A new report produced for CUPE entitled Influences: Lessons from policy and practices in literacy and essential skills in Canada, 1990-2019, explores the numerous issues dealing with literacy and essential skills and the evolution of these concepts in the past thirty years. It also analyzes trends with respect to government policies and their impacts on workers, learners, and the communities affected.

The research discusses, among other things, the tension that can exist at times between the notions of literacy and essential skills. The first approach mainly focuses on global learning for the learners, while the second is intended to meet the immediate requirements of the labour market.

A number of important lessons can be taken away from this report. Literacy is crucial today and will continue to be in the future. Learning must occur from a broad-based and long-term perspective, rather than over a limited and short-term horizon. Adult education must primarily center on the needs and goals of the persons themselves, while at the same time addressing social and cultural aspects. The importance of establishing partnerships and maintaining a diversity of approaches was also highlighted.

The paper also contains a comprehensive review of recent literature on these issues. It represents major food for thought, which can benefit everyone both inside and outside the labour movement who are working in the field of literacy and essential skills.

The research was spearheaded by two researchers specializing in literacy for the CUPE Union Education Department.