(BC FED) Labour calls for free Adult Basic Education to address BCs literacy challenge

Burnaby—Free Adult Basic Education is a must to address BCs literacy challenge B.C. Federation of Labour President, Jim Sinclair said today in a presentation to the BC Legislatures Select Standing Committee on Education.

Sinclair noted that among working-age Canadians, 3 million (14.6 percent) struggle with very serious literacy challenges, having difficulty with even the most basic written materials. The unemployment rate for Canadians at the lowest literacy level is 26 percent, compared with 4 percent for those at the highest literacy levels.

Sinclair also stressed the need to allow income-assistance recipients to seek training. "The only way were going to break poverty cycles is by investing in education," Sinclair added.

"The committee has already heard from expert witnesses that literacy levels are lower outside of the Lower Mainland, yet chose to cancel the three hearings scheduled for the Interior and Northern BC," Sinclair said. "If theyre sincere about tackling this problem, then they need to visit rural and remote communities first-hand to see where low literacy levels are most acute."

"Too often we see sanctimonious political hand-wringing about the growing skills shortage, but no political will to make the necessary investments to address the problem," Sinclair commented. "Whether its literacy, trades training or post-secondary tuition fees, short-sighted thinking about how to address the skills gap is going to make the problem worse."

A CD Howe report released last November showed that a 1 percent increase in literacy skills would boost productivity by 2.5 percent and lead to a 1.5 percent permanent increase in GDP amounting to $18 billion a year.

"Praying that workers trained overseas will solve our problem wont work. The only real answer to the skills shortage is investing in education," Sinclair said.