Author Archives: Carrie Wakeford

Literacy and Pandemic Recovery

Nearly half of adult Canadians struggle with literacy — and that’s bad for the economy

In this CBC article and podcast the importance of literacy is highlighted in terms of our recovery from the impact of the pandemic.  “Nearly half of Canada’s population has a big roadblock ahead of them when it comes to post-pandemic economic recovery — and it’s not the novel coronavirus but a fundamental set of skills for daily life.” 

The article points out that “it’s important to recognize that low literacy doesn’t mean a lack of skills.” (Monica Das)  This is such an important point!

This article includes a great story of someone who left a 30 year career in truck driving.  “At the age of 48, Piché decided to go back to school to become a social worker after overcoming significant setbacks in his life — including mental illness and addiction.”

The support available through LBS programs is critical.  It’s important to note that we all get a bit rusty.  “In short, literacy is not like riding a bike. While Canadians tend to leave the high school level with these skills, it takes practice to retain them.”

Workers with lower levels of education have been among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Labour Market Information Council. Jobs requiring high school or on-the-job training saw the greatest drop in employment. Except for occupations that require university credentials, employment levels in November 2020 were still below their pre-pandemic level. Volatile Employment in 2020 for Jobs With Lower Educational Requirements

What’s more, nearly half of Canada’s population struggle with literacy which has a significant impact on the economy. (CBC) “Generally speaking, we’re below average compared to other OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries in terms of adult literacy, numeracy skills,” said Michael Burt, an economist with the Conference Board of Canada.

For years literacy has been the base for building a successful work life. With the increased need for digital literacy and skilled workers, this need just continues to grow. As the skills required for employment change, literacy is becoming even more important for finding and keeping a job.

If you would like more information about literacy programs in the LOCS region, including City of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, Hastings, Northumberland, and Peterborough, visit our programs page or contact Carrie at


Literacy and Employment

Literacy Programs work with Employment Services to help people reach their employment goals

Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) organizations and Employment Services (ES) often work together to help individuals reach their goal of a new position, a new career or an apprenticeship.

LBS supports people who are working.  Many people reach out to LBS services so that they can gain the skills they need to keep their current position, progress in their current company, or create more options for other types of employment.

In 2019-2020, 24% of people in LBS programs were employed.  

Literacy Matters at Work

The relationship between LBS and Employment Services is important.  Studies show that there’s a clear connection between successful employment and literacy skills.  In a report from Community Literacy of Ontario called ‘Why Literacy Matters” many statistics point to the need for literacy to support success at work.

For example: 

“Canadians with low literacy skills are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than those with higher level literacy skills.”

“In 2016, only 55% of Canadians aged 25- 64 who did not complete high school were employed. Conversely, the employment rate was 82% for those who had obtained a college or university credential.”

“Research has also found that approximately 45% of Canadians in precarious work have not attained an educational credential beyond a high-school diploma.” 

Employment – the #1 Goal

In 2019-2020, 93% of the people in LBS programs in the Literacy Ontario Central South (LOCS) region said that their goal was employment, in either the short or long term.  An LBS program offers adults opportunities to advance their reading, writing, math, computer and other skills needed to achieve their goals of employment or an apprenticeship.  Also those who have a goal of secondary school or post-secondary education are usually hoping to increase their work options. More recently, people affected by the pandemic have experienced job loss or have a desire to change careers. 

People often think that literacy programs only help people with reading and writing or gaining academic credentials, however, LBS also supports job seekers who want to develop their workplace skills.  This could be things like apprenticeship math, customer service, computer skills, software such as QuickBooks or MS Office.  Computer skills are often called digital literacy and can include many things such as learning to use Zoom or completing online forms. 

LBS also supports individuals in developing skills that are often called ‘soft skills’; these are the skills that employers say are a top priority.  Soft skills include things like communication, problem solving, teamwork and time management. 

LBS programs also work with employers to develop specific training and support for the people on their team. This might be computer skills, customer service or soft skills.

LBS programs can help—at no cost.  

Partnerships between Literacy and Employment Services

LBS organizations in the LOCS region have a long history of partnering with Employment Services to deliver workplace programs to help learners find and retain work.

A few of the many examples from the Literacy Ontario Central South Region:

John Howard Society (JHS) and Fleming Academic Upgrading (AU) in Haliburton offer the STRIVE program working in partnership with Fleming Crew. JHS and AU have also worked with in partnership with VCCS in City of Kawartha Lakes on several programs including a soft skills program called Essential Skills Plus.  LOCS has supported VCCS in their portfolio training and a competency based training for employers. TVLA has worked with Agilec to offer a Point-of-Sale and Customer Service in retail training program.  Fleming AU and the Adult Learning Network is partnering with Durham College Employment Services to offer computer skills.  LOCS has worked in partnership with EARN in Northumberland and TVLA in Peterborough to create a Online Point-of-Sale program.

Another recent example includes a partnership between the three LBS sectors (Community-based, College, and School Board) with Employment Services to design an introduction to Zoom course to help participants learn how to use the popular web-video conferencing software.

LBS organizations are always willing to work with Employment Services to support individual clients and learners as they work toward achieving their goals.

Important Relationship

Through referrals, partnerships and ongoing communication, LBS and Employment Services continue to work together to support job seekers in the LOCS region. 

If you would like to learn more about Literacy programs in the LOCS region, including City of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, Hastings, Northumberland, and Peterborough, visit our programs page or contact Carrie at


Ontario Nonprofit Network talks to Literacy Ontario Central South

In the fall of 2020 the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) interviewed Carrie Wakeford, Executive Director of Literacy Ontario Central South (LOCS) and Stacey McQuoid a LOCS Board Member and Program Coordinator at the Trenton office of Community Learning Alternatives (CLA), to learn how LBS organizations in the region came together to support each other during the pandemic. 

We continue to offer support for learners and volunteers and we continue to connect with our community partners.  We support and learn from each other as we move programs online.  We meet often to share creative ideas for addressing challenges created by COVID-19.  We try to ask “What can we do” rather than focusing on what we can’t do!  

To learn more, see the ONN Blog Post: Fostering organizational resilience and innovation in times of crisis: Literacy Ontario Central South

LOCS would also like to thank Stacey for creating a video introducing the LOCS region and outlining the LBS supports and services in place during the pandemic. 

Click on the image to watch: 

Betty Completes her Diploma

‘I couldn’t wait to call my grandma’: Recent high school graduate Betty completes her diploma with the support of the Adult Training Network and TVLA

Betty’s high school education ended early and limited her employment opportunities due to some obstacles she had to overcome. However, with the help of TVLA and PACE, she turned her life around by getting her high school diploma.

At 15, Betty dropped out of junior high school frustrated by the curriculum. Her academic performance suffered as a result of “hanging out with the wrong crowd” whose perspectives were a little tainted when it came to school and studying.

She decided to go back, but when she returned to class, she was with people younger than her which was hard.

“Having to go back to school to repeat a grade with kids younger than me increased my anxiety,” says Betty. “I felt I was too old even though I was the right age, but I just couldn’t do it so I quit. I wanted to go back, but it just seemed too difficult.”

And although she asked for help, Betty says at the time, she felt she didn’t have the support or the resources to help her succeed.

At one point, she tried to homeschool herself, but that too became an everyday struggle to complete the work. She missed opportunities to connect with other students and to talk with peers and problem solve in groups.

Feeling frustrated and defeated, Betty abandoned the thought of finishing high school altogether.

Over the next few years, the born and bred Albertan wandered into adulthood with no clear goals. She travelled through Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba working multiple jobs cleaning hotel rooms and serving at restaurants, but desired a career and stability. Without a high school diploma, however, she found herself with limited employment options.

It was when she turned 19 and moved from Alberta to Ontario that Betty decided to make the brave decision to get her high school diploma for a chance at a better future.  She reached out to the Adult Training Network.

The Adult Training Network at Peterborough Alternative Continuing Education (PACE) through the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board is an adult learning centre that helps individuals 19 years of age and older as they gain the credentials they need to access higher education and/or better jobs.  Learners can access workplace skills, including apprenticeships, computer training and credits, math, reading and problem solving, as well as a Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR).

Betty worked diligently toward her goal of completing her high school diploma. Although the first few months were hard, she began to make a major transformation. As she concentrated on her course load, Betty developed confidence—enough so that she went searching for a tutor to help her improve her math grade.

Betty reached out to Trent Valley Literacy Association (TVLA) for help.

Trent Valley Literacy Association (TVLA) is a Peterborough-based organization offering individualized tutoring and small group learning to adults who want to improve their reading, writing, math and computer skills.  They also offer online training and workshops.  Workshops include Customer Service, Point-of-Sale (POS) and Retail Math Skills, as well as Digital Literacy.

Making great use of TVLA’s one-to-one tutoring, Betty flourished academically and socially. TVLA’s tutoring support empowered Betty to upgrade her math and English and they also provided her with the learning resources necessary to succeed.

“When COVID hit, my tutor and I had to move our sessions online. The problem was I didn’t have a laptop so TVLA lent me a laptop for six months so I could continue my sessions and do my work. The staff are very friendly and were ready to help me in any way,” says Betty.

Betty says the support she received from the staff and volunteers at TVLA and the staff at PACE gave her the willpower to complete her studies. She found the process very accommodating and was pleased by how many resources were available.

“At PACE and TVLA, everyone kept me on track and motivated me to keep going and get the work done,” says Betty. “My confidence has completely changed. When I first started, I couldn’t go into TVLA or PACE without someone with me. As time passed, I became more social and grew more confident.”

Betty’s TVLA tutor, Jane Garant, says she’s impressed with how Betty showed up for each session and put in a huge amount of effort into her math and English courses during their time together.

“Seeing how well she was doing really increased Betty’s confidence and motivation to move forward with other courses. She steadily worked away at all the needed credits with a commitment I really admired,” Jane says. “I really appreciated how Betty shared with me some of her past experiences and insights with an incredible sense of humour. I’m so glad I got to see her personality shine through in her writing and I’m so grateful to have learned so much with her.”

Jane says for anyone considering taking an adult learning course, but is feeling hesitant should pay attention to their needs and look at what supports are available to help them succeed.

“Do you struggle with anxiety? If so, what would make learning less stressful? Maybe it’s working one-to-one in a quiet space, doing shorter or longer sessions, or being connected with other learners doing a similar course. Either way, I encourage you to really find out what you need and ask for it. Learning as an adult can be nerve-wracking, but it can also open up new pathways you hadn’t thought of before.”

A place like TVLA with 1:1 support for learners, Jane adds, is absolutely crucial in our communities.

“Not only does TVLA provide support in completing mandatory credits, but it also offers a chance for increased connection and care from kind professionals at a time in life when there are very few of those type of resources available.”

This past fall, 24-year-old Betty graduated from PACE and received her high school diploma!

“I cried when PACE called me to tell me I finished. I jumped up and down with excitement. I couldn’t wait to call my grandma in Alberta to tell her the good news. I’m the first of three blood siblings to graduate so that was a big moment,” says Betty.

She’s now focused, more so than ever before. “I want to go to culinary school to become a cook or get trained as a personal support worker,” she adds.

Betty states “the PACE and TVLA staff supported and encouraged me throughout this process. They didn’t treat me as a child, but as a grown adult who wants her education. They gave me the tools I needed in order to be successful, not only in school but in life.”

Adult Training Network at PACE and Trent Valley Literacy Association (TVLA) are both located in Peterborough, Ontario. Thanks to funding from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Adult Training Network and TVLA can offer programs at no cost to eligible adults in Peterborough. 

Further your education and improve your skills by working with their teams.  Contact the Adult Training Network and Trent Valley Literacy Association for more information.  You can also visit our Peterborough Programs page.


What is LBS?

Ontario’s Literacy and Basic Skills Programs can be a lifeline to positive outcomes in education, work and life

When it comes to better business performance and staying relevant in a labour force that is constantly disrupted by technology, some of the best investments are in people and basic skills training.

Increasingly, it’s becoming necessary for people to continuously gain and improve literacy, numeracy, digital and interpersonal skills to communicate effectively, think critically and solve problems—competencies required to participate in today’s knowledge-based economy.

22% of Ontarians aged 16 to 65 are at or below the bottom level for numeracy and 15% for literacy skills.  (Source: More Than Words Can Say)These are the individuals more likely to be unemployed longer, depend on social assistance or stay out of the labour force altogether.

The benefits of improving literacy and basic skills are much more than just economic. It can mean accessing government or medical forms, connecting with family and friends online, understanding a rental agreement or paying a utility bill. In some cases, it can mean a difference between life and death on the job if workers can’t understand health and safety instructions.

Many adult learners who have completed literacy and essential skills programs have positively transformed their lives. Their confidence increases, they get better jobs and some have gone on to become leaders in our communities.

What is a Literacy and Basic Skills Program?

A Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) Program provides opportunities for adults who want to brush up on reading, writing, math, computer and other skills to achieve their goals of post-secondary education and training, employment, apprenticeship and secondary school credit.

Maybe someone is interested in becoming an electrician, or another apprenticeship, or perhaps finishing high school is their goal. Or maybe they want to improve their skills for a new job, learn computer software or develop a personal budget. Whatever it is, LBS programs can help—and it’s free!

Everyone’s situation is different. People have different goals, which is why there
are a number of upgrading programs for adults to choose from, including programs offered through community-based agencies, school boards and colleges.

A Few Examples

In the counties that Literacy Ontario Central South (LOCS) serves, for instance, Fleming and Loyalist offers chemistry and biology along with math, English, computer and college entrance courses in its Academic Upgrading program.

In Peterborough, Trent Valley Literacy Association added online Customer Service and Point-of-Sale courses, in addition to its employment skills and computer training. Community Learning Alternatives in Hastings offers digital literacy, apprenticeship support and soft skills solutions. Peterborough Native Learning Program offers the GED test preparation course, as well as programs to support employment readiness, apprenticeships and digital literacy courses.

The Adult Training Network (part of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board) in Peterborough and Northumberland and the Trillium Lakelands District School Board in City of Kawartha Lakes offer workplace, apprenticeship, education readiness and computer training options.

LBS organizations works closely with Employment Services to ensure the success of learners in finding and retaining work. For example, John Howard Society (City of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton) offers the STRIVE program in partnership with Fleming Crew.

An LBS program can be taken full-time or part-time and has continuous intake year-round. Students can receive instruction through one-to-one tutoring, small group and classroom instruction, and online—all offered in an environment that is welcoming and encouraging.

The program supports literacy upgrading for adults, 19-years-old or older, in four areas: English language, Indigenous, Francophone and Deaf. Each of these areas bring their unique strengths and together they serve the many different needs of adult learners in Ontario.

Assessing a learner’s goals

Before LBS training begins, an assessment is done by the training organization and a personalized education plan is developed individually with each student to address their specific needs and future goals.

Sometimes students don’t know what their goals are until they do the assessment and explore a range of possibilities. But one thing is certain: if there are gaps in math and literacy, moving ahead can be a challenge until the student’s knowledge and understanding has improved to the point of confidence, and then they can move on to the next level in achieving success in reaching their education and career goals.

Find LBS services in your area

Visit our programs page for more information on LBS organizations in each of the five counties in the LOCS region:

City of Kawartha Lakes

Read a learner success story: College student Tim Lobb takes charge of his future with the help of Community Learning Alternatives

College student Tim Lobb takes charge of his future with the help of Community Learning Alternatives

After a workplace injury, Tim Lobb started working with the folks at CLA to upgrade his skills to earn his Grade 12 diploma making it possible to follow his dream of enrolling in college—in just two years.

Tim LobbWhen a serious workplace injury forced Tim, to take a leave of absence from his assistant supervisor job, he began to realize that he couldn’t return to the warehouse and building materials company where he had worked for 17 years.

The workload was physically demanding and involved heavy lifting. The thought of returning to work left Tim concerned about the possibility of getting reinjured.

While he was on the road to recovery, Tim received Workers’ Compensation and was aware it would only cover his medical expenses and missed wages for so long. He wanted to make a career change, but was at a loss for what he could do. The 47-year-old Trenton resident was armed with years of experience and a strong work ethic, but he worried that being without a high school diploma would be a stumbling block.

Tim was uncertain about his next move until a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board caseworker, who had been assigned to his file, recommended he pay a visit to Community Learning Alternatives (CLA).

CLA is an adult learning centre that helps individuals between the ages of 19 and 64 reach their goals. The organization is considered a key resource for adults wanting to upgrade their essential skills to benefit them in life, career, or training and education.

Thanks to funding from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and the United Way, CLA’s learning and skills programs are provided for free to eligible adults in Hastings County.

CLA helps learners with skills upgrading and preparing for post-secondary studies, apprenticeships and employment. It also supports people working on secondary school credits and offers specialized programs such as computer training, financial literacy and budgeting, PSW preparation, customer service skills, and more.

Tim said he was hesitant about going back to school.

“I was worried that I wasn’t school material and that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I assumed that there was no way I could get my Grade 12.”

Eventually, Tim cast aside his doubts and fears and finally met with a CLA instructor who worked with him to develop a learning plan. He enrolled in a three-month Literacy program to improve his reading, writing and math skills so he could pursue his high school diploma.

During the course of the program, both Tim and his instructor noticed how well he excelled at math, particularly in algebra and trigonometry. It would be a positive indication of things to come for Tim.

The program allowed him to progress independently and on his schedule. The smaller classroom size was an added bonus, said Tim, allowing him to receive more individualized attention and interact more with the instructor.

“It was less distracting and intimidating, and I didn’t feel worried about what the other students would think of me when I asked questions.”

In addition to support from his family and friends, Tim said his CLA instructor and instructors were an important source of support during his educational journey.

“The way the instructors teach the classes is engaging and interesting. They have a unique way of seeing what you’re interested in and they just roll with it to make sure you succeed.

CLA stuck by me every step of the way. Unlike any other centre I’ve been to, they treated me with respect and made me feel good about myself. I’ve had self-esteem issues in the past and CLA helped me overcome that. They pushed me forward and helped me believe that I can do anything.”

Tim encourages anyone interested in advancing their education or skills to explore CLA as an option. Even with a busy schedule, it’s possible to find the time.

“Don’t hesitate. It’s up to you to take that first step to check it out,” he says. “You will not regret your choice.”

Reflecting on how far he’s come, Tim says if he hadn’t attended CLA, he believes he wouldn’t have had the faith to work towards his high school diploma.

In the aftermath of that incredible day – and as he moves forward to his next step in his journey – Tim has discovered that:

“Everyone’s path is different.  The important thing is to “keep your end goal in sight.”

Two years since his workplace injury, Tim now has his sights set on finishing his Business Administration Diploma at Academy of Learning College in Belleville, where he is currently enrolled.

Community Learning Alternatives is located in Belleville, Madoc and Trenton. Discover your strengths and improve your skills by working with the team at

Social Media

Following the LBS organizations, employment services and community services in your area just got easier!

Literacy Ontario Central South (LOCS) has created a document that includes links to websites and social media sites for organizations in Central Ontario.

You can download the complete list here: Social Media PDF. 

To make it effortless for you, we’ve included a Table of Contents with links that will take you to the specific county and service you’re looking for.

These social media sites provide great options to stay connected with others and to get up-to-date information on current programs, training information and resources.

LOCS supports LBS organizations in the counties of City of Kawartha Lakes, Haliburton, Hastings, Northumberland and Peterborough. We also work closely with employment service partners in each of these five counties and a wide range of other community services. Social Media is a great way to share current program and training information as well as resources.

You can follow LOCS on Twitter and Facebook.

If you would like to submit a change or be added to our list, please contact Carrie Wakeford at .


COVID-19 Resources

The following is a list of COVID-19 related resources provided to LOCS by partners.  Please email any resources you would like to share to:

A Guide To Pandemic Preparedness For Businesses – The Centre for Workforce Development

Post-Pandemic Business Resumption Checklist

Post-Pandemic Business Playbook

IHSA Guidance on in Class Training During COVID-19 PDF

CCOHS Business Continuity PDF

How to Develop a Workplace Safety Plan

OCC Pandemic Preparedness Toolkit for COVID-19 PDF

Chamber Pandemic Preparedness Guide 

Peterborough Chamber Business Resources for Recovery

WSPS Pandemic Preparedness Checklist PDF

WSPS Pandemic Recovery Return to Business Checklist PDF

Resources to Prevent COVID-19 in the Workplace

Reopening FAQs – AlphaPlus

Resources for Learners, Practitioners and Parents – AlphaPlus

Video: Getting Back to Work – Health Canada

Conference Board Return to Work Survey Results

Interviews with a Lawyer: LinkedIn Videos

Furlough in Canada

The Return to Work

Can Work Take my Temperature


Every organization will have different needs and will be developing their own reopening policies and procedures and creating their own safety protocols and plans. However, sharing information can help identify best practices.

The following are not recommendations, only a summary of ideas gathered through community discussions.

Purchases: Purchasing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as a group to save costs.  Search for local PPE suppliers.  Supplies may include masks, face shields, desk and table shields, hand sanitizer, thermometers, gloves, directional arrows, and circles for the floor. Seek out funding for PPE if needed.  

Onsite: Appointment only; one-to-one meetings only; existing clients only and/or one learner/client in the office at a time. Close waiting room or have one person in the waiting room at a time.  Designated meeting rooms; meeting in group rooms not small offices; removing or limiting access to onsite computers. Provide information when scheduling appointments so people arrive with information about policies around length of stay, food/lunch, socializing, as well as the organization’s mask policy.  This will help avoid surprises and disappointments. Mounting a TV or computer screen on the wall so two people can see the screen from a distance.  Have a press release ready. Contact public health for more information.

Planning:  Develop a screening checklist to use when scheduling an appointment and using the same checklist when people arrive for their appointment. Have a ‘sign in form’ with name, date and contact information in the event you need to reach people quickly. Role playing ‘visitors to the office’ as a team so issues can be addressed before the official opening. Develop scripts.  Ensure everyone has information and forms so there is consistency. Have plans to address misunderstandings.  Some organizations have accessed the services of a consultant to help develop and assess the re-opening plans and procedures. 

Staffing: Opening in stages and setting rotating staff schedules. Mandatory masks in common areas. Surveying staff to identify personal needs and concerns.  

Cleaning Protocols: Cleaning washrooms after each use; cleaning common areas; setting a cleaning schedule and posting a tracking form.  Plan for the small details e.g. managing things like used pens or keyboards.