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For Indigenous people, attention should be given to improving skills development during primary and secondary education.

Zeroing in on Canada’s literacy
and numeracy skills gap

More training needed to improve literacy, and numeracy skills for Indigenous and immigrant workers

Good literacy and numeracy skills will help everyone prepare for the rapidly evolving needs of the modern workplace. These information processing skills are essential to allow workers to acquire new skills, and to improve earning and employment opportunities.

However, international surveys of adults’ levels of literacy and numeracy skills show that Canada’s working-age population has experienced a decline in these skills. Some groups, such as immigrants and Indigenous people, have lower average literacy and numeracy skills than the overall population. (In this article, “skills” refers to literacy and numeracy skills unless specified otherwise.)

According to the 2012 survey only 10 percent of Indigenous people in Canada hold a university degree, compared with 22 percent of non-Indigenous Canadians. Among Inuit only 4 percent have a university education.

Skills gap a concern

Skills gaps between off-reserve Indigenous people and non-Indigenous Canadians are wide among those without a high school education. Although the gap in literacy scores between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations shrinks with more education, both First Nations and Inuit people experience large skills gaps at every education level.

Since education and training are central to improving skills outcomes for all population groups, they require special policy attention. However, training needs to be tailored to the particular needs of each targeted population.

Ensuring people complete each level of their education with the highest possible skills level, by focusing on education quality, is the best strategy to limit age-related skills decline. Other potential policies include encouraging active learning and offering adult training opportunities for those at higher risk of skills depreciation. Policy-makers also need to review their targeted on-the-job training programs to ensure their effectiveness in slowing the skills decline as people age.

To reduce skills gaps for immigrants, in addition to education, the focus should be on language ability and post-immigration language training, especially for newcomers.

Well-designed training needed

For Indigenous people, attention should be given to improving skills development during primary and secondary education. To do this, more data should be collected. Well-designed training programs should also be provided for both unemployed and employed Indigenous people since they experience a greater unemployment rate.

Source: Policy Options


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