Monday November 1, 2010

Community News

Working Through Illiteracy

CLCS offers one-of-a-kind service in Canada

Staff/Voice photos


eople never stop learning. Something new can be gleaned every day providing one keeps an open mind and employers demand that staff working for them have the basic skills to help them get through a day on the job.         


The Chilliwack Learning Community Society (CLCS) held two interactive workshop on Sustaining Workplace Essential Skills (WES) Thursday at the Coast Hotel.

The Wednesday evening workshop featured a wine and cheese reception that was well attended and Thursday morning a breakfast reception was held so participants could further their networking and take part in an interactive workshop designed to get their thoughts on how the WES could better serve the business sector.

The morning workshop was facilitated by well-known adult education consultant and researcher Tracy Defoe who asked people to jot down their ideas and answers to questions on sheets of paper hung around the room.

Workplace Essential Skills Coordinator, Michael Berger, told about a dozen people there for the workshop that the CLCS has been around in one form or another for the last 20-years.

"A few years back, we applied to the federal government and received a grant to do this kind of work which was to provide training in the workplace," said Berger.

Michael Berger talks about illiteracy at workshop.

"What's different about this is that this is a pilot project, the first of it's kind in Canada where we've actually gone to the business community one-on-one and asked what type of training would you like and how we can make it work for your workplace."

Participants huddled around each sheet discussing answers before moving on to another question. By the end of the workshop the worksheets had the information that CLCS was looking for in terms of service delivery and sustainability and there was even a question of what their theme song should be which evoked a variety of responses.

Berger explains that Chilliwack doesn't have a large manufacturing plant with 2000 employees, however there are a lot more small and medium-sized businesses with a different set of needs than a large auto manufacturer or even a large mill.

                                             Education consultant Tracy Dafoe speaks to participants.

"That's where we're a little different in that we're trying to focus on the individual needs of businesses and yet have this kind of collective training that would apply to any of their businesses," he said.

The nine essential skills that HRSDC has identified as essential in any workplace are;

Berger says CLCS has taught 32 courses have been run in Chilliwack over the last 15-months.

As of October 15, CLCS has had 339 people inquire about courses and of those 202 have successfully completed a course.

The CLCS offers exclusive courses just on listening skills and presentation skills where people lead a team meeting or do some public speaking.

"Some of the workshops that we did last night and today were to gather people from the community, whether it was business community, educational, employment services and we actually had some instructors and students attend as well, to bring their ideas about how we can keep our project going and become more meaningful in the community," Berger told the Voice in an interview Thursday morning.

"It's off to a good start, it's been a two-year start but there's definitely a need out there in the community and its a matter of making sure we're still relevant and still able to provide what businesses are looking for."

Berger said the Wine and Cheese Reception had a good turnout and had a great brainstorming session with about 20 people sharing an array of ideas that will eventually be turned into an essential skills step-by-step manual that will be used across the country.

"I'm really looking forward to kind of blending these two groups together and see what comes to the forefront," said Berger.

The feedback and information the CLCS gathers in the workshops will be used to formulate a plan and a direction that they need to take in order to remain relevant.

"The task group has really been a key to this whole project and they'll be taking all this information as well and determining where we go in 2011."

Berger says that although he can't speak directly for Chilliwack regarding how many people are classified as being illiterate but across Canada the numbers are a whopping 40 per cent of people in the workplace have some kind of issue with reading, writing or numeracy.

"As you see there are actually nine different essential skills that the federal government says you need to be successful in business with. Those form the more modern idea of what literacy is, these nine skills, so even if you can read, even if you can write, if you can't use a computer well, if you can't work as part of a team well, you've got problems in the workplace and they show."

The pilot project has been a huge success with over 100 local businesses participating in WES and Berger is planning on even more joining the program.

"We've really been able to engage well with certain companies. We'd love to have more businesses represented, more businesses attending and to get that word out to them," said Berger.

"Those 109 businesses that had somebody go through a course, there's probably 350 employees that have taken a course so a lot of them is just one person coming from that company and it would be great to have 4, 5 or 10 people from companies coming."

About Michael Berger

He is an experienced leader, manager and team builder that combines his information technology knowledge, business knowledge and strategic skills with personalized coaching and training.

Michael has a strong customer service background and is certified in the Instruction of Adults and have studied coaching through the Coaches Training Institute.

He brings loyalty, values, integrity, honesty, confidentiality, and commitment to any workplace, team, training session or coaching relationship.

"I like to work with people who want more out of life and know they’ve got it in them to give and to do. People who honour and live by their values. People who feel that by serving and helping others, they also serve themselves. If this sounds like you, I’d love to talk."

For more information contact Michael, Workplace Essential Skills Coordinator at the Chilliwack Learning Community Society by calling: 604-792-0025 x2434 Option 1, by e-mail here or visit their website at: 


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