Federation preparing to launch new phase of Worker Literacy Project

The Alberta Federation of Labour is set to undertake a new phase of their Worker Literacy Project. Cormack, President of the AFL resolves that "we will continue training workplace literacy trainers so that we can shift our focus to the actual delivery of literacy programs in the workplace and on job sites."

"The link between literacy and the labour movement has never been stronger," says Cormack, in marking September 8th as International Literacy Day. "When 45% of all new jobs created in this decade require 16 years of education, there is a definite need for literacy programs in the workplace. Literacy IS a labour issue."

According to the International Adult Literacy Survey conducted by Statistics Canada and OECD and released in June 2000, literacy is linked to economic success. Findings showed that literacy levels determine what kinds of jobs people find, the salaries they make and their ability to upgrade their skills.

"The skills workers need to compete in an ever-changing labour market include communication and leadership skills. It is not good enough to just promote literacy, we need to provide workers with ongoing training in reading and writing, paired with a focus on technology," says Cormack.

In 1991, the AFL began work on a Worker Literacy Project. The multi-phase project, made possible through funding from the National Literacy Secretariat, involved a survey of affiliated members, whose findings and recommendations were compiled in a report called the "Worker Literacy Initiative Project."

President Cormack notes that "when we first embarked on this project in 1991, of the average 14 hours of training Canadian companies provided for their employees, only 2% was literacy training. Our government was spending only 0.5% of our GDP on employment and training programs. Something needed to be done to combat the problem of illiteracy in the workplace."

The second phase of the project, started in 1998, focused on literacy awareness and education within the labour movement. This included training labour educators in supportive literacy strategies, and developing literacy modules to be presented at yearly labour schools.

"It has been almost 10 years since we first started the Worker Literacy Project. We have the research, we have developed the workshops, and literacy trainers have been trained. It's time to move into action and get out to the people it impacts - the workers," says Cormack.

"When we provide workers with the literacy training they need to be effective in their jobs, we have also provided them with the skills, knowledge and experience they will need to become empowered as individuals and within their communities," says Cormack. "In the end, everyone benefits."

For more information contact:

Audrey M. Cormack, President  at  cell (780) 499-6530

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