The Workplace/Workforce Literacy Symposium Report
Brigid Hayes, symposium chair, introduced the panelists:
Glen Brown, town hall moderator, then led the group in discussion about what is happening outside Ontario in the area of workplace literacy and education.
Sandi Howell stated that since 1991, Manitoba has had a steering committee– Workplace Education Manitoba (WEM)–comprised of business and labour, which provides a successful model of how to approach workplace issues. A second partnership committee deals with prior learning assessment and recognition. Four groups within various government branches look at issues such as literacy and prior learning assessment. The steering committee forms partnerships that address adult learning issues while reflecting union needs, employer needs and worker needs.
Rob Despins, the founding business co-chair of WEM, commented that some of their success has been due to their recognition that they needed to develop champions as well as use the strength of employer associations and labour organizations. The key was developing relationships within the committee so that labour, business and government each had a role that was respected by the other committee members. The committee was also lucky in that the individual members of the group worked well together and operated under the radar screen. Rob felt that sometimes it is better to move forward with plans and then use their success to leverage continued approval.
Tamara Levine spoke about Ontario having been a model of workplace literacy programs from the late ‘80s on; other provinces used our practices to develop their own. Sadly, this is no longer the case. Manitoba provides a powerful model of a steering committee comprised of stakeholders at the provincial level. This committee has been in place since 1991. She hoped the group could draw some inspiration from that and perhaps establish a working group to put together something similar. Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are also using a partnership model. The North West Territories is looking at putting together a consortium such. Too many good programs have died with a change of government or because the structure was not there to sustain them.