Summary of the Evaluation of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat's Centralized Language Training Program

Initiative description

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s Centralized Language Training (CLT) Program was established in April 2011. Prior to this, official language training was delivered by individual sectors. The new program included two key changes: group training, rather than individual training, became the Secretariat standard; and all Secretariat language training is organized centrally by Human Resources Directorate (HRD).

Evaluation scope and methodology   

The evaluation assessed relevance and performance. The scope was calibrated to include immediate and intermediate outcomes given that this is the first evaluation of the CLT program.  

The evaluation was based on seven lines of evidence:

  1. administrative data review
  2. document review
  3. interviews
  4. focus groups
  5. employee surveys
  6. a costing analysis
  7. business process mapping

Evaluation constraints and limitations

A census rather than random sample approach was used to distribute the online survey. This may have resulted in self-selection bias for which evaluators did not correct. However, given the multiple lines of evidence, the response rate of 25.7% and the broad range of respondents, the limitation was mitigated and should not impact the conclusions.

Program outcomes

  • Improve and maintain the second official language ability of Secretariat employees
  • Enable employees to work in the second official language of their choice

Performance measures

  • % of non-imperative appointees who attain their required language levels within two years
  • % of Secretariat employees who meet the language levels of their position
  • The cost and time variance between group classes and individual language training

Evaluation Findings

Need for the program? Yes.

Official language training remains a need at the Secretariat. Employees use and benefit from ongoing support that enables them to increase and maintain their second language competencies.

Alignment to federal and GC priorities? Yes.

The CLT is aligned with government roles and responsibilities and with federal priorities, one of which is to enable all public servants to work in their official language of choice and to have equitable employment opportunities in the public service.

Performance? Partially met.

The centralization of the delivery of language training was determined to be quick, efficient, transparent and responsive for more effective delivery of the program.

Secretariat employees appointed non-imperatively receive language training as required by the Public Service Official Languages Exclusion Approval Order, and 89% attain their language levels within the required time frame.

The number of employees who meet the language requirements of their positions increased from 92% in 2009 to 2010 to 98% in 2012 to 2013. Currently, 97% of employees meet the language profile of their position, including 96% of executives.

Considering both direct and opportunity costs, group classes cost less than individual training and in most circumstances provide equivalent benefit.

A barrier exists to fully achieving the long-term outcome; the evaluation was not able to determine that at the Secretariat an individual’s improved second language proficiency positively impacts colleagues using their language of choice.


It is recommended that:

  1. The Secretariat continue to offer the CLT program through a centralized model
  2. The CLT Program place increased emphasis on language maintenance, including the responsibility of employees in this matter, and review ways to support ongoing use of the employee’s second language
  3. HRD work with the Procurement and Contracting Unit  of the Secretariat’s Corporate Services Sector to ensure a balance between criteria for quality and cost rating used to assess the CLT Request for Proposals (RFP) to ensure higher-quality instruction and to optimize learning
  4. A departmental requirement be established that would define the conditions in which each sector would offer full- and part-time training to ensure policy compliance and access to training
  5. A departmental mechanism (for example, a training contract) be developed for managers and learners to better support both full- and part-time training

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