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Feature of the month | April 2014

Copian’s Feature of the Month gives us the opportunity to shine the spotlight on a new initiative, a document, organization, program, event or website that we’d like to recognize for its contributions to learning and essential skills in Canada. (See also our archived features which go back to September 2008)

Our feature this month shines the spotlight on a document that outlines the findings of an important research study conducted in 2013 with the paid literacy and essential skills community in Canada.

This report from the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network (CLLN) is a must-read for everyone with an interest in the practitioners/
workers/educators who work in the literacy and essential skills (LES) field and the students/learners whom these individuals work tirelessly to support.

In 2013, CLLN coordinated a large-scale labour market study of LES workers to get a comprehensive picture of who is working in the field. The ground-breaking research study of paid LES workers included instructors, coordinators, assessors, program managers, supervisors and administrators.

In addition to an online confidential survey administered by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC), CLLN collected data through focus groups involving anglophone, francophone and aboriginal LES workers, as well as key informant interviews. Additional research investigated LES hiring practices and requirements within Canada, and LES labour market studies in other countries.

Among the key findings:

  • The LES field in Canada includes highly educated, experienced and dedicated practitioners who value learner-centred approaches.
  • The practitioners are intrinsically motivated and participate regularly in ongoing training and professional development, thereby demonstrating the value of lifelong learning.
  • The LES workforce faces considerable human resource challenges including a high incidence of temporary employment, a large proportion of aging practitioners, extensive overtime that is often unpaid, earning discrepancies, and a lack of access to benefits and pension plans.
  • LES workers also face growing complexity surrounding the issue of what it takes to help learners be literate in Canada’s digital technology-based economy.

“Literacy is related to the economic development, health and well-being of individuals, the community and the nation,” said a key informant interview participant. “We should invest money in helping individuals increase capacity.”

The authors emphasize that the LES system has a strong foundation and a skilled workforce yet the impending challenges must be addressed if current levels are to be sustained.

The report includes a recommended course of action to help maintain the status quo and ensure future successes. The suggestions include: investigating models of professionalization including options for recognition, certification and occupational standards; identifying supports and enablers to increase continuous access to high-quality professional development and training; exploring succession strategies and pathways into the field to address retirements and stabilize the system; and creating human resource strategies to support consistent working conditions across regions and sectors.

This research project was funded by the Government of Canada’s Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program (ALLESP).

The full-text document is located in the Copian library at

Readers may also want to refer to an accompanying document, titled Labour Market Study of the Literacy and Essential Skills Workforce: Report on Key Informant Interviews – Aboriginal, Francophone and Anglophone. It is located at

© 2014 Copian