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A significant proportion of Canada’s youth have poor literacy and numeracy skills. This is bad news for them, for employers and for our economy. These skills still matter. Level 3 literacy, the level at which readers begin to analyze, evaluate and apply what they have read in new and different situations and to easily problem-solve, is needed to perform well in every new job that is being created. What’s more, literacy and numeracy are the core “learning to learn” skills, and more than ever, our young people will need to keep learning to keep pace with the changing world of work.
Building basic skills is the mandate of the K-12 system, but despite rising high school graduation rates, average literacy and numeracy scores of Canada’s high school aged youth are actually declining. The solution must begin here. More immediate results would be realized if the literacy and numeracy skills of the more than 80 per cent of youth who attend post-secondary education were assessed and, where necessary, boosted, upon entry to their post-secondary institutions. This would guarantee that graduates have these essential skills and would have the added benefit of ensuring students get more out of their expensive education. Finally, there is a need to embed these fundamental skills into any workplace training, including orientation training offered as new graduates begin their careers.