Workers connect to essential skills in pilot programs

For the past three and a half years, Decoda Literacy Solutions has been working with literacy organizations across Canada to improve the Literacy and Essential Skills (LES) of workers who have been displaced from their jobs.

“We’ve learned so much during this project,” says Heather Deal, Director, Adult and Workplace Learning at Decoda Literacy Solutions. “Organizations in rural and remote communities conducted surveys of displaced workers, wrote case studies on the effects displacement has on people and communities, and then developed new programs and tools to support them.”

The Enhancing Displaced Workers’ Literacy and Essential Skills Project, supported by the Government of Canada and coordinated by Decoda, was designed to research and evaluate existing literacy and essential skills (LES) programs, increase knowledge of gaps in LES supports and training, and identify and test promising practices to fill those gaps.

Surveys, case studies, beta-testing

In 2019 and 2020, Decoda asked literacy organizations to gather information through surveys and case studies about the skills and training that people need to find and obtain jobs.

In 2021, 11 sites (seven in BC, two in Ontario, and one each in Alberta and Saskatchewan) beta-tested a variety of training programs they had developed to support workers’ LES.

Lessons learned and recommendations

“The results of the research done in the first phases of the project wasn’t necessarily what we expected,” says Heather.

“While some results were predictable, such as the importance of place-based learning and flexible schedules, we learned the importance of entrepreneurial skills in an evolving economy, and the importance of providing support services such as gas money and childcare. We also learned that many workers need help identifying and describing the skills and strengths that they bring to the table.”

Some findings include:

  • Entrepreneurial training is increasingly important as people diversify their earning opportunities.
  • Access to strong digital resources in remote locations is key to healthy economies and healthy communities.
  • Training must address the needs of families and communities to be successful.
  • Reduce barriers, such as access to technology, especially in rural and remote communities.
  • Provide supports, such as gas money and childcare, especially in rural and remote communities.
  • Place-based and flexible programs go a long way in smaller communities.
  • Partnerships with local organizations are crucial, especially in small communities.

For more details, read the full 10-page Displaced Workers Project Cover Report from July 2022.

Free curricula to support workers’ LES

Six of the beta-test sites created program curricula that are now available for public use on Decoda’s website.

“I loved the diversity of learning tools made available through these curricula – from guides and workbooks to lessons, presentations and websites,” says Heather. “The depth of the packages developed for learners is impressive, so it’s great to be able to share these learning resources with organizations across Canada.”

  1. Next Steps from Community Learning Alternatives.
    Next Steps helps jobseekers identify and develop the skills they need to be competitive in today’s job market. It includes training that focuses on goal setting, portfolio development, identifying transferable skills and improving digital skills for employment, plus communication skills, teamwork, personal management, professional development, problem-solving and critical thinking. Materials include a learner workbook, portfolio template and slide decks.
  2. Moving Forward from Lethbridge Public Library – Read On Adult Literacy and Learning.
    The Moving Forward Workbook helps people explore 20 workplace expectations from attendance and communication to confidentiality and problem solving, and then practice the active communication skills they learned.
  3. Gathering Together: Introduction to Community Small Business Startup
    The Gathering Together program includes a facilitator guide and slides to introduce small business concepts to your learners and worksheets for a personalized experience.
  4. Driver Education Preparation Program (DEPP)
    Learners can work through the ICBC Class 5 driver’s manual with PowerPoint slides that include audio files and animation. It’s ideal for participants with low literacy or those needing extra study time and comprehensive explanations.
  5. CONNECT4WORK Introduction to computers for job seekers
    The six-week program curriculum helps people learn to find and apply for jobs online. It includes 12 lesson plans, printable lessons for the learner, presentation slide decks, plus promotional materials and ideas. A Facilitator Guidebook provides details for planning a CONNECT4WORK program.
  6. Technology and Personal Skills Training for the Workplace
    The six-week program focuses on job preparedness and personal learning. It includes digital literacy, employment skills and workplace safety tickets, as well as social-emotional learning, mindfulness and personal development for healing and self-worth.

Next steps – pilot testing

Now for the project’s final phase, five communities will pilot test training programs to support workers during 2022 and 2023.

“The five sites were chosen to pilot test their programs based on their scalability for use across Canada,” says Heather. “Some will provide training to include a broader array of learners, some will expand curriculum, some will bring programs to new locations, and some will adapt for a whole new audience. We’re grateful for the government funding that supports these innovative programs, and we are looking forward to hearing about how they made a difference in people’s lives and helped move them forward.”

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