Northern Adult Basic Education Program (NABEP) Evaluation Final Report - Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency - November 2016

Final Report - Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
November 2016

Table of contents

Table of Acronyms

ABE Adult Basic Education
ALBE Adult Literacy and Basic Education
CanNor Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency
CMHC Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
ECE Department of Education, Culture and Employment of the Northwest Territories
EI Employment Insurance
EDSC Employment and Social Development Canada
FPT Federal Provincial Territorial
GREAT Getting Ready for Employment and Training (Nunavut territorial’s program)
INAC Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
LES Literacy and Essential Skills
NABEP Northern Adult Basic Education Program
PASS Pathway to Adult Secondary School (Nunavut)

Executive Summary

The objective of the Northern Adult Basic Education Program (NABEP) is to expand the territorial colleges' literacy and numeracy programs, particularly in remote communities, in order to target working-age Northerners, including Indigenous people, and help them acquire the basic skills they need to join the workforce and take advantage of emerging economic opportunities. The Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) administers the NABEP. The NABEP was designed to assist the three northern colleges—Aurora College, Yukon College and Nunavut Arctic College—as eligible recipients, to build capacity to deliver improved adult basic education, as well as develop their base level of study programs with a legacy of improved quality and tools.

This evaluation fulfills the requirements of the Financial Administration Act, which states that the relevance and effectiveness of programs must be evaluated every five years. This evaluation covers the period from April 2011 to March 2015, and includes insights, observations and recommendations. This evaluation began in February 2016 and was completed in October 2016. The tasks of data and information analysis and reporting were carried out by CanNor's Policy and Planning Directorate in collaboration with consulting firm R.A. Malatest & Associates Ltd., which helped develop the reporting and data-gathering (interviews) methodology. Lines of evidence included the following: 26 key informant interviews that were conducted as part of the data-gathering process; a literature and document review; and an analysis of the program data, as well as secondary data from various sources. The objective of this assessment is to provide observations regarding the NABEP's relevance (continued need for, alignment with Government of Canada priorities, and alignment of duties and responsibilities) and performance (effectiveness, efficiency and return on investment). This evaluation made the following findings.

With respect to relevance:

  1. The latest trends in literacy, essential skills proficiency and formal education level in the North, especially with respect to the Indigenous population, consistently point to lower economic and employment outcomes for the individuals. The resulting skills shortage represents a significant obstacle to economic development in the North. Given these trends and challenges, the NABEP is considered relevant, and the colleges, which are the primary delivery organizations of adult basic education, have demonstrated that they are well positioned to deliver the NABEP.
  2. The NABEP is aligned with Government of Canada priorities in that it assists working-age Northerners, particularly in remote communities, to acquire the basic skills they need to join the workforce and take advantage of emerging economic opportunities. As such, the program also fulfills CanNor's strategic objectives to respond to economic development challenges and opportunities in the North. However, the Program is one of several federal programs that addresses skills development and workforce readiness. Employment and Social Development Canada continues to be the federal government lead in this area. In addition, the NABEP funds activities that can be considered similar to those funded by the territorial governments and directed to the northern colleges.

With respect to performance (effectiveness and efficiency):

  1. Through the NABEP, the colleges have improved their base level of adult basic education offerings by developing and using better quality tools and material. As well, the colleges have improved their capacity to deliver adult basic education by helping educators gain access to professional development opportunities and training in a variety of areas related to adult basic education.
  2. NABEP funding has been instrumental in making adult basic education more available to adult learners living in remote communities (an average increase across the territories of 21%), and the program has assisted the colleges in reaching Indigenous learners – a segment of the population for whom accessing post-secondary education has been more challenging. The program has had a far-reaching impact on individuals in terms of increasing self-esteem and providing networking opportunities for individuals to find employment.
  3. NABEP funding has provided flexibility in addressing adult basic education deficiencies in the North. The colleges took advantage of the NABEP eligible expenditure policy that allows them to establish supporting partnerships with other colleges and other territorial organizations in order to facilitate the sharing of best practices and expertise.

Lessons learned:

  1. The flexibility offered by the NABEP to the colleges in terms of the design and deliver of literacy, essential skills, adult basic education activities, and material was instrumental in ensuring the program's successful uptake and implementation, particularly in remote Indigenous communities. It is advised that future federal funding for a program of a similar nature support at least an equivalent level of flexibility at the college level.

    Existing or proposed mechanisms for delivering adult basic education, literacy, and essential skills in the North should be examined to ensure alignment of federal programs and activities. Similarly, optimizing the use of instruments for disbursement of adult basic education funding, for instance by routing it through the territorial governments, could be explored with the aim of increasing program efficiency and reducing the colleges' burden of managing the numerous reporting requirements of programs with similar objectives, especially in a challenging logistical environment such as the North.

  2. Should another program of a similar nature be launched, it is advised that changes be made to the program's performance measurement framework to include outcomes that are achievable during the program term and more focused on literacy and essential skills acquisition.

Section 1 - Introduction and Context

1.1 Program Background

1.1.1 Program description

The Northern Adult Basic Education Program (NABEP) was established to fulfil the Budget 2011 commitment to "expand territorial colleges' literacy and numeracy programs, particularly in remote communities, to target working-age Northerners and assist them in getting the basic skills they need to join the workforce and take advantage of emerging economic opportunities."

The program is administered by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) with organizational resources to support sound program delivery and management. Eligible recipients are northern colleges, defined as "educational institutions located in one of the Territories, with legal authority to provide accredited adult basic education services."

The program was a time-limited, five year program (2011-2012 to 2015-2016) to "build sufficient capacity in the territorial colleges to deliver expanded, improved adult basic education capacity (…) After the program is complete, Northern colleges would return to their base level of offerings with a legacy of improved quality and tools."Footnote 1.

Provision was made in Budget 2016 to extend the NABEP for one year with an additional investment of $3.9 million in 2016-2017 "to support the delivery of adult basic education services by colleges in the territories. During that time, the Government will review the program with a view to determining how to best support the participation of Northerners in the labour market."

1.1.2 Objectives and activities

The NABEP has two objectives: (1) to improve adult basic education (ABE) services and capacity in the territories and their colleges; and (2) to increase the number of working age adults with basic workplace skills, such as literacy and numeracy.

ABE is defined as education-related activities to help adults achieve sufficient levels of literacy, numeracy and other essential skills required to obtain a job or benefit from occupational training. Eligible activities under the NABEP include projects where the objectives are to:

  • increase the number of ABE educators and capacity;
  • increase number of Indigenous ABE educators;
  • support partnerships among colleges and between other territorial organizations;
  • support the development of culturally-appropriate material;
  • strengthen the capacity to assess individuals prior to their enrolment in learning activities;
  • increase the frequency and duration of ABE courses, as well as the number of locations where they are offered.

NABEP expected outcomes are the following:

  • increased capacity to respond to the needs of adults learners who have deficiencies in their basic education;
  • increased availability of ABE services across the North;
  • increased number of adults enrolled in ABE courses;
  • updated learning and assessment tools that are culturally adapted and labour market-oriented; and,
  • improved employability and greater participation of northern Indigenous people in economic development projects.

The program logic model (Figure 1.1) is based on the idea that program effectiveness can be embodied in the concept of return on investment. A return on investment can include outputs and outcomes as described below, where each immediate and intermediate outcome can contribute to the long-term outcomes and increase of the use of ABE services.

Figure 1.1: NABEP Logic Model
Text description for Figure 1.1

The flowchart shows the program’s logic model, which uses arrows to logically tie together the inputs, activities and outputs that will contribute to achieving the desired short-, medium- and long-term outcomes.

The inputs include human resources, the recipient’s capacity, management and administrative support, facilities and infrastructure, research, and funding. These inputs will make it possible to carry out activities, including NABEP investments, and these activities will result in outputs that include the development and use of tools, the delivery of courses, and the hiring and training of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal educators.

The expected immediate outcome resulting from the outputs is the increased availability of adult basic education services. The expected intermediate outcomes resulting from the outputs as well as the immediate outcome include the increased use of services by adults and the increased quality of adult basic education services. Lastly, the resulting long-term outcomes will be increased employment, increased occupational, post secondary or job-readiness training, and an increase in quality of adult basic education services.

The NABEP Performance Measurement Strategy includes 15 indicators (Table 1.1 below).

Table 1.1: NABEP Performance Indicators
Performance Areas Indicators
Activities 1. Number and type of ABE products or services approved
Outputs 2. Number and type of ABE products or services produced
Immediate outcomes Increased availability of ABE services 3. Number of adult basic educators
4. Greater studying opportunities and learning continuity
Intermediate outcomes Increased use of ABE services 5. Number of ABE students served
Enhanced quality of ABE services 6. Number of training programs for adult educatorsFootnote 2
7. Number of Indigenous educators
8. Number of local residents hired as educators
9. New or enhanced ABE materials and curriculum put into use in the ABE system
Long term outcomesFootnote 3 10. Number of working age adult program participants who obtained jobs
11. Number of working age adult program participants who advanced to occupational training
12. Number of working age adult program participants who completed trades certification
13. Number of working age adult program participants who advanced to post secondary training (non-occupational)
14. Number of ABE students who successfully completed ABE
15. Number of ABE graduates who go on to job training

Results were included in quarterly reports and in one final report submitted at the end of each fiscal year. The final report included a summary of activities as outlined in the Project Work Plan, as well as any studies, agreements or plans developed during the reporting period.

1.1.3 Program governance

CanNor Operations provided oversight for the implementation of the Program. The colleges submitted applications for funding that included proposed project activities, partners, timelines, objectives and expected results. Proposals were evaluated based on the following assessment criteria: promotion of partnerships; creation of synergies with existing programs; potential to pass on a legacy of enhanced ABE; cultural sensitivities; and, focus on remote communities. NABEP allocations were administered under funding agreements between CanNor and each recipient. As per the funding agreement, each college prepared a multi-year Project Work Plan and submitted reports on the Plan's implementation.

1.1.4 Program funding

Over 90% of program funding was set aside for funding contributions with the remainder allocated to administration.

The funding was allocated based on ABE needs as defined by each territory's share of working age individuals lacking grade 12 completion, as per the 2006 Census, i.e. Nunavut 44.5%, Northwest Territories 37.1%, and Yukon 18.4%. Notional allocations are indicated below (Table 1.2).

Table 1.2: NABEP Allocations, 2011-2017
(in $million) 2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016 2016-2017 Total
Yukon 0.3 1.2 1.2 1.2 0.7 0.7 5.2
Northwest Territories 0.6 2.5 2.4 2.5 1.3 1.3 10.6
Nunavut 0.7 2.9 2.9 2.9 1.6 1.6 12.7
Total (contributions) 1.6 6.6 6.5 6.6 3.6 3.6 28.5
Source: 2011-2015: Treasury Board submission 2011; 2016-2017: As per 2016 Budget announcement; distribution of allocations as per Treasury Board Submission 2015.

1.2 Evaluation Objectives and Scope

In this evaluation, conducted at the close of the five-year funding period, the following aspects of the Program will be reviewed:

  • The NABEP's relevance to federal government priorities and goals;
  • The NABEP's relevance to CanNor priorities and goals;
  • Achievement of expected short-, medium-, and long-term outcomes (seeTable 1.1: NABEP Performance Indicators and Figure 1.1 Logic Model for details);
  • NABEP cost-effectiveness and efficiency; and,
  • Lessons learned.

Each of these evaluation issues is covered in depth in the remainder of this report.

Section 2 - Approach and Methodology

2.1 Key Lines of Evidence

2.1.1 Document review

A large number of documents were reviewed and used for this evaluation, including the following:

  • Research reports and literature reviews;
  • Federal government documents, such as the Budget, departmental estimates, whole-of-government strategies, plans and audits;
  • Corporate documents, e.g. the colleges' annual reports;
  • Quantitative information, such as the Canadian socioeconomic database tables from Statistics Canada (CANSIM) and Public Accounts tables;
  • Research, policy and strategy documents from the territorial governments and/or non-governmental organizations.

2.1.2 Key informant interviews

R.A. Malatest & Associates Ltd. (Malatest) was awarded a contract by CanNor to conduct the key informant interviews portion of this evaluation. The consultant was responsible for scheduling and conducting interviews, creating summary transcripts of the interviews, and analyzing the data.

Six separate groups of stakeholders were identified by CanNor as being of interest to the evaluation: Territorial government representatives, college stakeholders, adult learners, adult educators, industry and employer stakeholders in the North and CanNor employees. Malatest was responsible for recruiting interviewees from these lists and conducting interviews. Table 2.1 below shows the number of individuals in each stakeholder group who completed an interview.

Table 2.1: List of Interviewees
Stakeholder Group Number of Interviewees
Territorial government representatives 3
College representatives 4
Industry representatives 3
Adult educators 4
Adult learners 11
CanNor representative 1
Total 26

All interviews were structured according to an interview guide developed by Malatest and approved by CanNor. The interview guides were designed to address specific evaluation issues related to the NABEP's relevance, performance, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Where possible, interviewees were provided with copies of the interview guide in advance.

Interviews were conducted by telephone, and audio recorded with participants' permission. Brief notes were taken during the interviews, and supplemented reviewing the recordings where necessary during analysis. Analysis of the data consisted of preparing summaries of all participants' answers to each interview question, broken down by stakeholder group. Where appropriate, descriptors such as "a couple", "a few", "many / most" and "all" are used to summarize all of the answers to the interview questions. Where relevant, the views of various stakeholder groups were compared and discussed, and areas where there was a consensus or divergent views were highlighted.

2.1.3 Program data analysis

This evaluation relies on the program data provided as part of the funding recipients' obligation to submit quarterly reports plus one annual report. Recipients used two types of document formats for their reports:

  • A compilation of results for the 15 performance indicators, as shown in Table 1.1, on an Excel spreadsheet template ("quantitative information"); and,
  • Quarterly and annual reports in the form of a narrative, which provided detailed information on achievements such as courses and material developed, partnerships established, communities served, and activities, pilot projects, issues and recommendations, as well as additional information on various subjects, such as enrolment ("qualitative information").

These reports also included other documents such as copies of research reports and material developed. Note that there was no template for this report and the type and scope of the information provided varies from college to college. Moreover, only two colleges provided information for Year 1 (2011-2012), although funding was allocated for all three.

Secondary information from official documents (e.g. corporate reports and official statistics) was used to supplement the lack of program data.

2.2 Methodological Limitations

2.2.1 Program data

Because of inconsistency in the information provided by the colleges, this evaluation does not rely as much as it should on the program data, whether related to the performance indicators (quantitative information) or the narrative reports (qualitative information). Data issues are likely attributable to a lack of overall direction or formal instructions with respect to the reporting requirements.

The information submitted in the narrative reports were used to illustrate the types of activities and products developed and implemented.

The inconsistency found in the definitions of the concepts from one year to the next and from one college to the next, as well as irregularities noted in the relationships between variables, resulted in a relatively limited reliance on quantitative information.

This is particularly the case for the data related to the longer term outcomes (see Table 1.1) which were less useful in the development of section 5 of this report. Aside from the lack of instructions on reporting requirements, measuring longer term outcomes can be challenging, especially if a measure implies systematic follow up with program participants post-NABEP activities. In this case, only participants who immediately took the step to further their education or to be employed would be captured in the data.

Footnotes are provided, where appropriate, to ensure that the results can be interpreted within the limitations provided.

2.2.2 Key informant interview data interpretation and limitations

The key informant interview data collected and analyzed by Malatest is qualitative. The analysis and summaries provided here are intended to be descriptive of the participants' answers, and not necessarily representative of the stakeholder groups from which the participants were drawn.

Because the adult learners who took NABEP courses were not asked for permission to share their contact information directly with third party researchers at the time of their registration, the colleges had to contact students who would likely be willing to be interviewed, and ask them for permission to provide their names and contact information to Malatest. This selection process may have resulted in some bias. For example, of the adult learners who participated in an interview, all had completed their NABEP course or were currently enrolled in a NABEP course and expecting to complete the course.

It should also be noted that because of the large number of stakeholder groups and the need to have representation from each territory, there was often only one interviewee per stakeholder group, per territory. As a result, it was difficult to confirm information with the stakeholders. For example, different answers provided by members of a stakeholder group may suggest differences between the territories, rather than inconsistency with the NABEP's implementation. To overcome this problem and confirm the interviewees' answers in relation to other data sources, Malatest used administrative documents and data to support these stakeholders' answers, where possible and appropriate.

Section 3 - Relevance and Ongoing Need for the Program

The following is an assessment of the relevance of the NABEP. It begins with a description of activities carried out by the colleges, followed by an analysis of whether there is an ongoing need for the program; whether there is a legitimate, appropriate and necessary role for the federal government in the program; and, whether the program is consistent with federal government and CanNor priorities.

3.1 Description of NABEP Implementation Activities

In 2011-2012, with funds transferred near the end of the fiscal year, the colleges devoted most of their activities to developing their four-year work plans (2012-2013 to 2015-2016). Each work plan describes the activities that each college planned to carry out according to a relatively specific timetable. The four-year work plans were included in the funding applications, and an annually adjusted plan was included in the annual contribution agreements between the colleges and CanNor. The level and type of information included in the work plans varied from plan to plan. For example, the work plan submitted by Aurora College was very detailed with specific timelines and a performance management strategy, and the college submitted a report on its work plan every year. In comparison, there is no direct relationship between the work plans submitted by Yukon College and Nunavut Arctic College and the structure of their annual reports.

It was found in a review of the annual reports that the three colleges implemented very similar activities. These activities can be grouped into four core groups:

  • Program delivery capacity;
  • Access to and the quality of courses and material;
  • Mobilization of partners and creation of partnerships; and,
  • NABEP administration.

3.1.1 Core activities

a) Program delivery capacity

Increasing program delivery capacity activities included the following: providing training for teachers and access to funding for professional development; designating employees to coordinate the program and teaching staff; and improving or acquiring material and related training tools (e.g. the use of distance training tools).

Of the capacity-building activities, those involving collaboration between the three northern colleges with a view to exchanging services and sharing resources should be highlighted. Some actual examples are the implementation of a Memorandum of Understanding between the three colleges in 2012 and the holding of the Pan-Territorial NABEP Symposium in Whitehorse in April 2014. The Symposium brought together 258 teachers, basic adult education providers, and researchers in the field of literacy and essential workplace skills.

b) Access to and quality of courses and material

Improving access to, and the quality of courses and material included the following activities: making educational materials more relevant and disseminating them more widely; improving services for students; and, updating, adapting and developing course programs, materials and tools. The courses developed include literacy and basic skills courses (or modules and tools to be incorporated into existing courses), pre-employment courses and preparation courses for post-secondary education. Other products developed or modified include case management and needs assessment methods and tools, as well as methods for recognizing skills acquired in informal settings.

An example of how the relevance and quality of materials was enhanced was their translation into Indigenous languages. In that regard, the recruitment of Inuit elders to take part in many courses in Nunavut (the "Elder Project") in order to incorporate Inuktitut and Inuit culture into adult basic education courses is noteworthy.

c) Mobilization of partners and creation of partnerships

Partnerships were established in order to implement activities to increase access to and improve the quality of products or the capacity to deliver ABE services. A few examples:

  • Aurora College and Yukon College consulted with Nunavut Arctic College, which had developed a culturally-adapted assessment tool (Nunavut Adult Placement Assessment), to help them develop their own tool.
  • In partnership with the Northwest Territories government, Aurora College also made changes to its English program to make it culturally-appropriate for local communities.
  • Nunavut Arctic College used the expertise of two organizations, Pathways to Possibilities Adult Learning and Employment Programs and the Canadian Career Development Foundation, to develop a culturally-adapted essential skills program.
  • Nunavut Arctic College delivered two of the territorial government's adult education programs—Getting Ready for Employment and Training (GREAT) and Pathway to Adult Secondary School (PASS)—using material developed with NABEP funding, through a partnership with the Alberta Distance Learning Centre for the distance learning delivery aspects of PASS.

The three colleges also collaborated in the sharing of information and best practices (e.g. the Symposium and the Pan-Territorial Memorandum of Understanding). There was also collaboration between colleges and their respective regional stakeholders. For example:

  • Yukon College set up a case management working group comprised of stakeholders from various regional organizations and held local consultations to define an ABE approach;
  • Aurora College developed a Partnership Protocol to encourage regional partnerships and to serve as a guide in its relationships with its partners. This Protocol also brought together territorial organizations that deliver the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)'s Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy and agreement holders, literacy and career promotion organizations, territorial departments, and Indigenous governments and organizations.

Partnerships between industry and the colleges were established mainly through existing organizations, such as the Kivalliq Mine Training Society in Nunavut, the Yukon Mine Training Association in Yukon, and the Mine Training Society in the Northwest Territories. These partnerships, which focus on workplace preparedness courses, were funded through ESDC's Skills and Partnerships Program. There were also smaller-scale activities for literacy and essential skills training and development taking place in "real setting industries" in a few local communities in Yukon.

d) NABEP administration

Administration of the program at the colleges’ level included research and development, management of funds and monitoring of activities. Research was a key activity for any review or development of programs and tools. For example, Nunavut Arctic College developed research documents to serve as a guide to prepare and assess its new literacy and essential skills curriculum.Footnote 4. Yukon College and Aurora College developed research projects to obtain a better understanding of their clientele and the impact of the NABEP on their choices of education and occupations Footnote 5 . In partnership with the Yukon Literacy Coalition, Yukon College completed research on the issue of youth disengagement from learning.

Program monitoring was another important activity. For example, Aurora College is conducting its own program evaluation. Nunavut Arctic College prepared a report in 2014 that provides an update on NABEP achievements.Footnote 6 .

3.1.2 Analysis of outputs from activities

An overview of Aurora College's expenditures reveals trends in the activities carried out in the four groups of activities (Program delivery capacity; Access to and quality of courses and material, Mobilization of partners and creation of partnerships; and, NABEP administration). Figure 3.1 shows that activities related to increasing capacity and program administration decreased, while activities intended to improve access increased over the four-year period. This data suggests that once the foundation for effective program delivery has been established, more work is directed towards developing programs and producing material. In the absence of similar information from the other colleges, it is not possible to verify whether this is a common course of action.

A detailed analysis of the content of the work plans, compared with activities reported in the annual reports, reveals that most activities in the work plans were achieved, despite obstacles to program delivery. For example, the Yukon College annual reports describe the College's challenges in delivering activities. Many of the obstacles were related to remoteness of communities and decentralization of ABE centres. Other issues included in the Yukon College reports were a lack of local specialized teaching staff, high turnover and problems coordinating activities and logistics, particularly with remote communities. Some activities had to be postponed or cancelled for the following reasons: lack of funding (e.g. funding applications from additional sources were delayed or rejected); absence of timely partnerships (e.g. with Indigenous businesses and communities); and, delays resulting from course reviews or course pilot projects.

Figure 3.1: Example Of Expenditure by Category of Expenses(1), Aurora College, 2012-2015

1) Category defined by CanNor.
Source: Aurora College Financial Statements.

Based on NABEP data, activities related to increasing capacity and improving access, are shown in Tables 3.1 and 3.2. Table 3.1 provides an indication of the amount of material produced or revised.

Table 3.1: Capacity and Access Indicators Results, 2011-2015
Indicators(1) Yukon Northwest Territories Nunavut
Number of ABE products or services produced 68 55 341
Number of training programs offered for adult learners 42 132 16
Number of new or enhanced ABE materials and curriculum put into use in the ABE system 54 22 68
1) Because the colleges’ data are not comparable due to inconsistency in the definitions of concepts, totals are not available. Source: NABEP administrative data.
Source: NABEP administrative data.

Le Table 3.2 indique le nombre d'éducateurs ayant participé aux activités liées au NABEP. Les éducateurs autochtones représentent une forte proportion de la main-d'œuvre, sauf au Yukon.

Table 3.2 Number of Adult Basic Educators, by Year, Indigenous Educators and Total Educators, 2011-2015
  Yukon College(1) Aurora College(2) Nunavut Arctic College(3)
Indigenous Educators Total Educators Indigenous Educators Total Educators Indigenous Educators Total Educators
2011-2012 0 3 0 0 0 0
2012-2013 10 52 22 6 17 26
2013-2014 3 14 15 13 10 14
2014-2015 12 111 16 24 17 24
1) Includes any ABE educators;
2) Numbers do not add up because the number of Indigenous educators includes non-college staff and the total number of educators includes college staff only;
3) College staff only.
Source: NABEP administrative data.

The Program data also indicate that, since the implementation of the NABEP, 83% of communities located north of 60 have access to some form of ABE. In Nunavut, as of 2015, almost all communities (96%) have access to ABE (Table 3.3).

Table 3.3: Communities Reached as a Result of the NABEP, by Territory, 2015
  2014-2015 Communities reached (as % of number of communities in each territory)
Number %
Yukon 12 71
Northwest Territories 26 79
Nunavut 25 96
Total 63 83
Source: Colleges data.

3.2 Ongoing Need for the Program

Trends in adult basic education (ABE) and literacy and essential skills (LES)Footnote 7

a) Proficiency level

The most recent survey (Statistics Canada 2013a)Footnote 8 on literacy and numeracy proficiency, reveals a number of key facts: (1) In Canada, 49% of 16-65-year-old Canadians, on average, score lower than Level 3, which is the level needed for most literacy tasks in our society and in the workplace, and the level needed to graduate from high school and enter college-level higher education programs; (2) Educational attainment is associated with higher literacy and numeracy scores; (3) Higher education also appears to attenuate differences in skill levels between younger and older age groups; and (4) Employed individuals have significantly higher scores on literacy and numeracy than unemployed individuals. It should be noted that when the results of the two latest surveys are compared (see note 8 below), the average scores for literacy and numeracy have declined slightly; e.g. for literacy in 2003, 14% were at Level 1 and below, and 18% were at Levels 4 and 5, compared with 17% at Level 1 and below, and 14% at Levels 4 and 5 in 2012 (Statistics Canada, 2013a). Consequently, adult workers across Canada may not be keeping up with the increasing skill requirements of the 21st-century economy.

There are notable variations in the average scores between the provinces and territories, age groups and other socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. With respect to the territories, they each have very distinct LES proficiency profiles: Yukon rates are comparable to those for Canada, with 44% of adults scoring below Level 3 and 14% scoring in Levels 4 and 5; Northwest Territories scores 64% and 10% respectively at Level 3 and Levels 4 and 5; and Nunavut scores 84% and 3%, respectively, at Level 3 and Levels 4 and 5 (see Figure 1 in Appendix A). Discrepancies can be explained largely by the specific demographic characteristics of each territory, especially the proportion of youth who may still be attending high school and of Indigenous people whose proficiency levels are generally lower on average than non-Indigenous people. In fact, the Indigenous population accounts for 81% of the Nunavut population, 46% of the Northwest Territories population, and 21% of the Yukon population. Differences are also found within territories where the younger and Indigenous population is mostly concentrated in smaller communities, while the three territorial capitalsFootnote 9 attract workers from other parts of the territories or other parts of Canada, and have proportionally large non-Indigenous working-age populations. (Statistics Canada 2012).

The education attainment of Indigenous people in the territories remains significantly lower than that of non-Indigenous people. For example (See Table 1 in Appendix A), the proportion of Indigenous people who have less than a high school degree in Nunavut is about 60% and the discrepancy with non-Indigenous people is large. Over the last four years, the gap seems to have narrowed slightly, possibly indicating an improvement in high school completion among Indigenous youth and adults.

There are similar trends for literacy and numeracy skills. Indigenous people have a significantly lower level of proficiency. For example, in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, 82% and 92% of Indigenous people, respectively, have less than a Level 2 in literacy proficiency. The percentage of Indigenous people who have less than a Level 2 in numeracy proficiency is even higher (See Table 2 in Appendix A).

These trends alone would justify the need for literacy and numeracy programs. All interview participants from industry, the territorial governments and the colleges, including educators, agreed that the low graduation rates, including numbers of early dropouts, as well as low literacy and numeracy levels among residents in their territory, justified the need for ABE programming. Territorial representatives agreed that, although graduation rates in territorial urban centres were comparable with those of the rest of Canada, ABE was needed to serve populations in remote and rural areas in particular. They also noted that the NABEP addressed skills shortages, while also providing adult learners with a successful and positive school experience.

b) Socioeconomic and employment outcomes of LES

In Canada and elsewhere, there is a well-established relationship between LES, employment, income and broader social factors. Strong LES have positive benefits for individuals, communities and the economy.

At the macro level, there is a demonstrable link between citizens' literacy levels and national economic prosperity. For example, studies have shown that higher percentages of adults with Levels 1 and 2 skills impair growth rates to a significant degree, and that the impact on economic growth can be observed over the long term (Murray and Shillington 2012).

With respect to the micro level, there is a large body of literatureFootnote 10 on the effects of literacy on individual economic outcomes. This literature has shown that people with lower literacy levels are much less likely to be employed than their more literate peers, work fewer weeks per year on average, are more likely to go through periods of unemployment, and remain unemployed for much longer periods. Adults with extremely low literacy skills are systematically excluded from paid employment, which explains why those adults with the lowest-level skills are five times more likely to be collecting social assistance benefits. With respect to earnings, it has been demonstrated that adults with the highest level of literacy skills earn more; in fact, their earnings are up to 33% higher than those with lowest literacy, and they are twice as likely to be employed in more secure jobs (Murray and Shillington 2011). There is also known to be a broader psychological and sociological relationship between an individual's level of literacy proficiency and his/her health status, psychosocial capital (such as self-esteem and resilience), level of trust in others, and intensity of participation in civic and community activities (OECD and Statistics Canada, 2011; Smith Fowler et al. 2016).

With respect to the territories, many interviewees cited the high number of people on social assistance and high unemployment rates as evidence of the struggle to develop a skilled local workforce or hire local residents for positions in industries. A territorial representative from Nunavut also noted that, under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, hires for government jobs must reflect the percentage of Inuit in the territory's population. This representative also said that, despite recent changes to hiring policies that have accelerated the hiring of local Inuit for government positions, it was a struggle to find Inuit candidates for these positions because of low levels of educational attainment in the territory. Another interviewee from the private sector noted that there were still many deficiencies in basic numeracy and literacy among applicants for many positions in her organization, and many were not sufficiently literate to be hired.

The lack of basic skills constitutes a major barrier to employment and the economic security of Indigenous people. Recent data from the 2012 Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies survey show that among people not in the labour force or unemployed, the percentage of individuals with less than Level 2 literacy and numeracy is higher than in the general population. However, in the Northwest Territories and in Nunavut, the percentage of people with less than Level 2 is higher among the employed (see Table 3 in Appendix A). This suggests that, in order to fill jobs, employers use hiring strategies to mitigate the low skill problem. For example, one interviewee noted that he had seen instances of job postings where the required education level had been dropped from Grade 12 to Grade 10 because businesses were unable to find local qualified applicants.

Hiring practices can be supplemented with training to mitigate this problem. For example, interviewees from industry said that their workplaces and/or associations provided training and courses for employees to help them with their career development. They also noted that there were opportunities to collaborate with NABEP service providers and instructors, to develop industry-specific course content, and to subsequently deliver these courses to their employees. Areas where courses could be developed and delivered to employees included trades and pre-trades training, and community government. Industry representatives also noted that there were other ABE and occupational training courses available in the North, including programs offered by the colleges that provided students with Grade 12 equivalency.Footnote 11. However, the interviewees also said that these ABE courses tended to be more appropriate for adult learners with higher literacy levels, and the long-term nature of the courses (based typically on four-month semesters) discouraged many adult learners from taking the courses. The interviewees also acknowledged that there were some training programs available through industry associations but these programs did not attract enough students to be delivered as efficiently or as broadly as the NABEP.

Interview participants from industry said that the majority of positions for which they hired people were entry-level positions requiring a Grade 12 education. Various industries had different types of jobs available, but overall, the interviewees said that the entry points for these positions were jobs as janitors, labourers or in office administration. These employers also hired people for positions requiring higher levels of education. There seemed to be a consensus among the industry representatives that the NABEP alone was not sufficient to meet the challenges of hiring in the North, for two main reasons. First, the NABEP courses are too short, and adult learners who complete a single NABEP course are unlikely to have acquired the literacy and numeracy skills required for a job (essentially Grade 12-level skills). Second, two industry representatives said that many of the problems resulting in low literacy levels and low school completion rates still exist in the North, and pose as much of a challenge to employment as they do to education (for example, lack of childcare services and high percentages of unsafe or unsuitable housing). Although industry representatives acknowledged that the NABEP offered much-needed accessible adult basic education in the territories, they also recognized that other social issues needed to be addressed in order to support sustainable employment and economic development in northern communities.

These comments, as well as the factors discussed earlier and their inter-relationships, illustrate the complexity of the challenges faced by both employers and employees in the North with respect to ABE.

c) Participation in ABE

Adult education or continuing education is a major social component of contemporary societies. According to a Canadian surveyFootnote 12 conducted in 2007-2008, an estimated 10 million Canadians aged 18 to 64 had participated in some type of formal education credit program or training (including courses, workshops, private lessons and on-the-job training that do not lead to a formal educational credential), whether for personal interest, career or job reasons. This is about half of the Canadian population aged 18 to 64. Job-related training has been increasing since 2002. Over one third of those taking this type of training received support from their employer (Knighton et al., 2009).

There are many complex and varied reasons why adults decide to enroll in lifelong learning or in a literacy program and then choose to either continue or drop out. Research shows that participation and retention increases with age and level of education (Knighton et al., 2009; Long, 2002). With respect more specifically to retention in adult basic education, Canadian and international research consistently show high dropout rates from adult literacy programs. Between 10% and 60% of all students in adult basic education programs drop out before they have achieved their goals (Roussy and Hart, 2002). Long and Middleton (2001) found that 33% of Canadian adult learners who had signed up for a literacy program dropped out by the sixth to eighth month. Conflicts with work schedules and lack of money are main reasons for dropping out. Personal problems, health, confidence and childcare are other key factors for adult students (Roussy and Hart, 2002; Long and Middleton, 2001).

Indigenous people, who constitute a large proportion of the population in the territories, face particular challenges in terms of engaging and persisting in lifelong learning or training. These challenges,Footnote 13, some of which are highlighted in the 2014 Report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (Government of Canada 2014), include the following:

  • remote locations where formal training and higher education are typically non-existent or limited, and where broadband internet is unreliable, thus making it difficult to implement distance learning;
  • rampant poverty, crowded housing and unsafe living conditions that create additional barriers to full and effective participation in school;
  • racism and discrimination toward Indigenous students that can undermine their self-esteem and self-confidence;
  • cultural differences with respect to learning style; for example, print-based literacy is a fairly new concept to many Indigenous communities, and standardized tests of print-based literacy do not cover types of literacy that are valued by many Indigenous people;
  • education outcome gaps, education system complexities and under-funding;
  • too few teachers serving as role models who can instill a will to learn, while providing students with positive examples;
  • lasting impacts of residential schools;
  • variety of learning disabilities that are unidentified or untreated;
  • high rate of teen pregnancy, which makes it more challenging to complete high school.

Additional barriers:

  • lack of men in LES training (Government of Nunavut, 2006);
  • dominance of French and English in evaluations, although these are second languages for many Indigenous people. For example, 56% of the school-age population in Nunavut between the ages of 5 and 24 do not use English or French at home (National Household Survey, 2011);
  • high school dropout rate. In Nunavut, the high school completion rate for Inuit is less than 25% (CLLN, 2012a); 43% of young people leaving the secondary school system have Levels 1 and 2 skills, which will reduce their productivity and their success once they enter the labour market (Murray and Shillington 2012).

The colleges’ enrolment dataFootnote 14for the NABEP provide an estimation of the extent of student participation. Table 3.4 suggests that over 3,400 students benefitted from NABEP-funded activities or material between 2011 and 2015. Of that number, approximately 74% are Indigenous people. This proportion was 59% for Aurora College and close to 100% for Nunavut Arctic College. It also shows a continuing increase in student enrolment over four years.

Table 3.4: Number of Students Served by Year, Indigenous Students and Total Students, 2011-2015
  Aurora College(2) Nunavut Arctic College(3) Total(4)
Indigenous students Total students Indigenous students Total students Indigenous students Nombre total d'étudiants Étudiants autochtones Total students
2011-2012 11 11 - - 131 136 142 147
2012-2013 33 60 - 560 230 233 263 853
2013-2014 277 287 538 643 244 246 1 059 1 176
2014-2015 199 215 626 782 252 254 1 077 1 251
Total 520 573 1,164 1,985 857 869 2,541 3,427
(1) Numbers include students using NABEP material;
(2) All students in the college’s ABE program;
(3) ABE students in longer term training;
(4) Because the definition of "students served" varied among the colleges, the total must be interpreted with caution.
NABEP administrative data.

The program data before and during NABEP implementation suggests increased enrolment in ABE (or participation in NABEP-funded activities). The increase was greatest in Yukon and Nunavut, as shown in Table 3.5.

Table 3.5: Students Served in the Territories as a Result of the NABEP, Averages, 2007-2011 to 2011-2015(1)
(average for 2007-2011)
During NABEP
(average for 2011-2015)
Number Number %
Yukon(2) 31 143 +361 %
Northwest Territories 568 641 +13 %
Nunavut 143 217 +52 %
(1) Data for the respective colleges cannot be compared because the colleges’ definition of "students" is not consistent. Numbers may include part-time, full-time and occasional students, as well as students who use material produced by the NABEP. It may also include all ABE students as well as students participating in NABEP-funded activities only.
(2) Yukon does not have figures for 2007-2008.
Source: NABEP administrative data.

Data on overall student enrolment in the northern colleges suggest an increase in ABE enrolment over the past 10 years (see Figures 2 to 4 in Appendix A). For example, Nunavut Arctic College was seeing a decline in the number of ABE students until 2012-2013. That year, their number almost doubled. In the Northwest Territories, overall student enrolment at Aurora College had been declining since 2009-2010, but the number of students enrolled in ABE increased during the same period. Based on Aurora College's Annual Report for 2014-2015, ABE students accounted for 28% of the student population. In Yukon, overall student enrolment has been increasing since 2007-2008. Data on ABE enrolment are scarce and can therefore not be used to draw definitive conclusions.Footnote 15. The percentage of ABE students in the college’s total student population appears to be relatively small (5% in 2013-2014) (see Figures 2 to 4 in Appendix A). Although a direct linkage to the NABEP cannot be established, the significant increase (+361% pre- and post-NABEP) in students served in the Yukon as a result of the NABEP suggests that the program played a role.

As noted by several interviewees, systemic barriers to northern residents' participation in training, education and employment include: trans-generational trauma stemming from the residential school system and other colonizing practices including displacement and forced year-round settlement in communities; addictions issues; poor housing and health outcomes; and high burdens placed on adults to care for their families and children in the absence of daycares in their communities.

A majority of learners interviewed stated that they were aware of other training, education and upgrading programs that are applicable to their career and education goals, but all of these interviewees stated that they would have had to leave their communities to take the classes. Of these seven interviewees, only two said that they would have been willing to move to take these alternative classes, while the remaining five would not have taken any upgrading or adult basic education classes if the NABEP had not been offered in their communities.

All of the 11 adult learners interviewed for this evaluation stated that the NABEP should continue, and that there is still a strong need for these courses in their communities. Reasons cited for this need included observations that many people they knew had dropped out of school to start families, that the courses are good to refresh their minds and prepare for further education, that many people are unemployed and require training to get a job, and that the courses are needed because they allow people to start their education and upgrading without having to leave their communities for larger cities where campuses are located.

3.3 Adult Basic Education (ABE) and Literacy and Essential Skills (LES) in the Territories: Funding and stakeholders

ABE is not a jurisdiction specifically defined in the Constitution Acts of 1867 and 1982. It touches upon a number of areas such as education, professional development, economic and labor market development, and social development. As such, ABE is the subject of overlapping jurisdiction where federal and provincial/ territorial responsibilities are concerned. In this policy area, like many others over the years, federal and provincial/territorial governments must coordinate their activities, if only because many contemporary policy issues cut across the jurisdictional boundaries originally defined in the Constitution.

3.3.1 Federal Programs and funding for LES development and ABE

Although the provincial and territorial governments hold the principal constitutional powers for the delivery of social policy (such as education), the federal government has always exerted considerable influence in this area, whether by using its spending power for national equityFootnote 16 purposes or by establishing national standards. The federal government exercises its influence primarily through the mechanism of fiscal transfers to the provinces and territories.

In the area of adult education, the federal government supports individual professional development and skills training through the exercise of its sole responsibility over Employment Insurance.Footnote 17. The Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) oversees the Employment Insurance Act and programs "by promoting a highly skilled and mobile workforce and an efficient and inclusive labour market." Footnote 18Since 1996, under Part 2 of the Employment Insurance Act,Footnote 19, which focuses on getting people back to work through training and employment programs and services, the federal government has entered into bilateral transfer agreements with the provinces and territories for the purpose of designing and delivering employment benefits and support measures, and acknowledges that those measures are linked to education and other areas of provincial responsibility. Currently, there are four types of labour market transfer agreements:

  • Labour Market Development Agreements: designed to help individuals eligible for Employment Insurance to develop the skills needed to return to work;
  • Canada Job Fund Agreements (modified from the Labour Market Agreements in 2014-2015): Help Canadians get the training they need for available jobs, whether unemployed persons who are ineligible for EI benefits or employed persons who do not have a high school diploma or do not have recognized certification, or unemployed persons who have low levels of literacy and essential skills, to succeed in the labour market;
  • Targeted Initiative for Older Workers: A cost-sharing initiative that provides assistance for unemployed older workers (normally aged 55 to 64) in communities of 250,000 or fewer people that are affected by significant downsizing/closures or ongoing high unemployment, through programs intended to reintegrate them into employment;
  • Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities: To enhance the employability of persons with disabilities and increase the employment opportunities available to them.

The Government of Canada, through ESDC, also provides a wide variety of labour market programs for individuals or organizations that focus on developing the skills of working-age adults.

  • ESDC's Office of Literacy and Essential Skills supports a pan-Canadian network of literacy and essential skills organizations at both the national level, such as the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network or the Fédération canadienne pour l'alphabétisation en français; as well, it funds a network of provincial/territorial organizations, such as literacy coalitions. The Office of Literacy and Essential Skills builds and maintains the capacity of the network that, in turn, provides support and transfers knowledge throughout the Canadian system of LES services and programs.
  • The objective of the Youth Employment Strategy is to help young people acquire the skills, work experience and abilities they need to make a successful transition into the labour market. Skills Link is the component that targets individuals facing barriers to employment. Skills Link is delivered by three departments: ESDC, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

In accordance with its responsibility towards Indigenous Peoples, the federal government has set up Indigenous-specific programs to provide skills development. These programs, managed by ESDC, are the following:

  • Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy: Provides programs and services that include skill development, job training and pre-employment activities, through a network of Indigenous service providers;
  • Skills and Partnership Fund: Responds to economic partnership opportunities through targeted labour force development and addresses program delivery gaps in the labour market service providers' network.

Table 3.6 shows the extent of the principal existing federal funding allocated to the three territories that have an LES or ABE component. The NABEP is one of a number of programs dedicated to LES development. It is estimated that the NABEP accounts for 8% of all federal funding.

Where the primary objective of most programs is to help individuals (e.g. in the form of payments of tuition fees, equipment and daycare costs), the objective of the NABEP is to build capacity to deliver programs. Developing organizational capacity accounts for only 10% of total federal funding for LES development and ABE. In addition, the NABEP is the only federal program whose specific objective is to enhance the delivery capacity of LES program providers, i.e. the three Colleges which are the primary program providers in the North.

Of note, Colleges, in addition to NABEP funding, receive funding from other federal government sources for LES development, such as the ESDC's Office of Literacy and Essential Skills and ESDC's Partnership Fund.

Table 3.6: Breakdown of Federal Government Funding for Literacy and Essential Skills (LES) Development
and Adult Basic Education (ABE) in the Territories, 2015-2016
Funder Program Allocation
(in $million)
Delivery Main Objective
ESDC Labour Market Development Agreements 9.4 PT LES training and activities component for individuals eligible for EI (FPT transfer). Assistance to Individuals
ESDC Canada Job Fund Agreements 3.2 PT LES training and activities component for individuals who are unemployed, have low-level skills or are ineligible for EI (FPT transfer).
ESDC Labour Market Agreements for Persons with Disabilities 3.8 PT LES training and activities component for persons with disabilities (FPT transfer).
ESDC Targeted Initiative for Older Workers 0.5 PT LES training and activities component for individuals aged 55 to 64 (FPT transfer).
ESDC Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy 18.8 Indigenous organizations LES training and activities component for individuals who are unemployed, have low-level skills or are ineligible for EI, and for individuals who are eligible for EI. Also provides funding for organizational capacity building.
ESDC Skills and Partnership Fund 4.1(2) Indigenous organization with partners LES training and activities component for individuals
Youth Employment Strategy – Skills Link 1.4(3)
Indigenous organization with partners LES training and activities component for individuals aged 15-30
ESDC Literacy and essential skills 1.3(1) ESDC Helps LES organizations build their policy-making, research and engagement capacity Organizational Capacity
CanNor NABEP 3.6 Northern Colleges Helps northern colleges build their capacity to deliver LES programs and material
(1) 2014-2015;
(2)Average amount based on the total allocations ($24.3 million) over 7 years (2011-2017);
(3) 2014-2015;
(4) This amount is indicated for comparison purposes only. Some of the territorial funding to colleges may well be sourced from federal funds included in this table;
(5) ) Not available.
Source: ESDC, INAC and CanNor administrative data.

3.3.2 Gouvernements territoriaux et intervenants régionaux

a) Yukon

The Yukon Department of Education provides adult education, training, employment programs and services in Yukon as follows: by supporting workplace LES programs at Yukon College; by conducting labour market research, including essential skills training needs; by promoting apprenticeships and skills training; and, by promoting literacy initiatives through organizations offering workplace and community-based programs. It provides core funding for Yukon Learn, a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to providing a variety of flexible adult literacy programs and services. The Yukon Department of Education administers the Community Training Funds which provides for project funding, including essential skills offerings, and provides for regional and sector training funds to address training needs, some of which will be essential skills. It also recently implemented the Foundational Skills Program as a result of the Literacy Strategy consultations and delivers and administers the Canada-Yukon labour market development agreements and transfer payment agreements.Footnote 20.

The Yukon Department of Education also funds the Yukon Literacy Coalition, a community-based organization and a centre of excellence for literacy research and practice in Yukon. It works with many partners to improve literacy and essential skills across the territory. The Yukon Literacy Coalition opened the Family Literacy Centre in Whitehorse in 2009. The Centre provides a space for practitioners, parents and caregivers where they can participate in program development and acquire skills for incorporating literacy activities at home.

Another source of funding for LES comes from the Yukon Government's Economic Development Department, which administers the Community Development Fund, a proposal-based program to enhance community well-being and to create jobs.

Another institution that provides direct ABE services in Yukon is Yukon College. In 1983, the Yukon College Act formally recognized the College's role in ABE. Yukon College receives its core operational and capital funding from the Yukon government. The College also receives territorial funding for specific projects.

b) Northwest Territories

In its current literacy strategy published in 2008,Footnote 21,the government of the Northwest Territories positions literacy as a continuum of lifelong skill development in one or more of the 11 official languages of the Northwest Territories. More recently, the government has also developed its Skills 4 Success 10-Year Strategic Framework.Footnote 22. The objective of the framework is to ensure that the Northwest Territories education and training system kePSE pace with current and future labour market requirements.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) provides programs, services and supports for early childhood development, K-12 education, post-secondary and adult education, career development, apprenticeships and occupational certification, employment standards, income security, official languages, immigration, arts, culture and heritage. Building capacity through all of its programs and services, as well as working closely with Indigenous governments, remains a high priority. ECE delivers and administers the Canada-Northwest Territories labour market development agreements and transfer payment agreementsFootnote 23.

ECE also funds the Adult Literacy and Basic Education (ALBE) programs, which are adult education upgrading programs that allow learners to go into post-secondary education or take advantage of job opportunities. The intended outcomes are for participants to obtain employment and achieve their personal goals. ALBE programs are community-based programs delivered in 23 communities (urban, rural and remote) and three campuses in the Northwest Territories. The majority of students are Indigenous people.

Although Aurora College delivers most of the ABE programs, other providers deliver ABE programs as well. The Northwest Territories Literacy Council was established in 1990 and has been funded by ECE to develop ALBE resources, such as Everyday Math Skills Resources, a series of four math books developed to enable adult learners to understand and use the math they have to use in their everyday lives, and Essential Skills at Work in the North, an interactive learning tool designed to help northerners learn what it takes to succeed in various jobs.

The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation is another organization participating in the delivery of ABE programs, such as the Work Readiness Program set up to help individuals become better prepared for jobs or take additional job-related training. This project is an example of an initiative funded through the ESDC Youth Employment Strategy - Skills Link.

The Northwest Territories Mine Training Society also offers a number of training-to-employment programs (e.g. More Than a Silver Lining and Mining the Future) in partnership with Aurora College and industry partners through funding from the federal government.

c) Nunavut

The government of Nunavut developed an Adult Learning Strategy in 2005. The strategy outlines proposed actions to support the development of workplace and workforce literacy, including basic education programs and financial incentives and programming supports for employers.

The Nunavut Department of Education funds ABE programs to be delivered in communities across Nunavut, but ABE programs are not core-funded. The Department of Family Services manages the ESDC labour market transfer agreements in order to increase the level of skills and employability of the unemployed and build LES capacity through trainingFootnote 24 . In the past, Canada-Nunavut Labour Market Agreement funding has been used to increase the level of foundational skills, provide life skills training, increase job opportunities, and implement project-based work experience programs and workplace-based training in literacy and essential skills. The client sponsorship program of the Labour Market Agreement program has been over-subscribed, which reflects the fact that many individuals are ineligible under the Labour Market Development Agreement. Hence, many initiatives have been offered in partnership with the mining industry (e.g. Agnico-Eagle, a gold mining company in the Kivalliq region).

The government of Nunavut funds the Nunavut Arctic College, an agency of the crown. The territorial government provides core-funding that covers education programs and salaries, including ABE programming. The college has three campuses that deliver the bulk of the learning programs. There are also community learning centres in 25 communities. The College's programs vary from traditional classroom courses, such as foundational skills, portfolio development, pre-employment preparation, trades access and office administration, to the inclusion of traditional activities such as art making. Nunavut Arctic College has implemented workforce training and literacy programs by expanding its pre‐employment course and adding better LES resources and programs. The college is working in partnership with groups including the Nunavut Literacy Council.

Ilitaqsiniq, the Nunavut Literacy Council, endeavours to promote and support the literacy needs of Nunavut communities in the official languages of Nunavut. Since its inception, Ilitaqsiniq has devoted most of its efforts to conducting and disseminating original community-based research, developing and giving workshops, creating original bilingual resources, and developing, maintaining and strengthening partnerships.

3.4 The Program's Consistency with Federal Government and CanNor Priorities

Budget 2016 proposes broad based investments in skills and training with the aim of increasing job opportunities for Canadians. As part of these efforts, the NABEP was granted a one year extension to allow the government time to "review the program with a view to determining how to best support the participation of Northerners in the labour market" (Budget 2016, p. 81). Mandate letters to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development further provide context for these efforts by asking the ministers to work together to "promote economic development and create jobs for Indigenous Peoples".

The lack of basic skills was recognized as a major barrier to employment of Indigenous people in the 2014 report of the Government of Canada Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled Opportunities for Aboriginal Persons in the Workforce.Footnote 25. The Committee had recommended that the federal government continue to support initiatives that provide Indigenous people with access to high quality training in essential skills, including individualized training programs where appropriate, which was endorsed in the previous government's response to the report. The current government's agenda for Indigenous peoples, with respect to literacy and essential skills development, reiterates existing initiatives such as the suite of ESDC Indigenous Labour Market Programming (ILMP). Two key components of the ILMP are the Aboriginal Skills and Employment Training Strategy (which is being reviewed) and the Skills and Partnership Fund.

CanNor was established to "foster regional economic development in Canada's three territories by delivering programs, building partnerships to leverage investments in the North, and advocating for the interests of Northerners, including Aboriginal Peoples"Footnote 26. » In that regard, the NABEP is one of other capacity development programs administered by CanNor, such as the Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development program and the Northern Aboriginal Economic Opportunities Program.

3.5 Summary of Findings

The most recent trends in LES justify the continuing need for ABE programs in the territories. One important area that requires attention—based on NABEP annual reports— appears to be a lack of sustained partnership between the private sector and the colleges for LES development in the workplace. Although there is no requirement that the NABEP be linked to industry-driven demand, there is a risk that, without a concrete link with the labour market, individuals will remain stuck in the "pre-employability cycle" of training, failing to find a job, and going back to training.

The NABEP is aligned with federal government and CanNor priorities. However, adult basic education is an area where federal and territorial jurisdictions and activities may intersect or overlap. The federal government plays a role in ABE and LES development through funding and fiscal transfers to the territories, by fulfilling its responsibilities with respect to labour market development and by establishing national standards for LES. In this context, the NABEP appears to be one of many federal initiatives in the area of LES development and ABE, but a niche player when compared to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) which administers large skills development training programs.

What makes the NABEP unique among other federal initiatives is its focus on building, supporting and leveraging the capacity of the colleges, which are the main providers of ABE training and services in the territories. The territorial governments, because of their responsibilities with respect to education, also provide the colleges with support and funding for ABE and LES development. As such, for some areas (e.g. recruiting educators, developing material and curricula or expanding outreach) the NABEP might overlap with territorial investments and possibly with program objectives.

Section 4 - Achievement of Expected Outcomes: Increasing ABE Capacity

This section examines program outputs, especially the changes in availability, access and quality of products and its effect on students' uptake and overall ABE capacity in the North as a result of NABEP.

4.1 Increased Availability of ABE Services

The impact of the NABEP on the number of communities where ABE services are offered vary by territory. As per table 4.1, the quantitative data suggest that there has been an increase in the availability of ABE services offered and in the number of adult students served by the colleges, although NABEP funding seems to have benefited some colleges more than others, particularly Nunavut Arctic College. The Northwest Territories saw no change in the number of communities offering ABE services—this number was consistently 26 from 2010 to 2016. The other two territories saw increases in the number of communities offering ABE. It is in Yukon where the increase was the greatest (50%). A summary of these increases is provided in the table below.

Table 4.1: Communities Offering ABE, Before and After NABEP Implementation
College Pre-NABEP 2010-2011 During NABEP 2014-2015 Change
Yukon College 8 12 +4 (50%)
Aurora College 26 26 aucun changement)
Nunavut Arctic College 18 25 +7 (39%)
Total 52 63 + 11 (21%)
Source: NABEP administrative data

The qualitative data from interviews with adult students confirm that ABE courses are available in their communities: adult students who were interviewed for this evaluation found it easy to register for ABE activities in their communities. In addition, they noted that the classes were held in central areas of their towns that were easy to find and, where transit existed, locations were accessible via transit. A couple of students interviewed said that they had no trouble accessing the program once they learned about it, and said that the registration and enrolment process was easy.

Although none of the adult students interviewed mentioned any problems in obtaining a place in the classesFootnote 27, one of the college representatives interviewed noted that there were waiting lists for NABEP courses, with dozens of names on the lists. This suggests that current ABE capacity may still not be sufficient to meet demand, even with NABEP funding. It may be inferred that infrastructure may be lacking (classroom space) and that college staff members' capacity to handle large numbers of students may be limited. Moreover, one college representative who was interviewed noted that advertising and communications materials concerning the NABEP was one area for which they did not sufficiently plan or anticipate having such a large need. This participant said that "getting the word out" had been a bigger task than expected, and it was not sufficient to just tack these activities onto staff members' already heavy workloads.

4.2 Improved Accessibility for Indigenous and Adults in Remote Northern Communitites

One of the main challenges in providing ABE services in the North is the large number of rural and remote communities with small, mostly Indigenous, population. Because these communities cannot be served by programs in major cities where college campuses are located, additional funding and service levels are required to make ABE accessible to community members. One of the expected outcomes of the NABEP was that funding would allow the colleges to offer services and ABE programs in these communities and ensure that the programs offered were culturally and linguistically appropriate to the community contexts.

4.2.1 Distribution of ABE services

Table 4.2below summarizes the ABE delivery sites by community size and compares 2010-2011, the year immediately preceding the implementation of the NABEP, with 2014-2015. The table shows that in 2014-2015, ABE services were available in 63 communities across the North; 44 of these communities had populations of fewer than 1,000 people. Small communities had the greatest increase of service through NABEP.

Table 4.2: ABE Service Delivery, by Community Size, 2010-2011 and 2014-2015
College Size of Community where ABE Services were Delivered
Main Campus Site Other Town Site Small Community
(>1,000) Site
2010-2011 2014-2015 2010-2011 2014-2015 2010-2011 2014-2015
Yukon College 1 1 1 1 6 10
Aurora College(1) 3 3 3 3 20 20
Nunavut Arctic College 3 3 7 8 8 14
Total 7 7 11 12 34 44
(1) It should be noted that Aurora College also offers ABE courses and services in eight additional small communities throughout the Northwest Territories on an as-requested basis. There was no information available on whether these community sites offered any ABE courses during the 2014-2015 fiscal year, and therefore they are not included in the figures in this table.
NABEP administrative data.

4.2.2 Cultural and linguistic appropriateness of materials

Adult learners, educators and college representatives were asked about the appropriateness of course materials for the cultural context of the territories, and the literacy levels of learners in the classes. Most of the learners believed that the course materials were appropriate to their cultural communities and language levels. These students said that they found the materials easy to understand. Several also said that the inclusion of traditional Inuit or First Nations practices in the classroom was a positive example of the courses' appropriateness.

All of the college representatives and educators who were interviewed said that the curriculum offered under the NABEP was culturally and linguistically sensitive to the contexts of the northern communities where the courses were offered. For example, the course materials were developed in consultation with local First Nations or Inuit leaders and band councils, and sometimes in close collaboration with them, as confirmed by the interviewees. The consultations allowed Indigenous and community leaders to identify local labour market requirements, which provided direction for the development of appropriate and relevant ABE courses for delivery in the community.

A couple of educators also noted that the coursework included elements of local culture and traditions to make the course material more accessible and relatable to learners. Another educator noted that the inclusion of Elder projects, where Elders would visit the classrooms and engage with the students in traditional activities such as storytelling circles and crafts, were an important aspect of the program and needed to be continued.

4.3 Local Uptake of Services, Including Rural and Remote Communities and Among Indigenous Adults

4.3.1 Registration and completion data

During the four years of the NABEP, more than 3,400 students have enrolled in ABE courses. Of these, 1,495 have successfully completed their ABE course(s). This means that fewer than half of adult learners successfully complete ABE courses. This percentage appears to be within the average range of completion rates typically reported for literacy programs.Footnote 28 Indigenous students make up the majority of both enrollees and completers in NABEP-funded courses, and importantly, have slightly higher success rates in completing ABE than the general population. Table 4.3 below provides a breakdown of these numbers by college.

Table 4.3: Student Enrolments and Completions, 2011-2015, by College(1)
  Students Enrolled Students Who Completed Their Course(s)
Indigenous Students Non-Indigenous Students Total Students Indigenous Students Non-Indigenous Students Total Students
Number Number Number Number and % of enrolments Number and % of enrolments Number and % of enrolments
Yukon College 520 53 573 203 (39%) 36 (68%) 239 (42%)
Aurora College(2) 1 164 821 1 985 660 (57%) 206 (25%) 866 (44%)
Nunavut Arctic College 857 12 869 387 (45%) 3 (25%) 390 (45%)
Total 2 541 886 3 427 1 250 (49%) 245 (28%) 1 495 (44%)
(1) See Table 3.4 for additional notes;
(2) Aurora College numbers should be interpreted with particular caution, as both student enrolment and student completion numbers, as well as numbers of Indigenous students within the ABE population, were reported inconsistently during the five-year period.
Source: NABEP administrative data.

A few students interviewed said that their families were very supportive, and this was helpful in making sure they were able to take their classes (for example, by offering childcare). One interviewee suggested that childcare should be offered under the NABEP, as she had noticed that many of her peers struggled to make it to class due to childcare obligations.

4.3.2 Community awareness of and interest in ABE services

Community awareness of the Program has been growing through word of mouth and local radio, although there may be room for the colleges to take on a larger role in communicating information about the NABEP to small communities. Because the adult learner interviewees were all people who had enrolled in the program (this was a qualifying criterion to be interviewed), there is an obvious sampling bias and therefore this data cannot be used to estimate exactly the level of awareness of the NABEP in these communities. Similarly, interest in ABE services cannot be estimated based on the feedback from adult learners who had taken the Program (and thus had demonstrated a high degree of interest in the Program by enrolling and completing courses). However, all of the students who were interviewed stated that the Program was a positive thing in their communities, and that they believed it would be worthwhile for more members of their community to take part in it.

Based on the interviews, the NABEP appears to provide needed access for adult learners in small communities. For example, some of the 11 interviewees said that they were unaware of any other program that would suit their needs, but a majority said that they knew of other opportunities, all of which were outside their own communities. A couple of those who were aware of other opportunities stated that they were willing to move to obtain this education, but the majority would have foregone ABE had the program not been offered locally.

Industry representatives noted that there were some other ABE and occupational training courses in the North. These courses included programs offered by the colleges that focus on providing students with a Grade 12 equivalency. Interviewees noted, however, that these ABE courses tended to be more appropriate for adult learners with higher literacy levels, and the long-term nature of the courses (based on typical four-month semesters) discouraged many adult learners from taking the courses. The short-term format of ABE and LES courses offered under the NABEP were considered more accessible to low literacy level students. Interviewees also noted that there are some training programs available through industry groups, such as the Northwest Territories Mine Training Society, but these programs do not have the enrolment numbers to be delivered as efficiently or widely as the NABEP.

4.4 Impact of the NABEP on the Quality of ABE Services

The fourth intermediate outcome reviewed in this evaluation is whether or not the NABEP has improved the quality of ABE services. To achieve this outcome, new curricula and course materials were developed in order to provide ABE instructors with training and professional development, and new student assessment tools were developed or existing student assessment tools improved.

4.4.1 Development of new curricula

Each of the three colleges providing ABE courses developed new courses during the five-year funding period. The number of new curricula, courses and materials developed varied by college and by year. See Table 4.4 below.

Table 4.4: Development of New Curricula and Materials, by College and by Fiscal Year
  2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-2014 2014-2015 Total
Yukon College 1 46 4 3 54
Aurora College 0 0 15 7 22
Nunavut Arctic College 0 26 12 30 68
Total 1 72 31 40 144
Source: NABEP administrative data.

Each college used NABEP funding to develop a substantial number of new courses and materials, and a total of 144 new courses and/or course materials were developed under the Program. Both college representatives and educators interviewed for this evaluation commented on the development of new curricula and course materials.

Representatives from all three colleges pointed out that the new courses and curricula were developed following consultations with local Indigenous governments and communities to identify educational needs in these areas. This engagement process made it possible for the communities to identify the requirements of their local labour markets, and ensured that courses tailored to the training needs of adult learners were developed and delivered to meet local labour market requirements. The college representatives also said that the course materials and curricula developed under the NABEP were of high quality, and that adult educators used them for their instructional purposes, as well as to develop teaching resources and share curricula with communities that might be interested in delivering previously developed courses in their communities. Two of the representatives said that the modularized, embedded approach to the curriculum was a great success and a selling point for the program: the short programs allowed adult learners to successfully obtain education quickly, and the embedded literacy skills allowed students to increase their literacy while acquiring skills that were relevant to jobs for which they were interested in applying.

The college representatives were able to identify labour market needs that could be addressed by developing more embedded literacy programs with further NABEP funding. These labour market and curriculum areas included tourism and eco-tourism, forestry, trades, photography and videography.

The adult educators said that the new materials were more directly applicable to on-the-job settings and local labour requirements. For example, an early childhood education course with embedded literacy skills had been developed, which was designed to meet the high demand for daycare providers in communities that had identified this as a key labour market need. They attributed the success of the NABEP in providing courses relevant to local learners to the collaboration and consultation processes undertaken with local bands and community leaders prior to developing curricula or establishing a course calendar for the year.

4.4.2 Professional development and training for ABE instructors

Administrative data were not available from the colleges regarding specific numbers of adult educators who had received professional development and training courses, or the number of these courses provided for adult educators. Interviews with the college representatives and adult educators explored the use and benefits of development and training under the NABEP.

All of the college representatives interviewed stated that adult educators had been able to receive professional development and training courses as a result of NABEP funding. All of the college representatives cited the NABEP Symposium as an example, and said that they thought the Symposium was a highly beneficial activity for both themselves and the adult educators. The Symposium gave educators and experts in the field of adult education an opportunity to share information and best and promising practices, and discuss adult education issues that are specific to the North, such as low English literacy rates and remote community populations. The representatives from two colleges also said that some adult educators had taken the Essential Skills Practitioner Certificate Program available through Douglas College. Other training and professional development opportunities mentioned by the college representatives included in-service training and workshops on a variety of topics, including cultural training for working with and teaching Indigenous learners.

Two of the college representatives said there were some areas where they would like to see more training and development opportunities available for educators. These included the following: prior learning recognition, to ensure that students were being placed appropriately in courses; greater laddering skills and connections between various curricula, to encourage students to continue with their education and achieve their Grade 12 equivalency; and training specifically addressing issues resulting from the residential school system, and strategies for teachers to use in the classroom to counteract the legacies of the system among residential school survivors and their descendants. One college representative said that there was cross-cultural sensitivity training available that touched on the issue of residential schools, but did not provide any practical or tangible strategies to use in the classroom to help overcome the stigma of the education system

A majority of the educators interviewed said that they had participated in professional development and training courses as a result of the NABEP, and found the courses to be very informative, helpful and relevant to their roles as adult basic educators in the North. All of these educators had attended the NABEP Symposium, and had found it to be a valuable opportunity to learn about best practices and share information with other adult basic educators in the North.

4.5 Summary of Findings

NABEP has resulted in a marked increase in the availability of the colleges' ABE services, particularly at Yukon College and Nunavut Arctic College. Overall, the students interviewed found that the classes were accessible in terms of scheduling, location and enrolment.

Nonetheless, overall completion rates, as a proportion of enrolments, are below 50% for both Indigenous students and the general population. This suggests that, although there are high numbers of adult learners in the North interested in ABE courses, availabilityof courses is not the only barrier they face to furthering their education. As discussed in Section 3, there are many barriers to obtaining access to ABE. An effective solution for low completion rates could be to eliminate the barriers to obtaining access to ABE, including tuition fees and lack of childcare, and to develop positive incentives to encourage completion and the pursuit of post-secondary education.

NABEP funding has allowed the three northern colleges to develop, pilot and implement a large number of new embedded literacy courses. These courses are praised because of both their responsiveness to local labour market requirements and the embedded literacy aspect of the courses that ensures that adult education remains relevant to students and their job goals. The curriculum materials developed are also highly "shareable" through the development of educator resources and the use of electronic files, thus allowing for cost savings and efficiency in the delivery of previously developed curricula in a community.

With NABEP funding, adult educators have been able to receive valuable training in various ABE-related areas. Each college provided professional development and training courses for educators in a number of ways, thus ensuring accessibility of opportunities for adult educators.

Section 5 - Achievement of Expected Outcomes / Additional Education and Employment Outcomes

This section looks at longer-term outcomes of the NABEP especially change in students' employability, participation in the workforce, or pursuit of further education.

5.1 Residents' Preparedness for Employment or Occupational Training

Perceptions of job preparedness or being able to go on to further education after attending ABE courses varied among the adult learners interviewed. For example, some students said they had mixed feelings about whether the NABEP had sufficiently prepared them for employment. Interviewed students said they believed they needed additional education before they could get the jobs they were hoping for, or that it was very difficult to find work in the fields in which they were interested.

All four educators interviewed said that they found the NABEP course materials to be helpful in improving students' employability and chances of finding a job after leaving the program. One instructor had seen two students find work in their field of instruction upon completion of the course, and another three were taking additional upgrading courses to continue on in the trade. Additionally, a couple of educators interviewed said that a major benefit of the NABEP courses was the opportunity for adult learners to experience success in the classroom, which boosted their self-confidence and their own perceptions of their ability to find a job after completing the course.

Industry representatives who were interviewed said that they hired NABEP graduates for entry-level positions. However, some industry representatives said that the skills acquired by NABEP graduates were insufficient for long-term or sustainable employment in their companies unless they took additional upgrading courses. The main challenges cited by the industry representatives in terms of sustainable employment were literacy and numeracy. One industry representative specifically mentioned critical thinking and problem-solving skills as specific challenges facing new hires, as well as a working knowledge of basic office applications, such as MS Office. However, this industry representative did say that laddering opportunities through ABE courses in the territory were helpful and allowed employees to upgrade their skills as needed through short-term modularized courses.

All of the college representatives interviewed said that the NABEP had improved students' ability to participate in the labour market. In fact, they cited follow-up surveys with students that found that a large proportion of them had found work upon completion of their courses, or they had gone on to additional upgrading or certificate courses. All of the college representatives said that the courses delivered in communities were tailored to meet labour market requirements in the communities or regions where the courses were given, and therefore students had a better chance of finding work upon completion of the program.

5.2 Residents' Participation in Employment, Occupational Training or Post-Secondary Training

Students' post-ABE education experiences varied. For example, two former NABEP students who were interviewed said they had already gone on to further education at the time of the interviews. Significantly, the students who had gone on to further education said that the NABEP had given them enough background and prepared them sufficiently for the courses and programs in which they had subsequently enrolled.

With respect to graduates' preparedness for further education, there was a range of answers from college representatives and adult educators. Two college representatives said that the low literacy levels of students can be a challenge because the short-term modular NABEP courses were insufficient to bring adult learners up to a literacy level that would enable them to complete upper-level ABE courses and continue on to post-secondary training or education. However, the college representatives did say that the NABEP was helpful in building learners' confidence and interest in school. Although some learners may not be immediately prepared for completing upper-level ABE courses or post-secondary education, the college representatives said that the Program gave students confidence to continue taking lower-level ABE courses and NABEP courses that could better prepare them for further education.

Educators were generally positive about the NABEP's ability to prepare graduates for further education and training. They had seen students continue on to further adult education and college prep courses, or continue on to take trades upgrading courses. Educators also reiterated that the program had a strong positive impact on students' self-confidence and comfort with classroom settings and adult education.

Because of the long time it takes to obtain additional certifications and education credentials, the only post-ABE credential measured and reported by the colleges was a trade certification. Other certifications and credentials, such as certificates or diplomas, were not recorded. Only five ABE graduates obtained a trade certification between 2011 and 2015 (four from Yukon College and one from Aurora College). Other students may have chosen to obtain their high school equivalency or to complete training for certificates or diplomas at the college level.

5.3 Summary of findings

ABE courses offered under the NABEP have helped prepare students for entry-level jobs in key areas of need in their local communities and workforces. Industry representatives found NABEP graduates to be prepared for entry-level positions, but that they would not be able to move up in the company without further training and education. Industry representatives also cited several areas where NABEP graduates were insufficiently prepared for the workplace.

Most stakeholders, including adult learners and college and industry representatives, agreed that completing just one ABE course was insufficient to prepare graduates for full participation in the workforce. Although there were jobs that graduates would be qualified for, these were often entry-level positions with little opportunity for advancement without further education or training. However, it should be noted that most students interviewed acknowledged their need for further education, and were planning on seeking this education in the future. The greatest benefit of NABEP courses for adult learners in terms of preparation for further education is that they provide students with a positive education experience and help them build confidence to continue their education.

Section 6 - Unintended Outcomes and Efficiency

This section covers unintended outcomes and program effectiveness and efficiency, based on the interviews with participants.

6.1 Unintended Outcomes

Most interviewees agreed that the NABEP had a number of positive effects beyond what was originally expected. One that is often cited is that, despite the colleges being funded to undertake activities separately, the funds were used to develop joint activities and products, and share curricula and best practices. The interviewees said that this had two direct outcomes:

  • Firstly, the NABEP resulted in a strengthening of the relationship between the colleges, as well as a broadening of that relationship to include other stakeholders. For example, two college representatives said that territorial government departments had shown interest in the curricula and programs developed under the NABEP, and had entered into partnership agreements with the colleges to continue providing these courses. An interviewee from one college also said that they had developed a stronger partnership with a large mining company operating in the area. The company and the college had worked together to develop three new industry-relevant courses to be given to students interested in careers in mining.
  • Secondly, the NABEP increased the efficiency and improved the quality of the services and products that the colleges provide for adult learners in their regions. For example, a majority of the interview participants had seen positive results for the students that went beyond the expected outcomes, such as increased enrolment. Also, the way in which the program was designed and delivered provided a comprehensive approach to dealing with the barriers separating adult learners from employability. Some participants noticed that NABEP learners had experienced success and had positive experiences in school that had helped to diminish or counteract the legacy of residential schools in their communities. Two interviewees said specifically that the NABEP was designed in such a way as to help students experience success and achieve positive outcomes quickly and to prevent them from getting frustrated with the course work and dropping out.

Another noteworthy outcome is the additional opportunities when taking part in a literacy and essential skills (LES) program. For example, a number of students said that their instructors helped them find a job by either telling them about a job opening or recommending them for a position. In other words, participation in a program or even a single course exposed individuals to other networks that could help them enter the labour market.

6.2 Increasing Program Effectiveness

Despite the successes and improvement mentioned above, the interview participants suggested measures and approaches to be taken to increase the program's effectiveness.

Interview participants said there should be closer relationships with the employers. For example, educators who were interviewed suggested that it would be worthwhile for courses to include extended work placements and closer partnerships with local businesses to emphasize the on-the-job aspects of learning. The third interviewee suggested that Elder projects incorporated into ABE courses in her area were very important and should be continued, and that stronger relationships should be established with Elders in each community.

A number of interviewees talked about the risk facing students if their entry into the labour force was delayed and they got trapped in ongoing training. For example, it was suggested that a laddering approach would help adult learners achieve higher levels of education rather than have them continue taking courses in different substantive areas. One college representative said that there was a need to develop laddering from ABE courses to other adult basic education courses. The representative said that NABEP courses had been very successful in attracting students to the program and getting them to complete the program because they are short, modular courses well-suited to learners' needs. In contrast, territorial ABE involved much longer courses (i.e. standard four-month terms much like other college courses). In these courses, achieving full Grade 12 equivalency could take a year or longer, depending on the student's previous learning.

Students who were interviewed stressed the importance of considering supports to be provided to promote graduation or program completion. For example, one student said that the NABEP should offer some form of daycare, because she had noticed that many of her classmates had difficulty finding childcare and therefore had difficulty staying in the course. Another student, from Nunavut, suggested that Inuktitut-speaking teachers were needed because of the low English literacy levels of many students.

6.3 Increasing Program Efficiency

The interviewees had varying perceptions of the program's efficiency. One of the more challenging aspects was the additional burden of program management. For example, two representatives of the colleges said that there were a number of individuals, including instructors and administrative staff, who ended up either devoting some of their time to NABEP activities or putting in additional hours to keep up with the work resulting from NABEP implementation. This included issues such as finding educators in remote communities, putting in extra time to coordinate and prepare for course work, and financial and other administrative work being done "off the sides of their desks." A number of educators who were interviewed said it was a highly efficient and beneficial practice to share curriculum packages among colleges and with communities throughout the three territories.

6.4 Summary of Findings

For the most part, the NABEP has had a positive impact beyond its intended outcomes. The outcome mentioned by several interviewees is the strengthened relationship between the colleges. Concrete examples of stronger relationships are the sharing of best practices and information and the development of a pan-territorial perspective on LES,Footnote 29, which, in turn, helped strengthen relationships. It is not known whether these partnerships among the colleges would have been established without the NABEP, considering that there are a number of pan-territorial initiatives where the three colleges are involved as key partners, or whether this is attributable, for example, to maturing organizations.Footnote 30 In brief, the colleges seem to have taken advantage of the NABEP eligible expenditure policy supporting partnerships between colleges and with other territorial organizations in order to increase their collaboration with one another.

Despite the time limit on the NABEP, the interviews suggest that the program has created expectations on the part of the colleges, as well as the territorial governments. This unintended outcome may be explained by the size of NABEP funding, especially in proportion to the northern colleges’ overall envelope for ABE, which provided unprecedented flexibility to address ABE deficiencies.

The work carried out to increase the relevance and effectiveness of activities and products, as well as to implement a more comprehensive approach through improved services for students, seems to have had a far reaching impact on individuals, such as increasing their self-esteem and improving their ability to network to find employment. In terms of effectiveness, better relationships with employers and coordination of the activities of funding organizations so that students benefit from a continuum of programming and support have been suggested as promising approaches for increasing program effectiveness.

Section 7 - Conclusions and Lessons Learned

  1. Program terms and conditions should continue to provide the northern colleges with flexibility to design and deliver LES and ABE activities and material.To date, the colleges have been successful in designing and delivering culturally and labour-market appropriate ABE and LES courses to adult learners. Most of this success can be attributed to the colleges having the flexibility to leverage their own expertise, local knowledge and partnerships with communities and stakeholders in order to respond to actual needs. It would be advised that any future federal funding for a similar type program support at least an equivalent level of flexibility at the college level.
  2. Examine existing or proposed mechanisms for delivering ABE/LES in the North to ensure alignment of federal programs.The main purpose of the NABEP was to increase access to pre-employment education and skills development services. Measured by communities offering ABE services before and after NABEP implementation, this goal was achieved across the territories with a 21% increase in communities reached, highest in Nunavut and the Yukon.

    There is a need for a special approach to ABE and LES activities in the North because of unique cultural, historical and environmental factors. Budget 2016 directs the federal government to "review the NABEP with a view to determining how to best support the participation of Northerners in the labour market". In this context, it is advised that existing and proposed policy instruments for the delivery of a specific Northern skills development and education program be examined in order to ensure future alignment and cover perceived gaps. These policy instruments include, broadly speaking, existing federal-territorial transfer agreements targeted to skills, training and employment, as well as the territorial funding formula. Optimizing the use of instruments for disbursement of adult basic education funding, for instance, by routing it through the territorial governments, could be explored with the aim of increasing program efficiency and reducing the colleges' burden of managing the numerous reporting requirements of programs with similar objectives, especially in a challenging logistical environment such as the North.

  3. Change the program's performance measurement method to include outcomes that are achievable during the term of the program and improve reporting mechanisms.The evidence from this evaluation suggests that it is not realistic to expect large, sustainable changes to employment rates following short periods of LES or ABE training. As the study also shows, many ABE learners expect to continue their education making this a more reasonable measure. Long term measurement may be reflected in changes to employment rates, but these outcomes should not be expected to occur within a five-year funding and evaluation cycle. Secondary sources of data, such as Statistics Canada's Program for the International Assessment for Adult Competencies and Educational Attainment, could be used to monitor longer-term changes.
  4. Improve standardization of the program data-gathering and reporting processes.The reliability of the program data was diminished by the absence of standard definitions and templates. The fact that each college used its own template for the qualitative reporting, as well as its own definitions for the indicator fields, resulted in data inconsistency. This also led to problems in assessing the overall effectiveness of the NABEP. It is recommended that standardized data-gathering procedures, including definitions and reporting tools and templates, be established and included in the terms and conditions of the funding agreements for the colleges.

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Yukon Government (n.d.). 2012/2013 Annual Plan for Yukon Territory – Labour Market Development Agreement & Labour Market Agreement. (PDF) -Department of Education.

Yukon Government (n.d.). 2001 Yukon Literacy Strategy.(PDF) - Department of education.

Appendix A – Additional Figures and Tables

Figure 1 - Proportion of the Population by Literacy Level, Canada and Territories, PIAAC 2012
Long text description for Figure 1

This is a histogram that compares the proportion of the population of the three territories and Canada whose literacy level is 2 or lower. The histogram shows that 49% of the population aged 16 to 64 does not have level 3. Level 3 is the level required to perform most reading and writing tasks in society and in the workplace. This proportion is 84% for Nunavut, 64% for the Northwest Territories, and 44% for the Yukon. The data presented are from the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. .

Educational attainment of the population aged 25 to 64, off-reserve Indigenous, non- Indigenous and total population, Canada and the territories, 2010-2013 (average in %)
  2010 2011 2012 2013
  Non-Indigenous population Off-reserve Indigenous population Total population Non-Indigenous population Off-reserve Indigenous population Total population Non-Indigenous population Off-reserve Indigenous population Total population Non-Indigenous population Off-reserve Indigenous population Total population
Less than high school 11 24 12 11 23 11 11 23 11 10 22 10
High school/Trades 38 43 38 38 43 38 37 43 37 36 43 36
PSE 51 32 50 52 33 51 53 35 52 54 35 53
Territoires du Nord-Ouest
Less than high school 7 47 25 7 41 20 8 35 19 7 36 18
High school/Trades 34 27 32 32 30 31 33 31 33 35 31 33
PSE 58 25 44 62 29 49 58 35 48 58 34 49
Less than high school 6 61 47 8 61 48 0 57 44 0 59 45
High school/Trades 25 26 26 25 23 23 25 27 27 26 28 28
PSE 69 12 27 67 17 29 71 15 29 71 13 27
Less than high school 12 42 18 8 31 12 9 25 13 10 24 13
High school/Trades 34 31 34 34 28 33 35 32 35 34 40 36
PSE 54 22 48 50 40 56 56 42 53 55 35 52
Source: Statistics Canada. Table 477-0116 - Educational attainment of the population aged 25 to 64, off-reserve Aboriginal, non-Aboriginal, and total population, Canada, provinces and territories, occasional (percent), CANSIM (database). (accessed: March 3, 2016 ).
Source of data Labour Force Survey. (Data computed by CanNor).
Table 2: Literacy and numeracy, distribution of proficiency levels, by Indigenous (off-reserve)
and non- Indigenous, population aged 16 to 64, selected provinces and the territories, 2012 (average in %
Provinces and territoires proficiency levels Non-
British Columbia Literacy Level 2 or below 46 55
Level 3 or above 55 45
Numeracy Level 2 or below 52 >66
Level 3 or above 48 34
Manitoba Literacy Level 2 or below 47 61
Level 3 or above 53 39
Numeracy Level 2 or below 53 68
Level 3 or above 47 32
Northwest Territories Literacy Level 2 or below 44 82
Level 3 or above 56 18
Numeracy Level 2 or below 51 87
Level 3 or above 49 13
Nunavut Literacy Level 2 or below 34 92
Level 3 or above 67 8
Numeracy Level 2 or below 45 95
Level 3 or above 55 5
Ontario Literacy Level 2 or below 47 52
Level 3 or above 53 48
Numeracy Level 2 or below 54 67
Level 3 or above 47 33
Saskatchewan Literacy Level 2 or below 48 70
Level 3 or above 53 30
Numeracy Level 2 or below 54 79
Level 3 or above 46 21
Yukon Literacy Level 2 or below 37 69
Level 3 or above 63 31
Numeracy Level 2 or below 48 82
Level 3 or above 52 18
Source: Statistique Canada. Table 477-0087 – Literacy and numeracy, average scores and distribution of proficiency levels, by Aboriginal (off-reserve), immigrant or minority language status, by sex, population aged 16 to 65, selected provinces and territories, occasional (number unless otherwise noted), CANSIM (database). (accessed: March 3, 2016 ).

Source of data Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2012. Data computed by CanNor.

Table 3: Literacy and numeracy, distribution of proficiency levels, by labour force status,
population aged 16 to 64, Canada and the territories, 2012 (average in %)
Proficiency levels by labour force status Canada Northwest Territories Nunavut Yukon
Literacy Numeracy Literacy Numeracy Literacy Numeracy Literacy Numeracy
Population scoring at proficiency level 2 or below 44 50 54 60 67 72 38 50
Population scoring at proficiency level 3 or above 56 50 46 40 33 28 62 50
Pourcentage de la population au niveau de compétence 2 ou à un niveau inférieur 52 62 75 87 82 90 44 65
Population scoring at proficiency level 3 or above 48 38 26 15 102 s.o. 56 46
Not in the labour force
Population scoring at proficiency level 2 or below 57 63 76 83 89 94 67 71
Population scoring at proficiency level 3 or above 44 37 32 17 6 4 40 29
Literacy and numeracy, average scores and distribution of proficiency levels, by labour force status, highest level of completed education and age group, population aged 16 to 65, Canada, provinces and territories, occasional (number unless otherwise noted), CANSIM (database). (accessed: March 3, 2016.
Source des données: Programme pour l'évaluation internationale des compétences des adultes (PEICA), 2012. Données traitées par CanNor.
Table 4: Distribution of the Total and Indigenous population aged 25 to 64,
by highest certificate, diploma or degree, Canada and the territories, 2011 (%)
Highest certificate,
diploma or degree
Canada Yukon Northwest Territories Nunavut
Total Aboriginal Identity Total Aboriginal Identity Total Aboriginal Identity Total Identité autochtone
No certificate, diploma or degree 13 29 12 29 22 40 46 59
High school diploma or equivalent; Apprenticeship or trades certificate or diploma 35 37 34 36 30 29 22 23
Post-secondary education 52 35 54 35 48 30 32 18
Total 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Source: Statistique Canada. Table 477-0096 - Distribution of the population aged 25 to 64 (total and with Aboriginal identity), by sex and highest certificate, diploma or degree, Canada, provinces and territories, occasional (percent unless otherwise noted), CANSIM (database). (accessed: March 3, 2016).
Source des données: Enquête nationale auprès des ménages, 2011 (données traitées par CanNor).
Figure 2: Number of fulltime equivalent (FTE) college students, total compared to students enrolled in ABE/LES programs, Aurora College, 2007-2015(1)

(1) CanNor estimation
Source: Aurora College annual reports.

Long text description for Figure 2

Figure 2 compares the number of students registered in regular programs with the number of students registered in Adult Basic Education Programs at Aurora College from 2007 to 2015. It shows that the number of students registered in adult education programs has been increasing since 2009–2010, in comparison with the number of students in regular programs which has been on a downward trend since 2009–2010. The data are from Aurora College annual reports.

Figure 3:

Number of college students, total compared to students enrolled in ABE/LES programs,

Nunavut Arctic College, 2007-2015(1)

(1) CanNor estimation.
Source:Nunavut Arctic College annual reports.

Because the colleges' data are not comparable due to inconsistency in the definitions of concepts, totals are not available.
Source: NABEP administrative data.

Long text description for Figure 3

Figure 3 compares the number of students registered in regular programs with that of students who were registered in basic adult education programs at Nunavut’s Arctic College from 2007 to 2015. It shows that both the number of students registered in adult education programs and the number of students in regular programs has been increasing. The data are from Nunavut Arctic College’s annual reports.

Figure 4: Number of college students, total compared to students enrolled in ABE/LES programs, Yukon College, 2007-2015 (1)

(1) CanNor estimation.
Source: Yukon College annual reports.

Long text description for Figure 4

Figure 4 compares the number of students who were registered in regular program with that of students registered in basic adult education programs at Yukon College from 2007 to 2015. It is impossible to arrive at a conclusion owing to a lack of data. The data are from Yukon College’s annual reports.

Annexe B – Definitions of Key Terms and Concepts

Adult education

Activités éducatives offertes dans un cadre structuré, non structuré ou informel, qui ciblent les adultes et visent à promouvoir l'éducation et la formation initiales, ou à s'y substituer. L'objectif visé peut être: a) d'atteindre un niveau donné d'instruction ou de qualification professionnelle; b) d'acquérir des connaissances et des compétences dans un nouveau domaine (pas nécessairement en vue d'obtenir une qualification); c) de se recycler ou de mettre à jour ses connaissances ou ses compétences (UNESCO, 2005).

Basic education

Basic education refers to a whole range of educational activities, taking place in various settings, that aim to meet basic learning needs as defined in the World Declaration on Education for All (1990). According to the International Standard Classification of Education standard, basic education comprises primary education (first stage of basic education) and lower secondary education (second stage). It also covers a wide variety of non-formal and informal public and private activities intended to meet the basic learning needs of people of all ages. (UNESCO 2005)

Literacy and essential skills

Literacy and essential skills are the skills needed for work, learning and life; are the foundation for learning all other skills; and help people evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change. Through extensive research, the Government of Canada, along with other national and international agencies, has identified and validated key literacy and essential skills. These skills are used in nearly every job and throughout daily life in different ways and at varying levels of complexity. Essential skills include the skills associated with literacy (i.e. reading, writing, document use and numeracy) but goes beyond to also include thinking skills, oral communication, computer use/digital skills, working with others and the skills associated with continuous learning. They provide the foundation for learning all other skills and enable people to better prepare for, get and keep a job, and adapt and succeed at work. (Employment and Social development – Office of Essential Skills

Literacy and numeracy proficiency

Literacy is more than decoding words or recognizing symbols. It is the ability to use written and numerical information in order to do everyday tasks at home, at work and in the community. Over the past 20 years, International surveys changed the conception of literacy from the literate/illiterate dichotomy to the new understanding of literacy as a continuum. The understanding of ‘literacy' continues to expand and evolve to include a wide variety of skills.

The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) is the latest version of those surveys, initiated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. PIAAC evolved from two previous international literacy surveys: the International Adult Literacy Survey, conducted between 1994 and 1998, and the Adult Literacy and Life skills Survey, conducted between 2002 and 2006. Essentially, those surveys conceptualize literacy, as well as numeracy and (for PIAAC) problem solving in technology-rich environments, along a continuum of proficiency from Level 1 (low literacy skills) to Level 5 (strong literacy skills). Level 1 indicates basic literacy ability in either or both of Canada's official languages. Level 2 is considered to be less than the skills needed to graduate from high school. Level 3 is the level needed for most literacy tasks in our society and in the workplace. It is the level of literacy needed to graduate from high school and enter college. Levels 4 and 5 mean that the individual is highly literate in either or both official languages. (Harwood 2012 and Statistics Canada 2013a).

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