Rally for Community Learning Programs – May 21

There will be a rally for community learning programs on Wednesday, May 21 at 11am at the home of the Hants Learning Network Association, 10 Water Street in Windsor.

Titled “Learning for Earning”, the purpose of the rally is to increase awareness of the impact of the federal Labour Market Agreement funding cuts currently faced by this province’s community learning organizations.

The rally will be an opportunity to:
• Learn how literacy and essential skills programs help adults prepare to enter or re-enter the workforce
• Hear from adults who are participating in literacy and essential skills programs as they work toward employment
• Find out how funding cuts will affect opportunities for adults to get the education they need to get jobs

Come out and support your local community learning program!

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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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Link between Literacy Level and Expensive Utilization of Health Services

Community learning organizations in Nova Scotia have long integrated health literacy modules into their Adult Learning Program (ALP) curricula. Programs help adults build their reading and comprehension skills using pill bottles, community health board brochures, and nutritional guides, among other materials. This is a good example of ‘double duty dollars’ where funding for adult education serves two purposes – adults learn literacy skills while they learn critical health literacy skills.

This is important work. Not surprisingly, there is good evidence that low health literacy has significant costs, both for the individual and the health system as a whole, and recent research has found a strong link between literacy level and expensive utilization of health services.In <a href="” target=”_blank”>The Economic Benefits of Literacy: Evidence and Implications for Public Policy Mike McCracken and T . Scott Murray write that:

“Adults with lower levels of literacy are less likely to have a regular health care provider and health insurance. These adults are also more likely to have trouble understanding written medical directions, have difficulty getting needed care, and as a result, have poorer health. They also use physician services, overnight hospital stays, and emergency rooms more frequently. These results are true when one controls for education, access, health, and socio-demographic characteristics.” p.33

For more information about health literacy from T. Scott Murray et al, see Understanding the Link Between Literacy, Health Literacy and Health (2012).

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Adult Learners Need to Complete One Year of College and a Technical Certificate to see Real Wage Gains

From CAREER PATHWAYS TOOLKIT Six Key Elements for Success, September 2011 p. 35 https://learnwork.workforce3one.org/view/2001134052969836533/info

“Research done in the state of Washington found that low-skilled adult learners need to complete one year of college and a technical certificate to really begin to see considerable wage gains. Reaching this “tipping-point” is also strongly associated with a learner’s likelihood of continuing to achieve two years of occupation-specific postsecondary education.6 Likewise, pro-grams leading to industry-validated certificates and credentials support employer recognition of an individual’s work-readiness and level of competency. For these reasons, it is important to design education and training programs that lead to career-enhancing credentials.

For more information, see Building Pathways to Success for Low-Skill Adult Students: Les-sons for Community College Policy and Practice from a Longitudinal Student Tracking Study (The “Tipping Point” Research) http://www.sbctc.ctc.edu/college/finance/pl_recsum_and_rol-lup_001.pdf

A study by David Prince of the SBCTC and Davis Jenkins of the Community College Research Center (CCRC) that tracked the educational and labor market outcomes of the system’s basic skills students found that students who went on to earn at least one year of college-level credit and a credential within a five-year period earned substantially more than students who did not make it to that “tipping point” (Prince & Jenkins, 2005). The study also found, however, that few basic skills students advance to college-level courses, much less reach the tipping point.” From How IBest works, p. 5

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Relationship Between Literacy and Labour Productivity and GDP

Here is some interesting information from a C.D. Howe study from October 2005 entitled Public Investment in Skills: Are Canadian Governments Doing Enough? The authors make a strong link between raising literacy levels and increases in a country’s labour productivity and GDP. They also posit that there is a greater bang for the buck in training that is directed to workers at the lower end of the skills spectrum.


Economists have had difficulty establishing a strong empirical link between educational attainment and economic growth at the cross- country level. However, recent research shows that using direct measures of skills — such as those provided by the International Adult Literacy Survey — rather than educational attainment produces a clear relationship between investments in human capital and both long-run economic growth and long-run labour productivity. Specifically, a country’s literacy scores rising by one percent relative to the international average is associated with an eventual 2.5 percent relative rise in labour productivity and a 1.5 percent rise in GDP per head. These effects are three times as great as for investment in physical capital. Moreover, the results indicate that raising literacy and numeracy for people at the bottom of the skills distribution is more important to economic growth than producing more highly skilled graduates.

(Authors: Serge Coulombe and Jean-François Tremblay)

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Canadian Council on Learning’s Prose Literacy Map

This is a link to the Canadian Council on Learning’s Prose literacy map for the Atlantic region.


You can zoom in on your particular area to get a local picture.

Posted by Karen Blair, executive director for the Adult Learning Association of Cape Breton County.

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Poverty Backgrounder in NS broken down by Region

Poverty Backgrounder in NS broken down by Region


Posted by Lesley Dunn, executive director of the Dartmouth Learning Network.

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