Firms pursuing the business case for essential skills (Web Sight)

Resources for employers • Alberta company pioneers essential skills program • Background on essential skills in Canada • Essential skills and HRSDC

As workplace needs continue to evolve, employers are relying more than ever on workers’ ability to learn and adapt. And yet, there’s not enough recognition among employers that underpinning this capacity for change are the set of foundational skills known as essential skills. The following sites look at essential skills in greater detail.

Resources for employers

The Workplace Literacy Central, developed by the Conference Board of Canada and funded by the National Literacy Secretariat, is a free resource with information, tools and advice for Canadian organizations and employers that want to raise literacy and basic skill levels in the workplace. The resources are accessible from the clickable menu on the left side of the screen. One of the sub-pages provides a breakdown of challenges faced by organizations in designing, implementing and evaluating workplace literacy and basic skills programs, including problems that are faced at the strategic and operational levels. Another section provides advice and offers some guidelines for potential solutions for employers facing challenges, while another provides a list of local training resources. The section on best practices features case studies that illustrate how small-, medium- and large-sized organizations were able to overcome challenges and implement successful programs. Other sections of interest include special situations (for example Aboriginal workforce needs, ESL training needs and unionized workplaces to name a few), a section outlining the benefits of a successful program, a breakdown of what essential skills are and a section containing links to various outside resources.

Alberta company pioneers essential skills program dianceo/articles/pion_pers.shtml

This case study highlights the efforts of Alberta-based Syncrude Canada in tackling the issue of literacy and essential skills within the organization. It examines Syncrude’s trend-setting program, Effective Reading in Context (ERIC) that began in 1988 and has since expanded to include a wide range of courses, including a math upgrade program called Working in Numeracy, a workplace writing fundamentals course, advanced math for engineers, and applied mechanics and physics. ERIC has been adapted for use by other businesses such as Schuller International Canada, Imperial Oil and Alberta Power among others. However, Syncrude CEO Charles Ruigrok notes that “being first is not what drove us to put the program in place…we did it because we identified a business need.” It describes what the rationale was behind the creation of the program, looks at the partnership with Keyano College in Fort McMurray, Alta., examines how the program is structured and administered, and notes some success indicators.

Background on essential skills in Canada

This document, found on the Public Policy Forum website, is a background paper prepared for participants who attended the two-day Symposium on Essential Skills, held in Gatineau, Que., in late 2004. It briefly explains the history and state of essential skills in Canada, and what measures government and other national and international organizations put in place, including the identification of nine essential skills that apply to nearly every occupation. It references research conducted on essential skills and lays out the framework for the symposium, including discussion of challenges and opportunities, current issues and more.

Essential skills and HRSDC

The Essential Skills and Workplace Literacy Initiative is a sub-site of the broader Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) website. The goal is “to enhance the skill levels of Canadians who are entering — or are already in — the workforce. The initiative does this by increasing awareness and understanding of essential skills, supporting the development of tools and applications, building on existing research and working with other Government of Canada programs.” The four main areas of activity include: “Outreach” services, such as fact sheets, a resource guide and other promotional material; “Synergy” with HRSDC and other government departments to support integration of essential skills into other programs; “Research,” including occupational profiles and more; and “Applications” supporting the development of tools to help employees develop essential skills. Employers can browse this site for facts and other material to increase their knowledge of what essential skills are, their importance and more.

Shannon Martin née Simson is Canadian HR Reporter’s resource editor. Her Web Sight column appears regularly in the CloseUp section.

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