Literacy and employment: How to show adult learners the connection

When we view an activity as important, we’re more likely to persist with doing it  – and learning is no exception. The majority of adult learners upgrade their skills in order to gain better more meaningful employment. But oftentimes learners might become frustrated with their learning experience, ultimately causing them to give up. By focusing on their end goal of gaining meaningful employment, you can motivate your learners to keep at it.

Here’s how to educate your adult learners on the impact that literacy has on employment.

Explain the relevancy

To stay interested, adult learners need to understand the reason for learning something. They also need to see the value of the material they’re learning – for example, how can this new knowledge apply to their life?

That’s where explaining the relevancy of your programs comes into play. At the start of a program – and even throughout – explain the purpose of learning the material and describe real-world outcomes that relate to learner goals.

For example, ask your learners about how they would apply for a job. First off, they would need to review the job requirements to know if they qualify. If they do qualify, they would likely need to submit their resume and cover letter electronically. Then relate the information to literacy – how would an applicant apply if they have low digital literacy skills and struggle with online application forms?

Explain how the skills you’re teaching will allow them to accomplish certain goals, such as applying for a job online.

Use real-life programming

We know that learners need to see the relevance of what they’re learning, so using literacy programs that are relatable to real-life employment situations can be helpful.

UP Skills for Work is a free literacy program that helps learners develop key employability and life skills. These skills, such as motivation, attitudate and teamwork, help workers to be adaptable and motivated throughout their whole employment and as they move into new roles or careers.

By running workshops using the curriculum from this program, learners will learn real-life skills that they will find useful not only in an interview, but also to successfully do their job and maintain employment.

Use hard evidence

Statistics are powerful communication tools: they help learners understand complex information, attract and sustain interest, and can be used to gain trust and build credibility. Use statistics to educate your learners on the benefits of having strong literacy skills in the workplace.

Simply telling your learners is one thing, but presenting hard facts can make your point harder to disagree with. The following statistics can help prove the importance of literacy to your adult learners:

  • Canadians with low literacy skills are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than those with higher-level literacy skills. (OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills. 2013. OECD Publishing)
  • Only 55 per cent of Canadians aged 25-64 who do not have a high school diploma are employed. (2 Education indicators in Canada: An international perspective. Statistics Canada. December 2017)
  • The demand for high-skilled workers grew by 19 per cent between 1998-2018, and literacy skills will continue to be of importance for the jobs of the future. (Canada’s Top Barriers to Competitiveness in 2016. February 2016. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce. (Pages 14-15)
  • One in six (or 15% of) Ontarians aged 16 to 65 score at or below literacy Level 1. For example, an individual would not be able to read the prescribed amount of medicine to administer to a child, let alone succeed in a modern workplace. Skills in Canada: First Results from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC). 2013. Statistics Canada. (Page 17)

Sharing success stories is another great strategy. Bring in learners who recently completed the program who are willing to speak firsthand about the benefits they’ve gained from completing your literacy program. Try to have a variety of speakers from different backgrounds and employment fields so that your current learners can find someone relatable.

To learn more about UP Skills for Work and our other literacy programs, browse our program offerings or contact us for more information.