In many cases, literacy workers are expected to coordinate programs, instruct, deal with the paperwork and the data collection requirements of funders’ accountability frameworks, and write grant proposals that will pay for their own salaries and their programs. One report reviewed noted:
“The tutor coordinators need such diverse skills as counselling, working with the community, administration, as well as a deep understanding of literacy issues, learning disabilities and a variety of teaching methods.” 16
The same report indicates that instructors working with basic literacy students did not have enough time for marking and preparing class material. In fact, many literacy workers feel exhausted and disheartened with the workload and the low rate of pay they receive. There is a tension between meeting the accountability demands of funder and meeting the needs of learners.
We found that professional development supports and opportunities vary across the country and across delivery sectors. We also found that professional development usually takes the form of workshops and conferences. Several key informants indicated there were more opportunities, support, and paid leave for professional development for people working in the college sector.
Most provincial/territorial coalitions offer a variety of professional development opportunities such as workshops, on-line conferencing and workshops, institutes, conferences, and networking opportunities for literacy workers. The scope of the opportunities (length, variety of topics, delivery mechanisms, etc.) varies across the country.
Based on information from key informants we know there is a range of pay rates in most provinces and territories. People who work in the community-based sectors receive the lowest wages, while those in the college sector receive the highest. There is some indication, however, that college instructors teaching literacy are on yearly contracts and don’t receive any benefits.
Most practitioners are not unionized. Those who are unionized tend to be in the college or school board sector. One key theme that arose from key informant interviews is that the wages of a literacy worker are not enough to live on and that to do this work one needs a partner who has a decent job.
Table 1 provides examples of pay rates for different sectors. These rates were obtained from research and from key informants for this scan and are indicated as such.
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16 See Arneson, W. (1999). The Working Lives of Literacy Practitioners. The Province of British Columbia, p. v.