Title :Saskatchewan Federation of Labour
Workers' Education for Skills Training: West Pilot
This entry is a summary of the final report.
In November of 1989 the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) began an assessment of the basic reading, writing and math skill needs of the membership of its affiliates. Our initial investigation, conducted through meetings and interviews with senior staff representatives, local executives and members from affiliated unions, revealed an overwhelming demand and support for a program designed to upgrade workers' basic literacy skills.
With the aim of finding a method for best meeting these needs a review of existing literacy programs was conducted. The results of this review led us to conclude that the Ontario Federation of Labour's BEST program provided the most relevant and useful model for developing a program designed to meet the particular needs of the SFL's membership.
While BEST provided the most useful potential delivery model, certain modifications of the program would be required. In contrast to the Ontario Federation of Labour's large industrial membership, the majority of the SFL's members work in the service sector, or in resource extraction, with a large number of members employed in relatively small and/or geographically isolated workplaces. Furthermore Saskatchewan has particular English as a second language (ESL) needs not yet addressed by the Ontario Federation of Labour. English is not the first language of many aboriginal peoples, in particular for many aboriginal peoples living in Saskatchewan's northern communities. In order to operate effectively in Saskatchewan both the curriculum and delivery strategy of the BEST model would require modification.
To accomplish this task, the SFL embarked on the Workplace Skills Development Program Pilot project with the support and financial assistance of the Secretary of State. At the suggestion of our first class of Course Leaders, and with the approval of the SFL's Executive, the name of SFL's program was changed from the Workplace Skills Development Program to Workers' Education for Skills Training, or the WEST Program. It was agreed that the new name better expressed the philosophy and intent of the program, was much more "accessible", and provided a much more readily digestible an acronym than did its predecessor.
Six Saskatchewan workplaces were targeted for pilot WEST Programs. These workplaces and their respective SFL member unions were as follows:
Thirteen workers, representing these six workplaces, were pulled from their jobs to participate in fourteen days of intensive residential training. Upon completion of their first eleven days, participants received certification from the SFL to go back to their workplaces to initiate programs. Once they had their classes up and running, the new Course Leaders were brought back to the residential setting for an additional three days of training.
Twelve programs, with the number of participants in each ranging from three to ten, were implemented: three full SEIU classes at the Royal University Hospital, one RWDSU class at the Imperial 400 Motel in Regina, one GSU class with a mobile construction crew (now based in Humboldt), one GSU class with a Wheat Pool construction/repair crew in Swift Current, one GSU class with a Wheat Pool repair crew in Yorkton, two USWA classes at IPSCO, two USWA classes at Cameco's Key Lake Mine, and one SGEU class at Wascana Centre Authority in Regina. Because of the relatively small size of the workplace and resulting small number of potential participants at Wascana Centre Authority, we also included a worker from the Department of Health in this class.