how the FRST translation process has been and can be further leveraged in other research and academic contexts.

Panel Discussion: Can better “skills translation” between postsecondary and employment contexts help address concerns about a “skills gap”?

This panel discussion will focus on the translation of skills-based performance expectations between postsecondary and employment contexts, including differences in how skills are understood, articulated, and prioritized; where effective “translation” is and isn’t happening; and considerations and strategies for how this pivotal transition can be better supported, all within the context of the ongoing “skills gap” debate.



  • Kate Drezek McConnell (Vice President, Curricular and Pedagogical Innovation and Executive Director of VALUE, AAC&U)
  • Elyse Watkins (Manager, Strategic Initiatives, FSC)
  • Alexandra Macfarlane (Director, Policy, Research and Partnerships, HEQCO)
  • Laura Adkins-Hackett (Economist, LMIC)
11:30-11:50amQ&A Session
11:50am-12pmClosing Remarks and CSSIC Fellowship Funding Announcement

Presenting Organizations:

American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)

The AAC&U is a global membership organization dedicated to advancing the vitality and democratic purposes of undergraduate liberal education. Through our programs and events, publications and research, public advocacy and campus-based projects, AAC&U serves as a catalyst and facilitator for innovations that improve educational quality and equity and that support the success of all students.

Among our numerous signature initiatives, VALUE or the Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education, supports the development and assessment of the skills needed for success in work, citizenship, and life. From 2007 to 2009, teams of faculty experts representing colleges and universities across the United States worked together to develop 16 VALUE rubrics corresponding to 16 previously identified Essential Learning Outcomes—everything from critical thinking and problem solving, to oral and written communication, to integrative and lifelong learning. The VALUE rubrics articulate fundamental criteria for the associated learning outcomes and include performance descriptors demonstrating progressively more sophisticated levels of attainment. The VALUE rubrics were developed to assess students most motivated, best work from their actual classes, rather than take a snapshot of student performance on tests outside the regular curriculum. VALUE stresses transparency of shared expectations, definitions, and dimensions of learning represented by scores the work receives. By evaluating student work through the VALUE process, institutions are able to get a fuller picture of how much a student’s knowledge and skills have evolved on the full panoply of outcomes that are promised, and importantly, the outcomes that students, policymakers, and employers expect.

Kate Drezek McConnell

As Vice President of Curricular and Pedagogical Innovation and Executive Director of VALUE, Kate McConnell, PhD, has worked extensively on course-embedded assessment; aligning pedagogy with assessment; faculty development; and leveraging the learning sciences in teaching, assessment, and evaluation. Before joining AAC&U, she spent ten years at Virginia Tech working in assessment and evaluation and served as affiliate faculty in Virginia Tech’s graduate program in educational psychology, teaching courses on cognitive processes and effective college teaching. She received a BA from the University of Virginia, MA in history from Providence College (Rhode Island), and PhD in educational psychology from Virginia Tech.

Future Skills Centre (FSC)

Distinct from job- or workplace-specific technical skills, core skills – basic literacy and numeracy, socio-emotional skills, digital skills, leadership skills – are important across all economic sectors and occupations. However, rapid shifts in economic activity have exposed significant skill gaps among certain populations and employers in Canada are increasingly concerned about the level of proficiency in these skillsets among people who are being recruited for jobs in their companies. 

It is not always clear who should be responsible for helping people develop core skills and training for these skills involves a patchwork of actors beyond just high schools and post-secondary institutions, pointing to a possible need for coordination among actors in the skills ecosystem and further experimentation to develop the most effective and efficient delivery options. Wraparound resources needed to support learning are also key, especially for marginalized groups that often suffer from gaps as well as barriers to access training opportunities. 

The Future Skills Centre is investigating how best to facilitate learning of certain core or transferable skill sets that, in complement to job-specific technical skills, are key to successful employment, mobility and upward progression in the labour market. We are generating awareness about the issues affecting populations with the highest core skills gaps. We are convening workers, education leaders, employer groups and policymakers. We are supporting research and facilitating efforts to experiment with solutions and document lessons learned.

Elyse Watkins (she/her)

Elyse Watkins is the Manager, Strategic Initiatives at the Future Skills Centre. Elyse has dedicated much of her professional life to working with both national and provincial governing bodies to enhance education, skills development, and equity across Canada. Elyse has co-authored several works on various education policy trends and issues, including Driving Academic Quality: Lessons from Ontario's Skills Assessment Projects (2018). Elyse earned her Master’s Degree in International Education Policy from Harvard University and she is currently a Doctoral Candidate (EdD) at the University of Toronto researching Ontario’s learning priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO)

Ontario’s labour market is unpredictable — as are student pathways into and through it. Many graduates of Ontario postsecondary education programs find themselves working in different careers or sectors than the one they planned on when they began their journey. While HEQCO can’t predict every job-specific skill that students will require after graduation, we can say — with certainty — that today’s employers demand transferable skills such as literacy, numeracy and problem-solving: skills that also form the basis for effective lifelong learning.

To evaluate programs related to acquiring, developing and articulating such transferable skills, HEQCO has formed a new Skills Consortium in partnership with eight postsecondary institutions: Centennial College, Fanshawe College, McMaster University (in partnership with University of Toronto: Mississauga and George Brown College), the University of Toronto, the University of Toronto: Mississauga, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Western Ontario.

Building on our previous work assessing and measuring skills, our two-year Skills Consortium projects focus on innovative education interventions (such as courses, micro-credentials, co-curricular programs and experiential learning) that help students acquire, hone or articulate one or more in-demand, transferable skills, such as leadership, time management and civic engagement. Projects will be wrapping up in spring 2023, and a final report will measure both success and barriers to instilling the transferable skills students need to thrive in Ontario’s changing economy and analyze the educational approaches and targeted innovations used.

Alexandra MacFarlane (she/her)

Alexandra MacFarlane is the Director of Policy, Research and Partnerships at HEQCO. She works with team members to support the development of research-based policies and practices in Ontario’s postsecondary education sector. Alexandra manages internal and external projects with a focus on skills assessment, learning outcomes, and work-integrated learning. Building on her experience teaching at the primary, secondary and college level, Alexandra is interested in evidence-based research that improves the student experience.

Labour Market Information Council (LMIC)

LMIC is a not-for-profit organization established to identify and implement pan-Canadian priorities to address the need for more consistent and accessible labour market information for Canadians. LMIC’s mandate is to improve the timeliness, reliability, and accessibility of labour market information to facilitate decision-making by employers, workers, job seekers, academics, and policymakers. 

One of LMIC's focus areas is labour market information related to skills. Information on skills provides a more granular understanding of the demand for labour in contrast to the more conventional data on sectors and occupations. LMIC provides tools and resources to increase the accessibility of skills data for all Canadians and works with industry experts to identify innovative approaches for using skills data.  

Laura Adkins-Hackett (she/her)

As an Economist at LMIC, Laura Adkins-Hackett contributes to the analysis and development of labour market information in Canada. Laura is passionate about understanding why the economy works the way it does and how to best use labour and other resources to improve the lives of Canadians. Laura holds a master's degree in economics from the University of Ottawa and a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Alberta. Prior to joining LMIC, Laura worked as an economic consultant providing labour forecasts for municipalities, as well as an economist providing insights into a wide range of topics related to economic development and the labour market at the Government of Alberta.

College Student Success Innovation Centre (CSSIC), Mohawk College

The CSSIC is Canada’s first research centre on a college campus uniquely focused on community college student success. Across nearly a decade of applied innovation, we have implemented and supported more than $5 million in funded research projects with over 20 postsecondary, industry and community partners. In 2019, the CSSIC earned national recognition from the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS)’s Innovation Award for our leading-edge contributions to the field.

CSSIC began our research on skills in 2017 as part of HEQCO’s Learning Outcomes and Assessment Consortium, leading a project that sought to measure the essential skill development (reading, writing, mathematics, critical thinking and transferable attitudes toward learning) of two and three-year diploma students from admission to graduation. We leveraged this preliminary work in our Tri-Agency-funded Future Ready Skills Translator research project, where we developed and piloted a process to translate employer job performance expectations to better align curriculum and prepare students for future employment. In partnership with three local, cross-sectoral employers (Gerrie Electric, Thrive Group, Walters Group), as well as Mohawk faculty and student research partners, we generated job-specific skills profiles that formed the basis of scenario-based AI simulations capable of self-assessing authentic, contextual demonstrations of the identified skills in a virtual environment. These simulations were piloted in-course with over 300 Mohawk students and simulation content continues to be embedded in applicable curriculum. The simulations are available for licensing by employers and academic institutions

Pamela Ingleton (she/her)

Pamela Ingleton joined CSSIC in 2018 as Professor, Learning Outcomes Assessment Consultant, leading a two-year research project on skills assessment as part of HEQCO’s Learning Outcomes Assessment Consortium. She currently serves as the Director of CSSIC, principal investigator of the Future Ready Skills Translator research project, funded by SSHRC on behalf of NSERC, and co-investigator of Material Handling 4.0, one of the 10 innovation projects funded by the Future Skills Centre. Both projects explore, in part, how academic skills articulation and assessment practices can be leveraged with employers to clarify job performance expectations. She has worked as an instructor, researcher, educational developer and faculty support specialist in both college and university contexts for over 15 years and holds a PhD in English and Cultural Studies from McMaster University.