It was once extremely uncommon for people to be able to read and write. Today, the opposite is true; however, many adults across the country continue to struggle with low literacy. In 2013, Statistics Canada found that more than one in six Canadian adults failed to pass basic literacy tests.
While literacy skills are essential for many workplace roles, they’re also an important part of opening doors that lead to those job opportunities, as low literacy can impede someone’s ability to navigate their job search.
To help their clients find meaningful work, this article provides career professionals with a list of resources they can recommend to support clients with low literacy.
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Programs and organizations
This non-profit organization has been supporting Canadian adults with low literacy skills for 30 years. While ABC Life Literacy provides direct support to other organizations that facilitate adult learning, it also offers many free national programs and resources adults can access directly to help develop their literacy skills. This includes the ABC Skills Hub, an online portal that can be used by learners and practitioners to improve various skills at their own pace right at home.
This website provides a useful list of literacy organizations across Canada, including local and national options.
Working together with the provinces, territories and other stakeholders, the OSS strives to support people across the country as they pursue learning and work opportunities. The OSS’ webpage dedicated to assessment and training tools provides a list of resources that can help Canadians looking to assess or develop useful skills that can help set them up for success.
This analysis from OECD highlights seven action points to help create more and better learning opportunities for adults with low skills for stakeholders who are directly involved with engaging low-skilled adults in learning. The action points are based on research evidence. The booklet offers insights on how each action point can be translated into practice by highlighting promising policies in OECD and emerging countries.
Improving career prospects for the low-educated: The role of guidance and lifelong learning (Cedefop) [Research paper]
Career practitioners may find some helpful insights in this research paper, which focuses on the learning needs, experiences and expectations of low-skilled and low-educated adults in the European Union. The paper aims to provide a voice to this group in an effort to support the development of effective strategies for helping low-skilled adults access and participate in continued learning. Note: A search for the terms “career guidance” and “counselling” can help career practitioners identify sections of the paper that are particularly relevant to them.
Literacy as a Barrier to Employment: Addressing the Literacy Needs of Aboriginal People in Ontario (Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres and OFIFC-GREAT Initiative) [Literature review and discussion paper]
This 40-page document explores the literacy needs of Indigenous people in Ontario. It provides a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by this segment of the population, and explains why literacy skills are so important to living a quality life.
Career professionals may find the following chapters to be particularly relevant:
- Aboriginal Literacy Issues: A Provincial and National Overview
- Who’s Out There? Relevant Resources for Practitioners and Learners
- What’s Out There? A Review of Relevant Resources for Administrators, Literacy Practitioners and Learners
- Making the Links: Addressing the Complexities of What Having Low Literacy Skills Really Means
- Youth Literacy Issues
Low Literacy Resources for Career Advisors (alis) [Books and tools]
While this resource is managed by the government of Alberta, it offers information that can help career practitioners across the country. Written for a Grade 2 to 3 reading level, alis’ Easy Reading books – both of which can be downloaded for free – were designed to help adults with low literacy prepare a short list of jobs and set an occupational goal. This site also offers easy-to-read guides on topics related to job searches, as well as an Easy Reading Job Profiles tool that lists useful information – such as tasks and earnings – about jobs that are a particularly good fit for adults with low literacy skills.
Skills Compétences Canada [Assessment tool and workbooks]
This organization provides resources related to what that the Government of Canada has identified as being nine Essential Skills for the workplace. This site links to the Essential Skills Mobile App, which was designed to help teachers and students but may also be useful to career professionals and their clients. The app’s many features include:
- An assessment tool that asks a series of questions that can be answered in about 15 to 20 minutes
- A summary of the Nine Essentials Skills for the workplace
- A link to the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) Office of Literacy and Essential Skills plus access to all of the National Occupational Profiles
What career professionals might also find useful are the workbooks provided by Skills Compétences Canada, which were designed to help teachers support youth looking to develop the nine Essential Skills.
- Literacy in Canada (NCBI)
- How Literacy Levels Can Impact Your Career (World Education Services)
- Painting a Picture of Literacy (Community Literacy of Ontario)
- Workplace literacy (UP Skills for Work)
- Nearly half of adult Canadians struggle with literacy – and that’s bad for the economy (CBC)
- Literacy and essential Skills: Current and completed projects (SRDC)