Made with TIQ - Workforce Essential Skills

11 questions answered by Cindy Messaros, one of Canada’s top essential skills experts

Cindy Messaros, Executive Director of the Alberta Workforce Essential Skills Society (AWES) has been working in the field of employment initiatives for 30 years as a teacher, facilitator, researcher, curriculum developer, and a powerful advocate for groups who face barriers.

Cindy holds a post-graduate diploma in Adult Education majoring in teaching English as a second language (TESL) and has an HRSDC Essential Skills Certificate.  She is passionate about leading a strong and dynamic team of highly skilled professionals, creating a positive effect on people’s lives and the businesses they work for.  

You could be a newcomer to Canada with English as an additional language, someone just getting started in the workplace, or anywhere in-between, but Cindy and her team have designed the Skills for Work online course series for you.   

At TIQ Software, we understand how important it is to know where the course information comes from, so here’s what the expert who designed it has to say.  


Cindy Messaros

Q: What major factors or life events inspired you to create the Skills for Work course series?    

Cindy: The International Adult Literacy Surveys have identified that approximately 49% of the Canadian population doesn’t have the skills they need to engage in a meaningful, competent way with work, community, and society.   

Q: Who do you and your team normally work with?   

Cindy: We work with citizens, immigrants, refugees, government, non-profits, post-secondaries, associations, and industry at all levels.   

Q: Oh! So, you don’t work only with individuals?   

Cindy: [Smiles] We know for training and skills development to be effective, both sides of a problem need to be addressed. In other words, where there are employees who need training, there are also supervisors and managers who need training. Where there is a reading problem, there is most likely a writing problem as well.  

Q: What about the Individuals? How do you and your team help them?  

Cindy: Helping individuals to develop skills gives them the agency to experience a more meaningful life. At AWES, we’ve been advocating for individuals who face barriers in the workplace for decades. This [Skills for Work] is part of that work.  

 Q: What can you tell us about the material within the Skills for Work online courses?  

Cindy: Our material is always based on a thorough investigation of needs, and it’s tied together in an integrated framework at the appropriate access level for learning.    

Q: What is one goal you have for the Skills for Work online series?  

Cindy: This set of courses is the first time we have tried gamifying our resources. We expect this format to help us reach a much larger audience. It will allow learners who don’t have easy access to classes a chance to learn. Our attraction to gamification is that the games can easily be accessed through tablets, computers, and smartphones, making learning possible anywhere.  

Q: What do you think about the future of online learning?  

Cindy: I think given the times, it’s going to play a much larger role than it has, and perhaps much larger than we would hope for. There is something about face-to-face learning that cannot be replicated online, so we approach development with the utmost consideration. Working with partners like TIQ Software who have done the research and have the experience is critical.    

Q: What makes the Skills for Work the next “hot topic”?  

Cindy: When employees get laid off, it’s the immigrants who tend to get laid off first. The more we can help develop skills related to actual workplace content and culture through language and essential skills, the more we’re able to protect and help them thrive and leverage their skills. This is good for them, the employers, and the economy.  

Q: Who’s going to love this course? 

Cindy: We hope it fills a need for our learners, their instructors, and the employers who have given us their wish-lists for skills-ready employees. 

Q: Why is AWES/TIQ Software doing a pilot phase with Skills for Work?  

Cindy: Innovation requires research, and the project is allowing us to test what we believe to be true and back it up with data. The pilot allows us to collect feedback to make sure the courses actually do what we want them to do and also gives us an idea of the content that players respond best to.    

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?  

Cindy: Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to distance and cancel face-to-face instruction, this course could not have been timed for release better. Aside from being able to offer it digitally, the skills are transferable and can apply to any workplace context. This course will help with skills development and readiness for employment. 

Skills for Work's online 18-course series is available now at

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