Canada’s Literacy and Essential Skills (L/ES) workforce is highly educated, experienced and competent. Working in a variety of capacities, we are dedicated to the success of our learners.

Canadian Literacy and Learning Network’s (CLLN) Labour Market Study (LMS) has created the first informed profile of educators working in the L/ES field. The study gathered socio-demographic data as well as information about employing organizations, program delivery, job requirements, qualifications, skills/knowledge, and professional supports.

The results of the Labour Market Study form the basis for this in-brief profile of Literacy Professionals. Click the headings below to expand the topic. For greater detail, see the Labour Market Study section of the site.

Who We Are

Whether you prefer “practitioner”, “teacher”, “educator” or another title, L/ES workers are people who hold paid positions* in the Literacy and Essential Skills field.

Our field consists of highly educated, highly dedicated practitioners who value learner-centred approaches and possess significant psychological capital. Generally, we are intrinsically motivated and participate regularly in ongoing training and professional development, demonstrating a personal commitment to the value of lifelong learning.

The participants in CLLN’s Labour Market Study are predominantly female (86%), over 45 years of age (71%), and possess a high level of educational attainment:

  • 98% – high school certificate
  • 75% – bachelor’s degree
  • 24% – master’s degree

Education, recreation, counselling and social sciences are the most commonly reported fields of study (73% altogether)

Nine out of ten practitioners came into the L/ES field from outside. The top three reasons for entering the field are:

  • Doing an intrinsically rewarding job,
  • Helping others, and
  • Enabling people to participate in society more.

Nine out of ten practitioners describe themselves as adaptable, persistent, diligent, resilient and self-confident.

*Although volunteer tutors play an important role in Canada’s L/ES system, they are not included as literacy professionals for purposes of the LMS.

What We Do

Canada’s L/ES workforce is employed by a variety of organization types. The proportion of the workforce employed by each type of organization varies among jurisdictions and is influenced by the funding model in each province/territory. Employer organizations include:

  • Community-based L/ES agencies
  • Colleges and universities
  • School boards
  • Training, employment and career development service providers
  • Social services providers
  • Aboriginal organizations

Our clients/students are mainly adults living on low incomes, who have low literacy skills. The precariously employed, newcomers, persons with disabilities, and Aboriginal people (First Nations, Inuit, Métis) are significant client groups.

L/ES practitioners serve a very diverse set of client needs, requiring a unique set of services and skills. We are often engaged in a variety of learning and administrative activities, beyond instruction, necessitating significant multi-tasking and flexibility in service delivery.

Practitioners may perform any or all of a range of duties including: instruction, teaching, volunteer training, coordination, administration, management, assessment, evaluation, reporting, curriculum development, outreach and public education.

LMS participants reported that their weekly work time focused primarily on instruction, facilitation and training (11.5 hours), followed closely by management tasks (10.3 hours). Administration (8.3 hours) and coordination (6.8 hours) also took up a significant amount of work time. All LMS respondents participate in formal or informal professional development activities, and most receive support for participating in PD.

Our Working Conditions

The working conditions of L/ES professionals are highly correlated to the type of employer organization, and whether their work is full time or part time, permanent or contract. As a result, some of these findings from the LMS are averages calculated from a broad range of responses.

LMS participants reported:

  • An average of 30.8 hours of paid work per week, excluding overtime
  • Average annual gross earnings of $44,000
  • Average time worked: 10.5 months per year
  • 46% work in temporary jobs
  • 30% work part time

Overall, these findings indicate that work in the L/ES field is highly precarious. With nearly half of the workforce in temporary jobs, it is not surprising that over 60% of LMS respondents expressed dissatisfaction with job security and a lack of pension and extended medical benefits. One-third are anxious, and feel stress and pressure on the job.

Overtime is a significant issue for the field, with respondents reporting that only 40% of the overtime hours worked are compensated. The average reported overtime worked is 4.4 hours per week.

Despite these issues, 82% of LMS respondents reported that they are satisfied with their job overall, indicating practitioners’ dedication to their work and their students.

Our Future

Across Canada, the L/ES system benefits greatly from a well-educated and dedicated workforce of L/ES practitioners who work in safe, supportive environments, balancing instruction and administrative duties.

However, there are significant challenges on the horizon. With a majority of the workforce over 45 years old (71%), and a significant minority over 55 (38%), we can anticipate significant numbers of practitioners will be leaving the field as they retire.

The LMS specifically asked respondents about their likelihood of remaining on the field for the next five years: 21% reported that it was unlikely or not at all likely that they will stay in the field, while 19% reported being unsure. Extrapolating from these results, 40% of the workforce may leave the field within the next five years.

It is also noteworthy that the two highest proportions of respondents who indicated that they are not likely to remain in the field work for school boards and community-based agencies. Among the largest L/ES employers, together these organization types employ 44% of the LMS participants. Many work situations within these environments are highly precarious. Insufficient compensation and job instability are the most frequently reported reasons for leaving the field, other than retirement.

CLLN’s LMS report concludes that there is a vanishing window of opportunity to take advantage of the depth of experience and dedication that currently exists within the L/ES field. Leveraging our assets to support professionalization initiatives will help to meet the succession and recruitment challenges facing our sector as the workforce ages.

Our current focus is on the development of National Occupational Standards.

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Welcome to the Literacy Professionals’ Portal

Here you will find…

Information about Canada's Literacy and Essential Skills workforce

Tools and resources for researchers, L/ES program developers & coordinators, and practitioners

Opportunities to help shape the development of the L/ES field

What’s new?

Momentum for developing National Occupational Standards (NOS) for the L/ES field is building.

Check out the NOS video here and sign up for updates on our consultations page.