STAGE THREE: DIFFERENT VIEWS OF LITERACYAND BASIC SKILLS FROM
EMPLOYERS AND UNIONS
This section contains some of the main arguments on basic skills.
Familiarize yourself with these arguments, and note any others you've
heard around your workplace or can think of.
For many employers, literacy and basic skills programs are only
important if they contribute to increasing the bottom line of corporate
profits. Keep this agenda in mind when the employer resists literacy and
basic skills programs.
Why some employers may resist basic skills programs
- I need employees who have job skills to work my machines. They don't
need basic skills to do their jobs.
- I'm all in favour of literacy. But if someone wants to learn to read
better, there are programs out there in the schools and colleges. This
is an individual issue. Employers don't have to get involved. I went
back to school and took my MBA five years ago. So why can't other
- This is just another union program where all the employees will do is
learn what is bad about the employer.
- I don't need a program in my workplace. All my employees have to
have at least Grade 12 before I hire them.
- I need upgrading for my employees so they can use computers. What
do basic skills have to do with computers?
Here are different versions of the argument that "too much education
can be a dangerous thing."
- If my workers become too educated or literate they'll get jobs
elsewhere. I don't want to train workers for other employers.
These next three are not usually openly stated:
- If the workers become too educated or too literate, they'll begin to
question the employer more.
- It's advantageous to keep workers who speak different languages in
their separate groups. If all the workers can communicate better with
each other then they can band together against me.
- If word about a literacy program gets out, some clients might not
want to buy products made by workers who they think are less
Why employers may favour basic skills programs.
- I need literacy programs to help my employees read instructions and
fill out reports. Mistakes due to poor reading skills can cost a lot of
time and money in lost production.
- Workers who are more literate have better communications skills to
deal ably with supervisors, customers, other employees and the public.
- It makes sense for me to invest in the workers I already have.
Literacy training can build a foundation for future training and
education inside and outside of the workplace. Offering basic skills will
be the basis of a whole set of training programs, as well as access to
- The more chances I give for education advancement, the more
employees will want to stay with my company.
- I'll get a reputation as a model employer who trains employees and
will attract the best people to work here.
- I want to do my share so that my company is seen as a good corporate
citizen in the community.
- Funding a basic skills program will help build bridges to the union.
- If we want to keep our WCB (Workers' Compensation Board) costs
down and maintain a good health and safety record, we have to make
sure nobody has an accident because they were having difficulty
- I have a large number of immigrant employees who don't speak
English (or French) that well. This program could help our employees
integrate better into our company and into Canadian society.