Developing Essential Skills: Changing Contexts and Perspectives: A Workshop on Essential Skills Research

Monday April 25, 2005--Wednesday April 27, 2005

The purpose of this workshop is to enhance the quantity and quality of policy-relevant research and practice in essential skills, and plan for the effective dissemination of essential skills to a wide range of potential users. This workshop will bring together researchers and key stakeholders from across Canada for discussion, information sharing and network building. According to From Granting Council to Knowledge Council, SSHRC’s Consultation Framework on Renewing the Social Sciences and Humanities in Canada, “Researchers and students working intensively on a given topic in one part of the country are often unaware of others who are tackling very similar or complementary issues in another part of the country” (2004, p.11). This workshop will bring together a strategic group of people at an important point in their work to share relevant information and plan for future collaboration. Sharing information about ongoing research in the area of essential skills will help increase understanding of how different people acquire essential skills and the impacts of essential skills training, and ultimately provide up-to-date information for policy-makers.

Dr. Tara Fenwick is the Coordinator of the workshop assisted by Jean Walrond Patterson, Administrative Research Officer, and the Work and Learning Network for Research and Policy at the University of Alberta. The three teams responsible for planning and facilitating the workshop are: University of Alberta: Dr. Tara Fenwick, Dr. Shibao Guo. Dr. Katy Campbell; University of Saskatchewan: Dr. Adrian Blunt and Dr. Carol; University of Regina: Dr. Marion Jones and University of Calgary: Dr. John Graham.

“Essential skills” are defined as enabling skills that help people perform the tasks required by their occupation and by other activities in their daily lives. These skills provide the foundation for other, occupation specific skills. This workshop is part of a much broader Essential Skills initiative, including SSHRC two-year funding for research projects, which aims to develop more effective ways for Canadians to acquire the skills they need in the workplace and in their daily lives. A second workshop is intended for the 2005-2006 year.

Specifically, the workshop for 2004-2005 will address the following objectives of the Essential Skills program:

  • Build multidisciplinary research capacity in essential skills at a national level;
  • Encourage the recognition of essential skills in Canadian workplaces;
  • Expand networks of researchers and build partnerships with community agencies for which essential skills is an important issue;
  • Support the transfer of knowledge produced through research funded by the Essential Skills Initiative;
  • Support policy-oriented documentation of essential skills research and
  • Extend the existing objectives for essential skills to include a) an exploration of the worth of essential skills and HRD technology for the voluntary sector and b) plan for the effective dissemination of essential skills research, taking advantage of the collaborative possibilities to critique, integrate and extend research findings from the seven nationally funded projects.