Value of Integrating IT Skills into Adult Basic Education Programs

Many community learning programs in  Nova Scotia incorporate some kind of IT training into their literacy and essential skills programs. At the Valley Community Learning Association for example, there are separate community basics classes offered each month as well as some classes that integrate IT as a learning theme throughout the progra.

There are good reasons for doing this.

Researchers have found a strong link between IT skills and expensive utilization of health services, (The Economic Benefits of Literacy: Evidence and Implications for Public Policy, Mike McCracken and T . Scott Murray). Scott and McCracken write that IT-literate citizens are “able to access health information via the internet and to manage health-related tasks themselves with less assistance from scarce and expensive health professionals.”(P.34)

In addition to this, the need for IT skills even in entry-level positions is becoming pervasive. A recent Essential Skills Ontario paper notes that “the kinds of jobs labeled as ‘entry-level’ not only persist, they continue to grow.  Yet these jobs do not look like they used to … Quite simply, we require higher digital and technical skills for almost every job. (Menial no More: Advancing our Workforce through Digital Skills, p. 2)

While much has been written about the number of jobs of the future that will require higher skills (in “People without Jobs, Jobs without People”, Dr. Rick Miner estimates that the 77% of jobs will need some form of post-secondary education or training by 2031), the ESO paper posits that even entry-level jobs are no longer low-skilled.

“Today’s delivery person confirms orders and shipments of goods using a tablet; the shelf stocker no longer places stickers on products, but rather uses a complex personal digital assistant (PDA) device to control stock supplies; and your local coffee shop barista not only serves your coffee, but is also expected to troubleshoot the Wi-Fi. these new responsibilities are no longer the exceptions, but rather the rules. So far, from moving to an hourglass made up primarily of very skilled and unskilled labour, we are instead quickly moving to a more uniform labour market that requires essential literacy and digital skills for all Ontarians participating in the workforce. We need to acknowledge and address this challenge.” (Menial no More, p. 4)

Furthermore, the paper states “there is compelling evidence that low-skilled work has been more affected by technological change than high-skilled work.” (ibid, p. 6)

“Working at this level, the formerly low-skilled group will be able to complete online applications, they will be able to manage data systems, and they will be able to get ‘entry-level’ jobs. This is the next generation of ‘low-skilled’ workers and it is not about graduating college or university with honours. It is about providing them with a combination of digital skills and the training in key disciplines related to the digital economy such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (StEM)” (ibid p. 8)

 

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