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the Centre for Learning, Social Economy and Work at OISE, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto

Changing Workplaces in a Knowledge Economy (CWKE)

Canadian workplaces are widely assumed to have changed greatly in the past three decades in reponse to rapidly diffusing information technologies and globalizing markets. But there are four important questions that beg to be answered with direct evidence:
  1. To what extent has the occupational structure of employment changed?
  2. How well are the skills of the general labour force being used in this occupational structure?
  3. How well are the skills of professionals being used as key contributors to the development of a knowledge economy?
  4. As a leading case, how well are the skills of engineers being used?
The objective of the CWKE project research is to provide clear answers to these four questions and aid the development of more effective employment and training policies.
To do this we have conducted a national general labour force survey (N=3,000) of working conditions and skill use. Building directly on these survey findings, we have also conducted comprehensive case studies of Ontario engineers and nurses involving oral history, provincial survey and in depth interview methods. Each are widely regarded as highly strategic to the development of a knowledge economy. They are ideal for detailed study of the occupational class make-up and skill use of professionals because they are employed in diverse organizational settings and recent research is highly divided on how effectively their skills are now being utilized.
The new national survey coupled with trend analyses using the few comparable prior national surveys and more in-depth studies of professionals, and engineers in particular, will permit unique insights into the extent of change in the general occupational class structure, the extent of general skill use/under-utilization, and the recognition of specialized skills. This project will provide essential benchmarks for future research and policy. In this period widely claimed to be transformative of relations between work demands and training requirements, this evidence will be of vital aid for policy-making aimed at improving job design, occupational training, and optimal use of the general and specialized skills of the Canadian labour force.

This project is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


To learn more about this project:



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Contact Us

If you're interested in learning more about the project, please email D.W. Livingstone at dwlivingstone@gmail.com.

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