Ontario's Community Literacy Agencies :
Ontario’s community literacy agencies delivered quality instruction to almost 16,000 adult students in 2005-2006. And just who are those 16,000 people? The numbers reveal that 54% of them are women, and almost half of the total number are between the ages of 25 and 44. Just over 60% are learning at Levels 1 and 2. Together, these 16,000 people logged in almost 1.4 million learning hours!
Learner goals include employment (42%), further training (37%) and independence (20%). Adult literacy students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but their two most common sources of income are Ontario Works (29%) and employment (26%).
A total of 7,429 learners exited community literacy agencies in 2005-2006. Of those, 40% were employed at the time of exit while another 21% went on to further education and training.
It is easily apparent that adult students in Ontario’s community literacy agencies are achieving successful outcomes from their programming!
“Even if you can’t work or you think you can’t learn, you might surprise yourself. Give it a try. It’s important to keep your mind busy, and the literacy program is a great place to do that. It has made a big difference in my life and I’m glad it’s there for me.” (An adult student)
We have long known that volunteers are an extremely important part of the success of Ontario’s community literacy agencies, and the statistics bear this out.
According to the IMS database, an average of 4,088 people volunteered in Ontario’s community literacy agencies in 2005/2006.
During this same period, Ontario literacy volunteers contributed 258,450 hours of their time! This includes both time spent tutoring learners (162,102 hours or 63% of all volunteer time), time spent on information, referral and follow-up (11,801 or 4% of all volunteer time) and time devoted to serving on boards and committees, fundraising or performing other administrative duties (84,547 hours or 33% of all volunteer time).
Most volunteers come to agencies already highly skilled from their past employment and educational experience. As well, literacy agencies spend many hours training their volunteers to ensure that they have the skills they need to tutor students or provide other supports.
Literacy volunteers in Ontario report a high level of satisfaction with their work. It is good news indeed that 75% of literacy volunteers were “very satisfied” and 24% were “somewhat satisfied” with their experience. The single most important reason for volunteering expressed by literacy volunteers is to help others help themselves.
“So much hinges on the ability to read – self-respect, access to information or simply the enjoyment of the beauty of our written language. To help someone to achieve any of these is rewarding indeed.” (A literacy volunteer)
Most community literacy agencies are small programs that operate with limited numbers of paid staff. In fact, the average community literacy agency in Ontario has only 2.4 full-time equivalent paid positions but has an average of 52 volunteers!
Staff are highly committed, well-educated and experienced. CLO research has found that 63% of staff have over four years experience and over 25% have been working in literacy for more than 10 years. A large percentage of staff have some form post-secondary education and extensive experience from prior employment.
Agency staff are dedicated to the students in their programs. In addition to using their skills to help learners move forward, they also advocate for learners in their communities and to various levels of government.
"Our wings have come from our desire and ability to be dynamic, responsive and flexible to our learners and communities. Standing still was never a choice". (A staff person)
Sources: All statistics are from MTCU’s “Information Management System”, CLO’s “The Economic Value of Volunteers” research report, CLO’s “Skills for the Future, Phase One Report” or CLO’s “Program Survey, March 2003”.