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Stakeholder Research for Career Circuit Program

Subject Matter

Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) wanted to undertake qualitative research in support of the department’s Career Circuit Program. This program provides support materials related to career planning to organizations that serve youth. The purpose of the research was to explore perceptions of key target audiences, including representatives from the three sponsor organizations, HRDC NHQ, HRDC regional offices, field liaison officers, representatives of youth service organizations, and provincial officials. Areas of investigation included the perceived impacts of the initiative, usage issues related to the available tools, indicators of success, membership issues, issues related to the Internet, funding issues (including future funding sources), and future directions.


The research took the form of 28 in-depth interviews with officials, partners, and other stakeholders involved in Career Circuit. A one-page letter describing the purpose and nature of the interviews was prepared and faxed or emailed to potential interviewees in advance of the interviews to provide background and encourage participation. A copy of the interview guide was also sent so that respondents could better prepare for the interview. The interviews were semi-structured in design in order to obtain robust, qualitative feedback. Approximately one-quarter of the interviews were conducted in French, the rest in English. The interviews were approximately 90 minutes in length, and were distributed across Canada. In-depth interviews were used to undertake this research in order to assure confidentiality and encourage candour, but also to address practical issues such as the heterogeneity and geographical dispersion of the stakeholders, cost-effectiveness, and convenience for participants.

This study involved a number of challenges, including:

  • The research was conducted at a critical, extremely sensitive time – a point at which the three program sponsors might possibly lose their funding. This made it very important to carefully position the research and reassure participants about its nature and purpose. As well, a heightened level of diplomacy and tact was used before and during the interviews, the focus of the research was broadened to include many non-funding (and less sensitive) issues, and careful language was used in the final report.
  • In light of the sensitivity and importance of the issues, it was important to ensure that the feedback be as thoughtful and reflective as possible. To ensure this, participants were sent the full interview guide in advance of the interview in order to allow them to prepare. As well, the interviews were scheduled to be longer (approximately 90 minutes in length) so as to give participants as much time as needed to fully express their views.
  • The stakeholders in this program included a number of heterogeneous groups. In order to obtain feedback reflective of the stakeholders, a detailed sample frame with quotas was created in order to be as inclusive as possible.
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