language skills the target of canadian citizenship reform

By Darah Hansen, For Vancouver Sun – May 8, 2012

Career opportunities for new immigrants with good communication skills

VANCOUVER – Nearly 80 per cent of Canadian business leaders say they have a hard time finding qualified employees, with nearly half attributing the problem to low literacy and essential communication skills levels among workers.

Those are some of the key findings in a new survey released today on behalf of Toronto-based ABC Life Literacy Canada.

The online survey, conducted by Rogers Connect Market Research Group, measured responses from 69 randomly selected executives rep resenting a broad range of large industries and sectors across Canada.

Respondents were asked to share their thoughts on the importance of basic literacy skills — including reading, writing and math — in their workplace.

The questions also addressed essential workplace skill levels. These are not the technical skills required by particular occupations, but rather the skills that are increasingly required in all occupations, such as the ability to adapt, learn new skills, clearly exchange thoughts and information, work with others, evaluate ideas, and use computer applications and other technical tools.

“Whether you are the president of the company or the delivery guy, you are going to be using . . . these skills, or at least some percentage of them,” said Margaret Eaton, president of ABC Life Literacy Canada. “This issue, I think, touches many people at different stages and in different professions as those professions change.”

According to the survey, 76 per cent of respondents identified literacy as a major issue among Canada’s workforce, with a quarter indicating that a “significant” proportion of his or her employees have low levels of literacy.

Communication problems were identified by executives as the biggest result of poor literacy and essential skills among workers.

Increased friction in the workplace, loss of clients and a decrease in profits were also cited as concerns.

Yet, when asked what actions were being taken to address the situation, 42 per cent of respondents said nothing was in place.

Only nine per cent of executives said his or her company runs its own literacy and essential skills program.

Nearly 40 per cent said some training was provided through the organization, while another 10 per cent referred workers to outside groups or organizations with expertise in the field.

Indeed, the research showed 51 per cent of respondents agreed that improving literacy is not the responsibility of the employer, while 49 per cent disagreed with that suggestion.

Eaton’s organization advocates for some kind of partnership among government, employers, employees and, if possible, labour unions.

In particular, it supports a model that is in use in Manitoba and Nova Scotia where the province provides for a workplace trainer and assessment, and both the employer and employee contribute time to training.

“During the recession, one of the first things cut out of businesses’ budgets was training and it’s hard to get that back in, so we think that if government can provide some training dollars, some support, then that would really go a long way to addressing some of these labour shortage issues and (communication) issues that are occurring out there,” Eaton said.

The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 9.9 per cent, 18 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to region.

Material reprinted with the express permission of: Vancouver Sun, a division of Postmedia Network Inc.


Employers need a literate workforce, made up of employees with great communication skills. Yet they don’t feel it’s their duty to help employees improve those skills, says the above online survey by Rogers Connect Market Research Group. I guess I’m not surprised.

Business has been down across the board since the recession hit, so it makes sense that training is one of the first things cut from the bottom line.

In a perfect world, it would be wonderful for a newcomer to land in Canada and get immediately hired by a Canadian employer who is willing to take the time to train them and mentor them as they get accustomed to the Canadian workplace. But the reality is that most firms — especially the small businesses that are the backbone of our economy — don’t have those kind of resources.

So what can recent immigrants looking for a job do about this? They can take the responsibility upon themselves to be job-ready and meet the literacy and communication needs of employers.

Although some industries in Canada are facing a labour shortage — i.e., skilled trades — job openings for white-collar jobs have plenty of competition from Canadian-borns and immigrants alike. So why would an employer choose a candidate who has potential but still needs a lot of ramp-up work before they become effective contributors?

There are plenty of tricks to become job-ready. See all the tips under our “Working” section ( to help you get started.

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