Category Archives: LBS Services

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


Collaboration is Key

Working together to find opportunities and solutions

Ongoing discussions in our community help us identify gaps, needs and opportunities.  Solutions are often found through group discussions, even when the discussions happen on Zoom.

This year, we have continued to meet to discuss ways to support adults in our region.  This includes adult training and skills development, employment supports as well as other community services including financial and mental health supports.

Literacy Ontario Central South (LOCS) leads quarterly meetings called Literacy Service Plans or (LSPs) in the LOCS regions including Haliburton, City of Kawartha Lakes, Peterborough, Northumberland and Hastings.  Adult training providers, employment service providers as well as other community partners all come together to share updates, introduce new programs and brainstorm solutions to expand services and supports in our community.

LOCS is responsible for documenting these discussions, and then once a year, we write a report that draws on what we have learned.  We also gather statistics from training and employment service providers and Workforce Boards.  With this information we summarize the strengths, gaps and needs in each of the five communities in the LOCS region.  These reports are called Literacy Service Plans.  These reports are then used to work with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development to set goals for the following year.

We have included copies of these reports below:

Hastings Literacy Service Plan

Northumberland Literacy Service Plan

Peterborough Literacy Service Plan

City of Kawartha Lakes Literacy Service Plan

Haliburton Literacy Service Plan

If you have questions or would like more information, contact Carrie Wakeford 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: 

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