2021-2022 Federal Literacy & Essential Skills Spending

I recently completed my annual review of Public Accounts, the federal government’s roll-up of its spending for last year.

In fiscal year 2021-22, the Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program (ALLESP) received an additional $73,720,043. The funds topped up the existing budget of $18m. The Office of Skills for Success (OSS), formerly the Office for Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES), manages the program.

The additional funds meant the program had a total of $91,729,043 to spend. The increase was likely provided to kick start the new Skills for Success program announced in May 2021.

Overall, ALLESP was not able to spend $71,846,858. As you can see from the chart below, this past year was an anomaly for the program.

The underspending was probably due in part to the size of the budget and the challenges of managing the first open call for proposals fiscal year 2013-2014.

In fact, a look at the projects approved so far in 2022-2023 indicates that the surplus from last year is being spent.

  • In the current fiscal year, the Women’s Employment Readiness (WER) pilot program, a sub-program of ALLESP, approved projects totalling just over $38m. The pilots are designed “to test new ways to provide pre-employment and training supports to women who face barriers to employment. The pilots will also test methods to help employers remove barriers that women face in the workplace.” All pilots are due to end in fiscal year 2023-2024.
  • Based on the Open Government database, to date, $88m has been committed for ALLESP projects, most of which end in 2023-2024.

If half the committed funds under ALLESP-WER and ALLESP are paid out this fiscal year, the 2021-2022 surplus will be fully expended.

Posted in Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES), Office of Skills for Success | 3 Comments

Skills for Success Practitioner Competency Framework

The Skills for Success Practitioner Competency Framework is now live online. The project is led by SkillPlan and SRDC.

Here’s what the website says about the project:

  • The Skills for Success Practitioner Competency Framework is part of the Establishing a Framework for the Professional Development of Essential Skills Practitioners Project. It is funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Adult Learning, Literacy and Essential Skills Program.
  • The centerpiece of this project is the Competency Framework, which defines the skills and knowledge of an effective Skills for Success practitioner. Several other tools have been developed to support practitioners’ engagement with the Competency Framework and their professional development, including self-assessment tools, digital resource library, training inventory and growth plan.
  • The overall objective of the project is to raise the quality of instruction provided to participants of Skills for Success training programs.
  • The framework allows regional flexibility and customization based on the needs of practitioners, while ensuring greater consistency in the delivery of practitioner training. Ultimately, professionalizing the field of Skills for Success practitioners in Canada will ensure better and more consistent outcomes for learners.

You can access the competency framework, self-assessment tools, digital resource library and training inventory at https://es-prof.delta-cloud.com You’ll have to register to access the site.

Since this is a pilot, your feedback is welcomed at esprof@skillplan.ca.

Posted in Office of Skills for Success, SkillPlan, Skills for Success, Skills for Success Practitioner Competency Framework, SRDC | Leave a comment

A paper worth reading: Poor Cousin No More: Lessons for Adult Education in Canada from the Past and New Zealand

I’d like to bring to your attention a paper written by UBCs Jude Walker entitled “Poor Cousin No More: Lessons for Adult Education in Canada from the Past and New Zealand”. The paper is part of the Institute for Research on Public Policy’s (IRPP) The Future of Skills and Adult Learning research program.

The paper does an excellent job of reviewing the highs and lows of Canada’s adult literacy strategy from the heady days of the 1980s and 1990s to the diminished interest on the part of the federal government beginning in the 2000s. This trip down memory lane made me proud of what we had accomplished yet reminded me of how much we have lost over the past decade.

I did pull up short however when the author points to the new Skills for Success initiative as part of the new ‘exciting’ times. While Skills for Success has produced more funding, its value as a replacement for the Essential Skills Framework is debatable. Her point about the contribution of the Future Skills Centre to the ‘exciting’ times is well taken. Unfortunately, her other exciting example, the Future Skills Council, “a diverse group that advises the government on “national and regional skills development and training priorities,” ended its mandate June 30, 2021.

[One correction I need to make: the paper suggests that the 1999 “Grants and Contributions Crisis/Scandal” only affected the National Literacy Secretariat when in fact it involved the entire Human Resources Development Canada department.]

The section on New Zealand’s adult education system is an interesting read. Bringing together all adult learning under one agency seems to have raised the status of the adult learner and the adult literacy practitioner. Strong efforts have been made to support Māori learner success. All adult education is serious business. On the other hand, its proscriptive approach might not translate well to the Canadian context.

Dr. Walker makes five recommendations drawn from the New Zealand experience that could have a positive impact on adult education Canada.

  • Make adult education mainstream, by grouping everything related to adult education under one banner within provincial and territorial education systems and connecting it to ministries responsible for social and economic policies
  • Assess progress using multiple measures, including “soft” outcomes such as improvements in social and personal well-being, rather than just moving an individual’s skills one level up or landing a job
  • Professionalize adult educators by certifying their credentials, offering better pay and advancing public recognition of their contribution to society
  • Empower Indigenous leadership in education by partnering with Indigenous-run adult education institutions and programs
  • Build toward national coordination by improving cohesion and communication among adult education systems in provinces and territories and making better use of existing organizations to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices across the country

Obviously, conditions in Canada are much different than those in New Zealand. However, I feel that this paper would make a good starting point for a national conversation on the future of adult education in this country.

Posted in Adult Literacy - New Zealand, Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Policy, Federal Government and Literacy, Future Skills Centre, Future Skills Council, Indigenous People, Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP), Skills for Success | 10 Comments

Digital Literacy Skills Training

Thanks to Calgary Learns for alerting me to this new funding program. As the Calgary Learns newsletter states:

Looking for other funding for building digital skills programming for adults facing barriers? Check out the Federal Government’s new funding grants here. This grant is to support not-for-profit organizations that teach digital literacy skills to Canadians who face barriers to participating in the digital world. This includes seniors, individuals who have not completed high school, Indigenous people, individuals who do not speak English or French at home, persons with disabilities, newcomers to Canada, low-income individuals, and people living in northern, rural and remote communities.
Note: the deadline for submission is September 7, 2022.

The link to the government’s announcement is: https://www.canada.ca/en/innovation-science-economic-development/news/2022/07/government-of-canada-announces-additional-funding-for-digital-literacy-skills-training-to-help-more-canadians-get-online.html

This looks like a great opportunity for anyone who provides digital literacy training.

Posted in Calgary Learns, Digital Literacy, Federal Government and Literacy, Grants and Contributions | Leave a comment

Remembering Joyce Fairbairn

Yesterday, March 29th, the Canadian literacy community lost their greatest champion. Senator Joyce Fairbairn passed away in her hometown of Lethbridge, Alberta.

Senator Joyce Fairbairn was the first to initiate a debate in either House of Parliament on the issue of literacy over 35 years ago. Instrumental in making the case that the federal government had a role to play in improving the literacy skills of Canadians, she played a significant role behind the scenes in the development of the National Literacy Secretariat in 1988, a role that was acknowledged by then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney when he announced the National Literacy Program.

When the Liberals became the government in 1993, the Senator was named Minister with Special Responsibility for Literacy. This was the first and only time that such a post was part of the federal cabinet. She stayed in that position until 1997 when she became the special advisor on Literacy to the Human Resources Minister, a role she played until 2004.

I had the privilege of working with Joyce for the 14 years I worked at the National Literacy Secretariat. She was a strong advocate for literacy and knew the issues inside out. She traveled extensively, meeting with literacy organizations, business groups, labour and, what gave her the most pleasure, literacy learners.

Always dressed in red, Joyce would grab the podium on either side in what we called her gunslinger pose, to speak from the heart about what she called the cause of her life. As she once promised, “we will succeed, and I will march with you every step of the way.” (Second Canadian Conference on Literacy and Health, October 17-19, 2004.)

She and I spent many hours traveling together. We often tussled about the best way for her to deliver her message. She was feisty in arguing for her approach while I was stubbornly trying to make my point, both of us seeking the same objective of “spreading the message.” Despite our differences, she called me “an honest and professional critic of my own words!” She once wrote about a speech she delivered which I had helped with, “…the speech rolled out with high emotion. Tears were shed even by a ‘tough nut’ like yourself which was the best accolade I could ever receive.” Those words hang framed on a wall in my house.

The senator lost her husband in 2002 and then in 2013 she retired from the Senate having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a condition from which her mother had also suffered. A cruel irony for a woman who made her career using words, networking, being independent.

I hope her legacy lives on. She was the driving political force for literacy in Canada. We need to remember and celebrate her efforts.

I have talked, in every corner of Canada, in other countries as well, about giving each and every individual a fair chance. A chance to fulfil their utmost potential. My friends, our country, our world, is far too precious to become somewhere that people merely cope. It must become a place where people have a fair chance to contribute and participate, and have a job and a decent wage to provide a vigorous future for themselves and their families. This is not about special treatment. This is not about privilege. It is about glorying in the knowledge that not only puts bread on the table, but entertains and comforts and enhances the soul.

Posted in Federal Government and Literacy, National Literacy Secretariat (NLS), Senator Joyce Fairbairn, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Claudette Bradshaw’s literacy legacy

The Honourable Claudette Bradshaw, who passed away on Saturday March 26th, played a significant role in advancing an adult literacy strategy for Canada.

Minister Bradshaw served as the Minister of State for Human Resources Development from 2004 to 2006. On November 1, 2005, she appointed the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills. Its mandate was “to offer the Minister of State advice informing the development of a comprehensive literacy and essential skills strategy.”

The Committee was co-chaired by the Movement for Canadian Literacy and the Fédération canadienne pour l’alphabétisation en français. Sixteen additional members represented business, labour, Indigenous groups, francophone organizations, national, provincial, and community-based literacy organizations, colleges, and learners. Over the course of three weeks, the committee crafted its report. Its recommendations are still relevant today. Here is a precise of those recommendations:

  1. The Government of Canada should adopt the vision statement.
  2. The Federal Government should articulate a set of measurable and attainable goals as the initial ten-year objectives for the Pan-Canadian Literacy Strategy.
  3. A set of Principles should be adopted to inform the development of the Strategy.
  4. The Federal Government should negotiate bilateral “Literacy Accords” with each of the Provinces and Territories based on the proposals in this Report.
  5. The federal government should strengthen and expand the role of the National Literacy Secretariat.
  6. The Federal Government should model the literacy principles and practices that it promotes in its own workplace and in clear communications with the public.
  7. The Federal Government should invest in the direct delivery of literacy programmes.
  8. Through these Accords the Federal Government should work with the Provinces and Territories on the establishment of a coherent national Adult Learning System.
  9. The Accords should provide core, stable and sustainable funding for long-term literacy programme delivery to meet the goals for literacy mentioned above.
  10. Accords should be designed to encourage and support the development of community based and locally based literacy action plans as well as community activities that encourage the development of literate environments in families, communities and workplaces.
  11. The Accords should encourage horizontality across all levels of government so that the literacy issues of target groups can be met holistically and without conflicts between jurisdictions and programmes.
  12. The literacy and language training needs of immigrants to Canada should be a high priority in the development and implementation of the comprehensive Pan-Canadian Literacy Strategy.
  13. The Committee suggests the creation of a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Literacy and Essential Skills.
  14. The Committee suggests the appointment of a Minister Responsible for Literacy and Essential Skills as an on-going Cabinet position.
  15. That the Minister Responsible for Literacy appoint a Pan-Canadian Literacy Advisory Committee with the resources and capacities it needs to do research, monitor progress, and engage new partners as required to achieve this Strategy.

The committee’s report, Towards a Fully Literate Canada, was greeted favourably by the literacy community and its partners.

Unfortunately for the report’s future, two months later the federal election saw a change in government from the ruling Liberals to the Conservatives. Beginning in 2006 until the change of government in 2015, the federal government moved away from a focus on adult literacy, disbanded the National Literacy Secretariat, and eliminated funding to national and provincial literacy organizations.

Towards a Fully Literate Canada is an important legacy of Minister Bradshaw. We wish her family, friends and colleagues are condolences.

Posted in ABC Canada, Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Policy, Employment and Social Development Canada, ESDC, Essential Skills, Federal Government and Literacy, Francophone literacy, Frontier College, Literacy and Essential Skills, Literacy Policy, National Literacy Secretariat (NLS) | Tagged | 2 Comments

Understanding social and emotional skills

Late last month Paul Brinkhurst of FutureWorx presented a session on Understanding Social and Emotional Skills in Life Learning and Work. Paul and his organization have a long history of teaching and evaluating social emotional skills.

Social and emotional skills are the new additions to the Skills for Success model. FutureWorx was highly involved in the development of the skills definitions for Skills for Success. This session gives a good overview of those skills and how to go about enhancing them.

You can access the recording of this workshop at: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1mLXl2lwKnHj3U3Bo_Kswea5514U2VfWl?usp=sharing

The workshop was sponsored by Calgary Learns as part of its professional development series.

For a deeper dive into the subject and more information about FutureWorx’s Employability Skills Assessment Tool (ESAT), there will be a Zoom session on Friday, April 1st from 1:00 to 2:30 MST. You can register by following this link: https://forms.gle/LkvrutxgUKugXWV36

Posted in Calgary Learns, Futureworx, Skills for Success, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Call for Proposals – Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program

Last week, Employment and Social Development Canada released a call for proposals under the new Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program (SWSP). This program is a successor to the Sectoral Initiatives Program to which I know quite a few literacy and essential skills organizations applied for funding.

The call is for projects under three priority areas:

  • Building talent for the clean economy: to support workforce development needs in sectors that contribute to the low carbon economy, protect the environment, oceanic or aquatic ecosystems, and/or manage natural resources.
  • Supporting demand-driven solutions for sectors hardest hit by the pandemic and those key to recovery: to support activities that can be launched quickly to address the changing labour supply, skills and employment needs of workers and employers hardest hit by the pandemic.
  • Investing in the health care sector: to address the challenges faced by in-demand health care occupations, including skills and labour shortages, labour mobility, workforce mental health needs and integration of internationally trained health care professionals.

Eligible activities are:

  • Training and reskilling to help workers gain skills for the changing needs of industries, including helping workers seize opportunities for in-demand jobs in growing sectors;
  • Providing solutions for employers to develop a skilled and resilient workforce and workplace;
  • Offering creative solutions to develop and implement new ways of addressing labour market issues in key sectors and/or occupations; and
  • Establishing sector-wide standards and tools to help all stakeholders identify and address specific skills, needs and trends.

The deadline is March 18, 2022. Application and other material can be found at: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/funding/sectoral-workforce-solutions-economic-recovery.html

Posted in Call for Proposals, Employment and Social Development Canada, ESDC, Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program | Leave a comment

ABC Life Literacy Canada welcomes new Executive Director

Alison Howard has been appointed the new Executive Director at ABC Life Literacy Canada. When I was with the National Literacy Secretariat, Alison was part of the team from the Conference Board of Canada who worked on the many projects we sponsored. She has a good understanding of the literacy issue and its impact on society, economy and community. As well, because she has worked at the national level, she appreciates the diverse nature of the country and its people. I’m looking forward to seeing Alison take on this important role.

You can read ABC’s press release about the appointment here: https://abclifeliteracy.ca/blog-posts/abc-life-literacy-canada-board-announces-new-executive-director/

Posted in ABC Canada | Leave a comment

Call for Proposals – Skills for Success Program

The Office of Skills for Success issued a call for proposals for the new Skills for Success Program. The final deadline for applications is March 9, 2022.

The call involves two streams. The first, Training and Tools, has the objectives of:

  • Objective A: Design and implement training to support individuals to improve their foundational and transferable skills and be better prepared to meet on-the-job demands
  • Objective B: Develop assessment tools and training resources

The second stream, Research and Innovation, invites proposals that support research and innovative projects to identify better ways of helping persons prepare for, return to or keep employment and be productive participants in the labour force.

Below is the information on the funding opportunities, how to apply and an information session.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on Canadian workers and those that are looking for a job. Many have faced job losses and the need to upgrade or learn new skills to re-join the workforce.

To increase the amount of training available to Canadians, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) launched a call for proposals (CFP) for the Skills for Success Program. This CFP is valued at just over $237 million, representing the Government of Canada’s largest investment in foundational and transferable skills training.

The pandemic has been particularly difficult for individuals that are from groups underrepresented in the labour market, such as people with disabilities and racialized Canadians. To help provide the training that they need to get a job, the intention of the call is that 50% of the funding will be directed toward projects that support underrepresented groups, based on the applications received.

This CFP will contribute to the creation of an estimated 90,000 job training opportunities for Canadians and is part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to create 500,000 new training and work opportunities over the coming years.

Please join us in equipping Canadians with the skills they need and help us build a healthy, resilient and inclusive labour market!

Interested organizations are encouraged to review the:

Learn More

ESDC will hold virtual information sessions (online / teleconference) on February 8, 2022 as follows:

11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time: French – LSQ – Simultaneous
2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time: English – ASL – Simultaneous

Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) service will be available during the session in the language of the presentation.

If you are interested in participating, send an email to EDSC.CPR-SFS.ESDC@servicecanada.gc.ca with your preferred time and please advise if you have any accommodation needs.

ESDC is currently accepting applications from eligible organizations for both streams. The application process closes March 9, 2022 at 3:00 PM Eastern Time.

Questions? If you have questions, please send them to EDSC.CPR-SFS.ESDC@servicecanada.gc.ca. We will answer questions sent before March 7, 2022 at 12:00 PM (noon) Eastern Time.

Posted in Call for Proposals, Employment and Social Development Canada, ESDC, Federal Government and Literacy, Grants and Contributions, Office of Skills for Success, Skills for Success | 1 Comment