Menial is ‘Menial No More’

New discussion paper suggests ‘low-skilled’ jobs need ‘high-skill’ ability

A new discussion paper released today by the Ontario Literacy Coalition suggests that as a result of emerging technology, consumer expectations, and increased global competition, jobs often perceived as ‘low-skilled’ or ‘entry level’ need new kinds of skills – and that Ontario’s economy may depend on our ability to train current and future workers in these types of positions.

Menial No More: A Discussion Paper on Advancing our Workforce through Digital Skills proposes that in order for the current labour market to thrive, radical steps must be taken to enhance the skills of workers in these positions.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2006 Census, the reality is that almost one million adults in Ontario do not have a high school diploma. While these adults tend to dominate many ‘low-skilled’ occupations in manufacturing, retail, food processing, and service industries, more university and college graduates are filling these positions, as these jobs now require a far greater range of skills than before. For instance, coffee shop baristas no longer just serve coffee, but troubleshoot the Wi-Fi; and hotel room attendants are now often required to operate personal digital assistants while cleaning rooms.

“This paper focuses on a different demographic,” says Lesley Brown, Executive Director of the OLC. “Recent discussions about the problems facing our labour market have focused on the problem of university and college graduates finding themselves in ‘entry-level’ or ‘low-skilled’ employment. This is an important discussion, but we are only looking at part of the equation: perhaps the jobs we routinely classify as requiring low educational attainment now require a far greater range of skills and abilities.”

A recent paper released by the Martin Prosperity Institute notes that well over two million Ontarians are engaged in employment that is described as low-skilled or entry-level.  As the skill levels and expectations of these jobs rise, we have to start to think of how we can best tailor education and training programs in a way that are accessible to our most vulnerable citizens. For many workers, going back to high school to obtain their diploma or GED equivalency is not a feasible option – as it is either too time-consuming or costly. We need to find other kinds of training options for the most vulnerable in our society.

Menial No More suggests Ontario’s adult education system could be enhanced by integrating adult literacy and essential skills education with digital skills, basic science and job-specific training. Other countries are finding success by fusing essential skills, such as reading, writing, and numeracy, with digital skills and science, engineering, technology and math (STEM). The results to date have been positive, with workers moving to employment more quickly and earning higher wages.

With pressures on these positions and jobless workers mounting, employer groups, government, and the training community, this paper invites us to think differently about how we can design an education and training system that meets the needs of these workers and better aligns our work with theirs.

To read Menial No More: A Discussion Paper on Advancing our Workforce though Digital Skills, please visit

OLC’s Fourth Webinar on Continuous Improvement a Hit!

OLC recently hosted our fourth webinar – What is Continuous Improvement? What you Should Know About Lean – with presenter Tracy Defoe, President of The Learning Factor Inc. The webinar was very well-received with a lot of positive feedback from attendees! In this webinar, Tracy focused on what workplace learning practitioners need to know about Continuous Improvement (also known as Lean) as a workplace culture imperative for many industries worldwide. Through the understanding of Continuous Improvement, attendees were guided through different ways of communications and working effectively, as well as tailoring content and methods for workplaces on a Lean journey.

For those who missed the webinar, we have a recorded version for you on our Spotlight on Learning website – please share with colleagues and friends!

To view the recorded webinar, please click here.

Join OLC’s Free Webinar on Continuous Improvement!

Tuesday, October 18 at 1:00PM EDT, join OLC for our fourth webinar - What is Continuous Improvement? What you Should Know about Lean – hosted by Tracy Defoe, President of The Learning Factor Inc.

This free, one-hour webinar focuses on what workplace learning practitioners, especially those specialized in literacy and essential skills, need to know about Continuous Improvement (also known as Lean) as a workplace culture imperative for many industries worldwide. Understanding Continuous Improvement helps in communicating, working effectively, and tailoring content and methods for workplaces on a Lean journey.

In this webinar we will:

• Introduce the basic concepts of Continuous Improvement
• Consider the learning demands of Continuous Improvement on the individual, the team, and the organization
• Review examples of material, approaches, and learning from real life experience and from  literature
• Flag some of the contested terrain of Lean in workplaces
• Discuss your questions, and leave with a resource list for further learning

We will also be tweeting during the webinar, so please join our conversation the day of the webinar through the hashtag #OLCweb! To register for the webinar, please click here.

Help OLC Pick our October Webinar Topic!

OLC’s October webinar is just around the corner and we want your help picking the topic!

Our free October webinar will be hosted by Tracy Defoe of The Learning Factor Inc. on October 18 at 1:00PM EDT. Tracy Defoe and The Learning Factor Inc. work with forward-thinking companies, community organizations and their partners on the learning and literacy challenges of the workforce. Her work typically involves research, program design and development, delivering customized training, teaching peer trainers, evaluation and being a catalyst for change.

Please help us choose from the following potential topics:

1) Literacy and Essential Skills in Work Culture: Making Sense of the Workplace

2) Meeting and Engaging Employers, Union Partners and Individuals

3) What is Continuous Improvement? What you should know about Lean

4) See this Scar? Learn from Tracy’s Experiences so you can Make Original Mistakes

Please take our poll to help pick OLC’s October webinar topic! Registration information coming soon.

Don’t forget to sign up for our free September webinar on Workforce Essential Skills, with Karen Geraci and Marisa Mazzulla on September 13 at 1:00PM EDT. To register for the September webinar, please click here.

OLC Partners with Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York University

Nausheen Quayyum and Shireen Rangwala

The OLC, in partnership with the Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) Unit through York University, has recruited two graduate student interns, Shireen Rangwala and Nausheen Quayyum, to work on research initiatives for best practices and new models of service delivery within the OLC and the literacy community. Knowledge Mobilization refers to the active, two-way exchange of information and expertise between knowledge creators and knowledge users, and continues to generate interest with researchers and organizations alike. While Shireen focuses on digital literacy, Nausheen is working on sponsorship and alternative forms of funding. Both Shireen and Nausheen, as well as a number of other graduate students at York are working with community agencies across the GTA thanks to grants made possible by the KMb Unit.

The KMb Unit at York, receiving grants from CIHR and SSHRC, has provided the mechanism for research from areas such as humanities and social services – an area primarily dominated by science and technology. York’s KMb Unit, along with the University of Victoria, has created ResearchImpact, Canada’s growing KMb network.

Michael Johnny, Manager of York’s KMb Unit, speaks enthusiastically about partnering with OLC. “There is incredible value in connecting the skills of graduate students in research with relevant issues in policy in organizations. I really hope it’s just the beginning to expand a greater pipeline with OLC.”

A research forum to be held in the fall will highlight the collaborative efforts of the KMb Unit, OLC, Shireen, and Nausheen as they present their research findings.

To read more on the KMb Unit at York, please click here.

OLC’s First Webinar with Alan Kay a Success!

Alan Kay of The Glasgow Group

OLC recently hosted our first webinar “Be the Best Leader You Can Be: Solution Focused Coaching Techniques” with Alan Kay of The Glasgow Group – and it was a success!

Alan drove home some key principles in solution-focused coaching, and illustrated how this type of mindset allows for positive change. In this interactive webinar Alan enabled participants to assess their own issues in a solution-focused way, rather than in a negative light.

Miss the webinar? Click here to watch the recorded version. Skip the introduction and dive right in at around 3 minutes 15 seconds.

With all of the positive feedback we have received on our first webinar, we are looking forward to hosting our second webinar on June 7th at 1:00PM EDT, “New Trends in Education: Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning – Implications for Evaluation and Assessment” with Dr. Sarah Eaton. To register click here.


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