Summer Institute 2009: Workplace Literacy and Essential Skills - What Works? and Why?



Documents Produced for the Institute

What Happened at the Institute


Thank you to everyone who who played a part in making this year's Summer Institute a success. You can now see the pre-conference documents that were sent to participants before the Institute as well as the documentation for the presentations made at the Institute. 

Thank you also to Dawson College for providing us with a space to hold the Institute, free of charge.

Since the 2009 Institute we have started a three-year Workplace Literacy project with our partners, and as part of this project, the 2010 and 2011 Summer Institutes will also be on Workplace Literacy and Essential Skills.

Introduction: What Works, and Why?

After almost twenty years of workplace literacy initiatives in many countries, some carried out through government strategies, others more localized, policy-makers and providers are examining what we know about what does and does not work, and how we can use the knowledge to design better interventions and achieve better outcomes.

The literature on workplace literacy is significant and reasonably consistent. It sees an important role for government through a range of policy instruments, from subsidies to tax incentives, and a need for partnership models that involve all stakeholders. It recognizes the complexity of the challenge – differences in context from large to small businesses, across various sectors, within organizations, all of which can be barriers or enablers. It highlights the need for specialized provider training and professional development to assure quality service. Finally, it notes the difficulties of measuring the outcomes and impacts of these programs.

Evaluation of most workplace literacy and essential skills interventions and programs is generally program-based, and ends when the program ends. There is almost no measurement of performance after programs have ended, and few studies that track impacts over time on the organization or the individual. While studies have looked at productivity and skills, very little exists on the connection between literacy programs and productivity. Given the many variable factors, measurement may not be the most reasonable way to capture the link.

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