Header image: user accessing information on their computer.

Ontario’s labour market gets a digital upgrade

How applying service design to labour market information is helping Ontarians.

Two months ago, a team of us here at the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) launched a redesigned labour market information web resource (LMI) aimed at improving access to information for students and jobseekers in Ontario.

The redesign originated from one of the 28 recommendations from the Premier’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel, which called for:

“Anytime, anywhere access to easy-to-understand, quality assured labour market information that allows individuals to make decisions about future careers, employers to plan for and find talent, and government to inform policy.”

Here in the Labour Market Information and Research Unit, we were excited to take this project on. We got to work by creating the Digital LMI Action Plan, which outlined a three-phased approach to redesigning and augmenting the web presence, as well as other activities focused on building an effective LMI model in Ontario.

  • Phase 1: improve the user experience and access to labour market information for students and jobseekers by aligning with the Ontario.ca look-and-feel.
  • Phase 2: focus on the needs of students and jobseekers by providing local, timely information about in-demand jobs and skills through a more graphical and interactive display, while aligning with apprenticeship modernization and connecting to real employment opportunities.
  • Phase 3: enable a broader audience, including employers, economic developers, post-secondary institutions and researchers, to make decisions about workforce planning, develop education and training strategies, and analyze industry trends.

At its core, the Action Plan is focused on taking a user-centred approach to all projects. The digital upgrade presented us with the perfect opportunity to bring service design to LMI, and we committed to incorporating this methodology into each step of the project.

Screenshots of the Labour Market Information website before the user-research-driven redesign.

Starting with users

Like any user-centred design project, we started with the users.

We conducted focus groups and interviews with high school and postsecondary students, career educators, and service providers to assess the existing LMI website (Ontario Job Futures). The goal of this research was to identify the challenges faced by our key user groups when trying to access information about careers, education and training.

We identified four key themes and insights while doing this user research:

  1. Pathways: Students and job seekers do not have access to information on a broad spectrum of education and career opportunities.
  2. Education: Career educators, career counsellors, and students have limited ability to use labour market and career pathway information because of its complexity and the lack of easy-to-use tools.
  3. Awareness: Students, jobseekers, and career educators/counsellors are interested in, but may not be aware of, the resources available to make timely and accurate career and education pathway decisions.
  4. Experience: Users of the LMI website had difficulty navigating the information available, and would prefer a more modern digital experience that includes less text, more graphics, and additional media like videos, quizzes, and other interactive features.

With these findings at the forefront, we began the first phase of the redesign working with our Ministry’s Communications Branch to build on the existing foundation of Ontario Job Futures. We also leveraged the expertise of the team at Ontario Digital Service to provide a refreshed look-and-feel, improved navigation and enhanced user experience.

This co-development approach — a key principle of service design — allowed us to maintain the quality of information previously provided, while making it more accessible and engaging to a broader audience.

Some of the changes we made, as identified by our users, include:

  • Aligning with Ontario.ca design standards and providing more graphical display of information through the Snapshot and Quick Facts sections
  • Providing downloadable data for all job profiles
  • Expanding search functionality to allow users to browse and filter job profiles, and find the information they need faster
  • Providing a survey that encourages Ontarians to provide feedback, to ensure we remain focused on the needs of our users

Of course, our work isn’t done yet.

Screenshots from the new Labour Market Information website, after doing user research.

Building on a good foundation

Continuing to follow the Digital LMI Action Plan and based on what we’ve heard from our users, we plan to build on this first phase with additional releases in the near future. These releases will iterate on the LMI website, based on ongoing feedback and user research, to include more information and functionality for a range of users, including employers, economic developers, post-secondary institutions and researchers.

The initial focus for the next release will be on delivering local and timely information about in-demand jobs and skills to Ontarians, with the overall goal of improving access to LMI and developing Ontario’s highly skilled workforce.

Our future developments will continue to be heavily informed by usability testing, ongoing research and survey feedback to ensure we stay focused on the needs of all users. With that in mind, we are encouraging all Ontarians to check out Ontario.ca/labourmarket and let us know how we can better serve you.

Send your feedback on Ontario’s labour market information website.

This post was written in collaboration with members of the Digital LMI Team.

Sydney Helland is a Policy and Planning Analyst with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development with a background in digital content design and photojournalism. She is usually found riding her bike in search of craft beer and cheese samples.