Blog & Updates

Enhanced Direct Entry Carpentry Program Celebration

On May 25th, more than 40 people gathered at the Wagmatcook Learning Centre to celebrate the Enhanced Direct Entry Carpentry Program (click here for image gallery).

This initiative is led by the Mi’kmaw Economic Benefits Office with support from the Centre for Employment Innovation, Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency, Nova Scotia Community College, Department of Labour and Advanced Education, Mi’kmaq Employment Training Secretariat and Cape Breton First Nation communities.

The New Opportunities for Work program, facilitated by the Centre for Employment Innovation, supports the first two work terms of the program and some of the required training and supports for the apprentices, as well as employer training for diverse and inclusive workplaces.

To learn more about the Enhanced Direct Entry Carpentry Program, check out the full news release from the Department of Labour and Advanced Education or this article from the Cape Breton Post.

Introduction to Series: Rethinking Career Development    Written by: Jessica Popp of the CEI

This blog series will expand upon the interplay of the CEI’s pillars of work.

It feels as if we are constantly living in a state of change. Changing structures. Changing technology. Changing teams. Changing environments. Changing perspectives. Now, more than ever, we live in a world where the adage stating that ‘the only constant in life is change’ is impeccably spot-on. Given this constant state of flux, it can feel as if there is never really a good time to break from your work—we bring home our computers and our notes. We check our emails ‘just to make sure no one needs anything’. This is no longer an anomaly as it once was, but rather it is a common occurrence happening across sectors and communities. How did we get here? And what implications does it have for our quality of work? What are we missing out on by remaining constantly connected?


It’s probably not a surprise to hear that our inability to disconnect can negatively influence our productivity, creativity, and wellness. What’s more is that with our noses to the grindstone, we can often forget to come up for air—to stop and reflect on where we’ve come from, where we currently are, and then ensure we’re still heading in a direction that makes sense. Things can be easily missed or overlooked when we become so focused on the everyday tasks, making it difficult to identify or foresee future opportunities, possibilities and changes.


At the CEI, we recognize how important it is for our community to be able to effectively adapt to current and future changes. By taking some intentional time to reflect on the work that has occurred, designing our initiatives to adapt to the ever-changing landscape, and working together to achieve our goals, we can ensure we’re providing the best supports possible to our communities.


As our first year at the CEI comes to a close, we’ve taken some time to reflect on the wonderful work and developments that have occurred throughout our career development system. We realize how fortunate we are to work as part of a network that is so passionate about finding new ways to help Nova Scotians lead the lives they desire. We’re grateful for the incredible opportunity to learn from our growing network of partners, service providers, and community members; to hear stories of the heart-warming and life-changing experiences of individuals who have benefitted from our network’s efforts.


The exploratory work of CEI over the last year has helped us reimagine what is possible for our system moving forward. Through the many conversations and other forms of engagement, we have gained insight and feedback into how we can best support those around us. It has enabled us to design, reframe and restructure our strategic direction, in partnership with our stakeholders, to ensure it aligns and compliments what is happening in our larger system. As we move into this next year, we are confident that a strong foundation has been built, from which we can mobilize our assets and translate our learnings into action.


One of the themes that continues to surface as we reflect on this past year is the growing importance of the CEI’s interrelated pillars of work. It is through collaboration and engagement, research and innovation, leadership and governance, and capacity building and training that we will help move the needle and collectively enhance career development practices and employment services both locally and abroad.


Our plan is to further elaborate on this work by releasing a mini-series of blogs, “Rethinking Career Development”, that details our integrated approach to work and the impacts it can have on the larger career development field. We will expand upon the interplay of our pillars, and begin to re-imagine a future for ourselves and our province!

The Business Case for Inclusive Workplaces for Persons with Disabilities   Written by: Marcus Jamieson of TEAM Work Cooperative 


“We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability.”   Stevie Wonder


Marcus Jamieson, Client Service Coordinator and Career Practitioner at TEAM Work Cooperative.

More than ever, companies and organizations are focused on developing inclusive and diverse workforces to ensure growth. Unfortunately, persons with disabilities are often forgotten. This may be a surprise to some but according to the United Nations, there are over one billion people in the world living with a disability. Persons with a disability are also the one under-represented population within our workforce, crossing all cultures and groups, that we all can become a part of at any moment.


Even with these staggering facts, persons with disabilities participation in the workforce is not favorably reflected in our province’s employment statistics.  Unemployment rates in Nova Scotia for persons with disabilities are twice the number of those without disabilities – 16% vs 8.8%Also, the more severe the disability, the higher the unemployment rate.


But here’s the thing…


Hiring persons with disabilities is not just good for business, it’s great for business. Innovation and creativity are higher at workplaces that ensure diversity and inclusion.  Research also shows that inclusive workplaces lead to better morale, resulting in happier employees, which ultimately produces better business outcomes.


The cost to accommodate persons with disability is also quite minimal for employers. The Job Accommodation Network, in partnership with West Virginia University School of Social Work, conducted a US study of more than 2,300 employers between 2004 and 2017. The results of this study indicated that most employers report little to no cost for accommodating employees with disabilities. Of those accommodations that cost, employers reported the typical one-time expenditure was $500. When compared to what they would have paid for an employee without a disability in the same job position, the employers average one-time expenditure was $300.


Many businesses in Canada and right here in Nova Scotia can attest to the value of inclusive hiring for persons with disabilities. Businesses that have made it standard practice to hire persons with disabilities have seen firsthand the incredible benefits and the examples of this are plentiful.


Randy Lewis, former Walgreens executive, believed that people with disabilities could do more. He went on to pioneer a disability employment model in the Walgreens’ distribution centers that resulted in ten percent of its workforce, over 1000 in total, consisting of people with disabilities. The distribution centres that participated in this initiative quickly became the most efficient and profitable in all of the US.


In Canada, Mark Wafer, a Tim Hortons franchise owner who is also deaf and a vocal advocate for more inclusive employment in Canada, has hired over 90 persons with disabilities in his stores. Wafer states, “Myths and misconceptions about employing people with disabilities remain the greatest barrier to more inclusive workplaces”.


Walgreens and a large Tim Hortons franchisee have also claimed that hiring persons with disabilities has significantly reduced turnover. This is backed by statistics from a 2001 Statistics Canada survey (Deloitte) which shows staff retention was 72% higher among persons with disabilities.


For a more local example, Paul Keinick, the Manager of Cole Harbour Sobeys has made it a focus to hire persons with disabilities and because of the incredible success, other stores in Halifax are doing the same.


If persons with disabilities is one of the largest under-represented groups in the world, then it can be assumed they also account for a considerable chunk of businesses’ consumer population. Therefore, would it not be reasonable to expect employers’ staff to better reflect their customer base? Our population is becoming more diverse and companies’ workforces should mirror this if they want to better serve and understand their customers’ needs. This will also externally demonstrate that an organization values and embraces diversity.


In a study by the Canadian Employee Relocation Council (Deloitte), results indicated that more than 62% of Canadian CEOs say that a talent shortage is impacting business growth. As one of the largest untapped labour markets, persons with disabilities can play an important role in addressing Nova Scotia’s labour shortage and help businesses stay competitive.


So, if employers are in need of talent and persons with disabilities are eager for employment, then we must act now.  As Mark Wafer will tell you, “Enough talk, just do it!” This may seem blunt and a little simplistic but it’s true.  Now is the time to act and make a more inclusive future  today.

What’s New at the Centre for Employment Innovation?

The latest news and developments at the CEI

Since our last update, there have been quite a number of developments at the Centre for Employment Innovation (CEI).

In staffing news, we’re sad to report that Phil Davison, Director of the StFX Extension Department (the CEI’s parent organization) has decided to pursue other opportunities and will be leaving us at the end of March.

Phil Davison, Director of StFX Extension Department, in a recent article on the New Opportunities for Work (NOW) Program.

In Phil’s almost ten years working with the StFX Extension Department, he has been instrumental in the success of multiple initiatives focused on creating a “full and abundant life for all” Atlantic Canadians. Phil’s leadership, thoughtful guidance, and good humor will certainly be missed by the entire CEI team and many others within the StFX community. In the interim, June Webber, Vice President of the Coady International Institute and the StFX Extension Department, will be stepping into Phil’s role to provide support to the department during this time of transition.

First Nations Ethics Review

Paula Romanow, our Manager of Applied Research, has gradually been returning to work following a short medical leave and has recently completed the First Nations ethics review proposal for the research portion of the New Opportunities for Work (NOW) Program. Paula is in the process of gathering feedback on the proposal from the NOW proponents who have First Nations participants, prior to submitting it to Cape Breton University for the Mi’kmaw Ethics Review process.

Student Research Work

Our student research interns are coming to the end of their winter term. Eric Marchand has been diligently working on a literature review focused on best practices in labour attachment for underrepresented populations. He has done an excellent job of finding, reviewing and summarizing the literature, and populating our MAXQDA database. We are currently investigating the best way to create a shareable database and look forward to having it on the CEI website soon. Eric has also accepted one of our summer intern positions and we look forward to his continued contributions.

Over the last couple of months, our intern Catherina “Cat” MacIntyre has been working on a body of literature that looks at labour attachment for women living in poverty. Cat recently left her role at the CEI and is in Scotland with other StFX Education students to complete their final in-class student teaching session. Cat has been with the CEI since July 2017 and we are very sorry to see her go. She leaves behind a very valuable contribution to our foundational work with the environmental scan of career services programming in the Nova Scotia Works centres, as well as her various literature reviews.

Case Studies

In partnership with Nova Scotia Works centres, we are in the process of developing three case studies which will look at innovative employment programs, policies and practices happening within the network. Through the many engagements that took place during our Environmental Scan, a number of compelling findings emerged that will be used to help determine our first series of case studies. In addition to sharing the remarkable work coming from the Nova Scotia Works centres, these studies will be used to help build educational tools and a database of best practices. A summary of our Environmental Scan findings will also be compiled and released in the spring of 2018.

Post-Graduate Prep

Our engagement team has been working collaboratively with other departments on campus to understand what resources are being used to prepare students for life after university. Heather Simmons, our Student Engagement Intern, is currently compiling a report of our results which will be shared with our network upon completion. The CEI has also begun working with others pan-provincially to understand how we can expand this work across Nova Scotia.

We also continue to build capacity and interest in the StFX Extension Society – a group focused on building the skills and knowledge of university youth, in an effort to best prepare them for life after graduation. We are currently supporting a student-led executive team to grow the society through collaborative and participatory-based governance practices.

Stakeholder Engagement

There have been many meetings over the past few months with various CEI stakeholders. We’re working to compile notes from these meetings, confirming they accurately reflect our conversations and then will be translating the knowledge to share with the larger network.

Canada Career Month 2018

The CEI has been working alongside the Nova Scotia Works – Career Connections Centre in Antigonish, the StFX Career Service Centre, and the StFX Innovation and Enterprise Centre to discuss opportunities for local collaboration. One of the main opportunities identified for 2018 is Canada Career Month.  We have begun preliminary conversations to discuss what may be possible locally but we are also interested in exploring what other plans exist across the province and how we may work together. If interested in collaborating and/or combining efforts on Canada Career Month plans, please email Jessica Popp (

Video Project

We are coming to the end of our procurement process for the Nova Scotia Works centre video project. Our plan is to begin shooting in April, with approximately two videos per month being produced over the course of a year. Each video will focus on a story connected to Nova Scotia Works and will be accompanied by a report that provides more details relating to the story’s learning outcomes. Our goal is to provide a wide representation of the innovations, various programs and services, struggles and triumphs happening across the province. We want to showcase the wonderful work taking place and capture the inevitable learnings that accompany each story.


Upon reviewing the outcomes and analytics from our first CEI newsletter, it has been decided to remove the Media Scan from this format going forward. Next week, we will once again be issuing our Media Scan as a separate email.

Finally, we’d like to know what you’re hoping to see in future editions of our newsletter! Are there specific topics, information, or guest contributors you would like included? Let us know by emailing:

What’s New at the Centre for Employment Innovation?

Sharing updates and our plans for the year ahead.

The year 2018 is off to a busy start for the Centre for Employment Innovation (CEI) team. In addition to preparing for and attending the Cannexus ’18 Conference in Ottawa, we hosted an all-day Strategic Priorities session with members of the Department of Labour and Advanced Education. The session allowed us to reflect on our engagements, research and learnings in 2017 (our first nine months as an organization) and to draft our strategic priorities for the year ahead.

Paula Romanow (L) and Jaime Smith (R) at Cannexus ’18.

We look back at 2017 as a period of great learning for the CEI. Our new knowledge was acquired through our research, our engagement with hundreds of individuals and employment organizations across the province (and beyond!), and admittedly, through a few hair-pulling moments that often occur in an organization’s inaugural year. As we step into 2018, our focus has now shifted to translating and sharing this newly acquired knowledge with our network.

So, what specifically do we have in store for the year ahead?

Research and Innovation:

In addition to the New Opportunities for Work (NOW) Program’s Developmental Evaluation and the continued expansion of our career development literature review, we will be working with you to deliver case studies that showcase some of the innovations currently being used by various service providers across Nova Scotia. This will allow our network to learn about unique programs, tools, and strategies being employed by other organizations within the province, and over time, across Canada and internationally. The CEI will be hiring four part-time Research Navigators in March to support this work. If this is of interest, please forward your resume to We thank the several interested individuals who have applied to date.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Nova Scotia Works Centre Executive Directors and staff who have participated in our Environmental Scan. Your feedback has given us a deeper understanding of the strengths and innovations within your network, and we look forward to engaging you this spring in the further development of our findings.

The New Opportunities for Work (NOW) Program is fully underway, with 170 participants engaged in employment and more than 100 employers from across the province. Through the efforts of our Navigator of New Initiatives, Angela Bear, the CEI will continue to provide ongoing support to the proponent organizations and gather information for our Developmental Evaluation research. As the project progresses, we will also be capturing stories from NOW proponents, participants, and employers.

On February 26th, the Nova Scotia Government, in collaboration with the CEI, formally announced the NOW Program to the public. Simultaneous announcements took place in Kentville and Membertou, and included speeches by local MLA’s, proponent organizations, participants and employers. To read more about these events, check out the articles by the Cape Breton Post and the King’s County Register.

Collaboration and Engagement:

Our engagement work will continue throughout 2018 with a focus on regional conversations with our stakeholders and partners. The CEI team will work with our local partners to co-design and co-host these sessions, aimed at supporting a more resilient and effective workforce for Nova Scotia. Through the use of our newsletter and social media, we aim to keep our network abreast of any engagement opportunities.

The CEI website is about to undergo a long-awaited refresh that will allow it to better address our network’s needs. We’ve begun making some changes to the site and look forward to adding additional useful content in the months ahead. We are also in the midst of tackling an ambitious video project that will capture stories from service providers, their clients and employers. Our goal is to not only showcase the great work being done by these organizations but to inspire hope and broaden the narrative on employment in our province. Thank you to everyone who has shared stories with us thus far.

Capacity Building and Training:

In 2018, we celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the StFX Extension Department and the 100th Anniversary of the Antigonish Movement. Preparations are underway for commemorating these huge milestones and we look forward to sharing more details with you in the coming months.

The CEI will also be taking an active role in supporting the NSCDA’s fall conference and will continue to work with the NSCDA to facilitate learning opportunities.

Working in collaboration with our partners at StFX University and within our broader network, the CEI is also in the process of designing a leadership development program for employment services providers. Our goal is to share the program by the spring of 2018.

Leadership and Governance:

The CEI Advisory Board met in February to learn about the NOW program’s progress to date. We also plan to further collaborate with our Advisory Board on the CEI’s strategic priorities for 2018. Once all input is received, the CEI team will share the framework with our network for additional feedback. More information regarding the Advisory Board and its role will also be shared this spring.

The CEI continues to put learning, research and innovation at the forefront of its agenda. As such, the aim of 2018 is to share back the emerging learning, to listen to input, to evaluate the evidence and to work with partners to ensure access to practitioner-driven action research.

In day-to-day news, our Manager of Applied Research, Paula Romanow, has returned part-time after a short leave and will be available by email in the weeks ahead. Paula will be returning full-time in late March.

You will also notice that the format of our Media Scan has changed. We will continue to provide our Media Scan but it will now be included within a CEI bi-weekly newsletter. Our new newsletter format will allow us to share more of what’s happening with the CEI, as well as other content relating to career development and employment innovation.

Finally, we encourage you all to follow along with us on social media through the StFX Extension Facebook and Twitter pages. It’s a great place to find regular updates, share-worthy articles, and learn about upcoming events!

Our Organizational Network Map

A quick visual reference of the Centre for Employment Innovation’s current organizational connections.

Created by: Katie Stewart Snyder, Communications & Marketing Officer at the Centre for Employment Innovation

When I began working for the Centre for Employment Innovation (CEI) in July 2017, I initially found it challenging to wrap my head around our organization’s connection to various stakeholders within our network. As time went on, it became apparent that others were experiencing this same challenge. Without a strong background in career and/or community development in Nova Scotia, understanding our network relationships can be particularly confusing.

We’re an organization that is primarily employed by St. Francis Xavier University (StFX) but we work specifically within the StFX Extension Department. StFX Extension has been devoted to building communities in Atlantic Canada for 90 years. The CEI’s placement within StFX Extension is a natural fit given our shared organizational vision of creating a more skilled and resilient workforce in Nova Scotia. We also work alongside the Coady International Institute and within the Coady building itself. Both StFX Extension and the Coady International Institute began as a result of the Antigonish Movement, a century old community development movement that took root in rural Nova Scotia and spread globally.

Additionally, the CEI receives funding and support from the province’s Department of Labour and Advanced Education, with one of our primary mandates being to provide relevant career development research, best practices, tools, and collaborative opportunities to the Nova Scotia Works Centres. We also regularly collaborate on various programs, research and employment focused initiatives, with many other organizations in the province and across the country.


Recognizing that it is no easy task to explain our network relationships, I set about creating the CEI Network Map (see below). I hope you’ll find this tool useful as a quick visual reference for understanding some of our current organizational connections!

Click image for larger view.

Lifelong Learning through Engagement

Looking to the future while reflecting on the past.

Written by: Jaime Smith, Executive Lead for the Centre for Employment Innovation

Jaime Smith

When I was twelve years old, I vividly remember sitting in a field of strawberries in rural New Brunswick. It was an early July morning. Our neighbor picked my brother and me up at the break of dawn in his grey half-ton truck, where we joined a slew of other local kids. “Jump in the back!” Mr. Ross would pleasantly yell.  When we arrived, dirty and laughing from the dusty, bumpy back roads, the farmer’s wife would greet us with baskets in hand and a warm smile.

As I stepped into my row in the berry field that morning, I noticed the dew sitting daintily on the plants and welcomed the smell of ripe berries. I remember thinking how hard it was to wake up at 5:30am, to slide into raggedy jeans and a weathered, red hooded sweatshirt when all I wanted to do was stay in my pajamas. I dreamed about how hard I would work in school so I could receive a scholarship for University. I envisioned a campus that would have professors and those fancy buildings made of brick with green, ivy covered walls. I looked forward to the day I could leave my small community for what I then believed would be something “bigger and better”, and I wondered if everyone in the berry field would have the same interest.

Work has been a part of my life from a young age. I continued to work through high school, through university and have not stopped since. Sometimes it was paid work. Other times, during the years I stayed home with my three young children, it was as a volunteer. Today it is a combination of both.

When I had the privilege to work for St. Francis Xavier University as the Executive Lead for the Extension Department’s Centre for Employment Innovation (CEI), I became empowered to frame my work and life experiences through the lens of career development. The role has enabled me to connect the strengths between my paid and volunteer work activities. It allowed me to value my experiences in a new way and opened an internal dialogue about the influence my environments have had on my career development. And finally, it reinforced my drive to navigate my career path with purpose.

I have always eagerly engaged in work, embracing new and changing environments. Since the early days in the berry fields of New Brunswick, a few things have remained the same: my passion for learning, my curiosity of people and my cautious optimism for the future.  What has changed? I no longer day dream just for myself; I now focus on engaging others to help them imagine and create a better future together. I would love to go back to that day in the berry field, to learn more about the lives of the other dedicated employees who worked tirelessly those hot summers. And I would love to learn more about the Ross’ farm and their commitment to providing work in our community.

Through the work of the Centre for Employment Innovation we will continue to engage with communities, employers and employment services providers across the province and further abroad to capture innovations in employment. We will seek out stories of success, convene conversations that matter and create the space for evidence and practice to collide. We will embrace diversity and foster inclusion in our approach. We will collaborate with you to create a brighter tomorrow!