In September, the Surrey Board of Trade participated in the launch of the Surrey Libraries report on Literacy.
Literacy is still a new concept for our workplaces. That is why for the first time the Surrey Board of Trade hosted a Leadership Surrey Business Dialogue on Business, Literacy and Essential Skills.
There are 3 types of literacy that can be experienced at the Surrey Library:
- Prose Literacy
The knowledge and skills needed to understand and use information from texts including editorials, news stories, poems and fiction
- Document Literacy
The knowledge and skills required to locate and use information contained in various formats, including job applications, payroll forms, transportation schedules, maps, tables and graphics.
- Quantitative Literacy
The knowledge and skills required to apply arithmetic operations, either alone or sequentially, to numbers embedded in printed materials, such as balancing a cheque book, figuring out a tip, completing an order form or determining the amount of interest on a loan from an advertisement
All of these skills are needed in the workplace. Enhancing literacy levels in the workplace improves bottom-line performance for Canada’s employers and gives employers a better chance for success in their careers.
The Economic Benefits of Improving Literacy Skills in the Workplace study (Conference Board of Canada) raises the awareness that there are clear economic benefits for both employers and employees in improving workplace literacy. Employees with higher literacy skills earn more income, are less likely to be unemployed, have greater opportunities for job mobility, are more likely to find full-time work, and are more likely to receive further training.
At the same time, the growing complexity of jobs in Canadian workplaces heightens the demands being placed on Canadian workers. For many, the literacy skills that earlier enabled them to do their jobs effectively are no longer sufficient for them to perform adequately today. Workers need to continuously acquire new skills and qualifications to succeed in modern workplaces.
There are many benefits to employers to focus on literacy and essential skills, which include:
- Increased ability to handle training on the job
- Better team performance
- Improved labour-management relations
- Increased quality
- Improved results in job-specific training/ quicker training results
- Reduced time per task
- Increased output of products and services
- Reduced error rate
- Better health and safety record
- Reduced wastage
- Increased retention of employees
- Increased profitability
- Increased customer retention
- Reduced absenteeism
- Success in transferring employees
From the Surrey Board of Trade’s Leadership Surrey Dialogue on this topic to drive projects in workplaces plus drive the Surrey Board of Trade’s Government Advocacy agenda, we will take action on the following:
- The Surrey Library Report report provided concrete evidence that literacy matters. Yet, though a random survey, we know that the importance of literacy skills for both employers and employees, has not yet reached many Canadian workplaces. Many employers do not yet recognize that a decision to invest in literacy and essential skills will have a positive overall impact on their organization and their bottom line. The Surrey Board of Trade is currently mobilizing their Human Resources and Social Policy Team to implement a workplace project in this area.
- The Surrey Board of Trade is committed to develop public policies that support literacy skills development. One of the Surrey Board of Trade’s Strategic Plan goals is workplace development. We certainly see the development of literacy and essential skills as part of workplace development.
Governments do provide support and encouragement for literacy skills development. For example, the federal government’s National Literacy Secretariat funds research into effective practices and supports pilot projects and other initiatives to enhance skills.
However, governments might help to build broad support for workplace literacy by implementing labour market policies aimed at improving the ability of workers to acquire and enhance literacy skills.
Ultimately, investment in literacy skills development will benefit us all. The time and resources committed are sure to yield a significant return to individuals who take part in training programs. Businesses that engage in literacy skills development will become more competitive and hence increase their profitability. Governments that support these initiatives will be helping to build a stronger, more competitive city, province and nation. Stay tuned in the next issue of the Business in Surrey Newspaper on further developments.