The provincial government will restore funding to a provincial literacy organization with a $1-million grant to Decoda Literacy Solutions.
Before the $1-million government grant was announced on March 25, 55 out of 102 community literacy task groups — including factions in Victoria, Saanich and Nanaimo — were geared for closure unless alternative funding was secured.
“Initially, the government gave us $1 million in December,” says Leona Gadsby, lead director of programs and services at Decoda Literacy Solutions. “We were hoping to get this other million in early or mid-February, but we understood that it was going to be unlikely.”
Decoda Literacy Solutions is B.C.’s non-profit provincial literacy organization. It provides literacy and professional skills workshops and resources. The organization works with literacy providers, educational institutions and social and health services to identify and achieve literacy goals for the province. Decoda Literacy Solutions formed in 2011 when 2010 Legacies Now and Literacy B.C. amalgamated.
“Government continued to work hard to find the extra million dollars, and the minister of education has been successful at doing that,” says Gadsby, “so we’ve been able to reinstate the funding to all the communities.”
In February, when it seemed unlikely that the government would provide further funding, Decoda announced to its 102 task groups that there would no longer be funding for half of the community-based organizations across the province. The 2012/2013 provincial budget cut government funding to Decoda Literacy Solutions from $2.5 million to $1 million. The organization was able to stay afloat this past year using reserve funding from the 2010 Legacies Now department, which has since been exhausted.
“I believe strongly in the work they are doing, and I’m very pleased that we were able to provide this grant so that Decoda can continue its important literacy outreach programs in every region of the province,” said Minister of Education Don McRae in a press release.
Decoda receives annual community plans from the task forces across B.C. that outline the needs for literacy programs and supports specific to their area.
“I think that having these task groups in all these communities — having a local, on-the-ground approach to literacy development — is really important,” says Gadsby. “People who provide services in communities have a very strong sense of what’s needed, and we think it’s very important for people who work in the community to work together to make sure that everyone has the literacy skills that are needed in this day and age. That is critically important to the economy of British Columbia.”
The International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey in 2003 found that around 40 per cent of B.C. adults did not meet minimum literacy levels required to participate and succeed in society.
“Recently, the thing that keeps coming up the most [in reports from task groups] is adult literacy,” says Gadsby, “and the need to make sure that adults have the basic and essential skills that they need to enter the workforce, move up in their work and be productive in their work.”
The need for skilled workers will expand as an increasing number of jobs become vacant — the 2010–2020 B.C. Labour Profile predicts that 18 800 jobs will open by 2020. Decoda and its network of literacy providers offer programs to build reading, writing, oral communication, mathematical and computer skills for adults to more easily access careers and further employment training or education.
“Right now, British Columbia is facing quite a looming labour and skills shortage, and literacy plays a strong role in making sure that adults in the province are able to participate in the work of the province,” says Gadsby.