Learners at a computer

Easter Seals discovers “out-of-the-box” literacy programming solutions

Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador is a non-profit organization that aims to engage, inspire and maximize opportunities for people living with disabilities of all ages by providing meaningful programs and services.

The organization runs several literacy-based programs, including Horizons Work Experience Program, which teaches job skills to individuals experiencing barriers to employment, and Secure Futures, which helps individuals learn how to manage money.

Easter Seals NL recently turned to ABC Life Literacy Canada for support with the curriculum for their two programs after discovering UP Skills for Work and Money Matters – free programs that offer resources and workshop support in the areas of workplace and financial literacy.

“Prior to discovering UP Skills for Work, we were using Google to conduct research and creating our own PowerPoint presentations, but they weren’t as engaging as the UP Skills for Work workbooks,” says Petra Chaffey-Johnson, Horizons and Secure Futures Program Officer at Easter Seals NL. “Our Horizons Work Experience program became so much easier to run once we signed up for UP Skills for Work because we could ask someone from ABC Life Literacy Canada to come in and facilitate, and the workbooks and resources were a lot easier to use.”

UP Skills for Work helps learners develop key employability and life skills through free workshops and downloadable workbooks. The program focuses on key skills such as Motivation, Attitude, Accountability, Time Management, Reading, Numeracy, and Confidence. These skills help workers to be adaptable and motivated throughout their whole employment and as they move into new roles or careers.

Any organization in Canada can sign up to host an UP Skills for Work workshop, and there is opportunity to invite a facilitator from ABC Life Literacy Canada to help deliver the program.

Chaffey-Johnson says her learners enjoy using the workbooks because they can keep them and review them later. She also said they were especially helpful during the pandemic when they had to move online with just two days notice, as they could be used to teach virtually.

The Horizons Work Experience Program runs for nine months and includes four weeks of full-time in-class learning before switching to weekly classes for the remainder of the program. There is also a job placement.

“During the first four weeks, we get to know the participants and then plan the curriculum. We do a general introduction to soft skills, and then based on the group’s needs, we will determine which workbooks would apply to most of them. For example, if many participants struggle with time management or attitude, we would host workshops on those topics.”

Participants typically take at least five UP Skills for Work workshops in the nine months.

Chaffey-Johnson adds that if there are certain workshop topics that would apply to a couple of students but not the majority, she will suggest that those students take the online course on their own through the ABC Skills Hub. The ABC Skills Hub is a free online portal of ABC’s literacy programs, including UP Skills for Work.

“We haven’t used the ABC Skills Hub to the full extent yet, but it’s a goal for our next intake,” she says. “It’s an awesome resource for folks who are joining the program on Zoom while others are in class because I can give them the assignment and they can complete it online on their own.”

Chaffey-Johnson has been so impressed with the ease of use and flexibility of the UP Skills for Work program that she sought out additional curriculum for a new financial literacy program – Secure Futures.

“We received funding for this program in January 2022 and I started wondering if ABC offered any kind of financial literacy programming similar to UP Skills for Work that we could use. That’s when I came across Money Matters, and just a few months later we started running it as it was such an easy-to-use, out-of-the-box solution.”

Secure Futures is an eight-week program that meets once a week for two hours to learn about money. The program is aimed at people living with a disability or family members of that person.

Statistics show that people living with disabilities are often left out of financial literacy education. Despite there being a lot of financial support and benefit programs aimed at people with disabilities, often times people are unaware.

“There aren’t many places for people to learn about the benefits available to them, and that’s what this program aims to achieve.”

Money Matters has three different offerings: its core program, Money Matters; Money Matters for Indigenous Peoples and Money Matters for People with Diverse Abilities. Workbooks cover topics such as spending plans, borrowing money and smart shopping.

To learn more about ABC Life Literacy Canada’s free “out-of-the-box” literacy programming solutions, visit abclifeliteracy.ca.