Many execs consider literacy a major workforce issue

But one-half feel training not their responsibility: Survey
||Last Updated: 05/08/2012

Eighty per cent of Canadian business leaders find it difficult to find qualified employees and while low literacy and essential skills levels are considered obstacles, 42 per cent do not have anything in place to improve these skills.

And three-quarters (76 per cent) of executives feel literacy is a major workforce issue, found a survey of 69 executives released by ABC Life Literacy Canada.

More than one-third of employees do not possess adequate essential skills (meaning the skills applied in all occupations, such as the ability to adapt, learn new skills and perform the task required by their occupation in their daily life), said the respondents, while one-quarter feel their employees have low literacy levels.

“There needs to be a commitment from the private sector and government to work together and train workers in order to meet the needs of a skilled workforce. With a major labour shortage happening across the country, Canadians are not equipped with the proper skills to fulfill the jobs of the new economy,” said Margaret Eaton, president of ABC Life Literacy Canada.

When it comes to the responsibility of training workers, the thinking was divided — 51 per cent of executives said improving literacy is not the responsibility of the employer while 49 per cent said it is.

“Businesses should be engaged in promoting skills development. This could be done, for example, by helping to fund skills training for employees or giving employees time during the workday to attend skills development courses. Businesses should champion literacy as a key economic policy priority. It is good for Canadians and it is good for the bottom lines of firms,” said Craig Alexander, senior vice-president and chief economist at TD Bank Financial Group.

Negative impacts of low levels of literacy or essential skills:

Communication problems


Friction within the workplace


Loss of client


Decrease in profits


None — we don’t have low levels


Unfair work allocation


Difficulty attracting/retaining workers


Health and safety issues


None — no issue


Reduced ability to compete globally


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