The Impact of Basic Skills Programs on Canadian Workplaces (1997)

Results of a National Study for ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation

The report is a national study for ABC CANADA Literacy Foundation.
Canadian promoters of workplace basic skills programs are commonly asked for evidence about the impact of programs on the workplace. Even with mounting information on the need for a more literate workforce, program promotion has become more difficult. Companies are increasingly focused on bottom-line considerations: "What," they ask, "is the payback for us?"

Though there is a substantial body of literature about workplace literacy, virtually none is Canadian, and very little is in a form that would be useful for promoting programs to sceptical workplaces, ABC CANADA hopes hat the current study will provide information for effective, peer-based promotional strategies that will be useful in a broad range of contexts.

This report is based on the results of telephone interviews with 86 individuals from 53 workplaces across Canada. The study includes a diverse range of workplace types and sizes from both large and small communities. Every attempt was made to interview an employer and an employee representative from each workplace. Ninety-three percent of the eligible workplace contacted were able to participate. Respondents were asked to describe the motivations of their workplaces for stating basic skills programs on their workplaces.

Based on this study of 53 workplaces, it can be stated without reservation, that basic skills programs are having a dramatically positive impact on workplaces in Canada. Regardless of their position - whether company owners, human resources people, labour representatives, or participants themselves - the word is the same: workplace basic skills programs work. Representatives from all levels, and from all types of workplaces concur that basic skills education influences not only soft, factors such as confidence levels, but also hard, bottom-line factors as well.

Among study highlights:

Central among the motivators for Canadian workplaces to start basic skills programs is the increased need for reading, writing, and verbal communication due to training requirements and technological developments.
In 96% of the workplaces surveyed, employees enter the basic skills programs on a voluntary basis.
Over half the workplace basic skills programs are held on a combination of employers and employee time. In 32% of the workplaces, programs are held on employee time alone. The remaining 17% of programs are on employer time.
Ninety-four percent of respondents state that basic skills program positively influence participants reading, writing and oral communication skills in ways that benefit the workplace.
To obtain a copy of this report, contact ABC CANADA
1450 Don Mills Road
Don Mills, ON M3B 2X7
Tel.: (416) 442-2292
Fax.: (416) 442-2293
Web site:

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APA citation
Ellen Long. The Impact of Basic Skills Programs on Canadian Workplaces 1997. Web. 10 Jun. 2023 <>
Ellen Long (1997). The Impact of Basic Skills Programs on Canadian Workplaces. Retrieved June 10, 2023, from
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