Poor literacy skills, or functional illiteracy, is a growing concern in Canada’s workforce. Low literacy in the trades is a big part of that, with 1 in 6 Canadians working in the skilled trades.
Functional illiteracy means your reading skills do not meet the demands of your job. This category includes adults who read at a fifth-grade level or less.
They may be able to read most words in their everyday life, but they don’t always know what they mean.
A report by the Canada West Foundation in 2018 wrote that 40% of Canada’s workforce does not have the literacy to learn efficiently.
That statistic is troubling if you’re a boss in the trades.
Why the Trend Continues
So why is there low literacy in the trades?
Canada’s trades workers tend to be older, the average worker is 47 years old. And standards for working on the job have changed over the years. In the past, working in the trades required less reading than other careers.
And like anything else, if you don’t practice, your skills get worse.
For years, there have also been negative views of jobs in the trades as “less desirable”, and not paying well. And that they were easier for people lacking ‘book smarts.’ Because of this, students with better grades avoided going into the trades.
Poverty is another factor.
Low-income families don’t receive the same educational chances as everyone else. Many kids have to drop out of school to help pay the bills. As a result, many less educated people ended up in construction jobs and other trades work.
And let’s face it; university isn’t for everyone. It takes time and money to earn a degree, not to mention the grades to get in.
Many people with poor reading skills also feel a lot of shame.
Most functionally illiterate trades workers today hide it well, and many feel embarrassed. This may be why people don’t get help.
Do Trades People Need to Read?
A lot of jobs in the trades used to only require hands-on training for hands-on work. But times are changing.
Literacy is more than just reading. Literacy is about good communication. Knowing what a WHMIS data sheet says is essential.
So is understanding what a customer said in an email, and being able to share that information with other staff and to get the job done.
As a business owner, you need your staff to be consistent. However, following written procedures can be really hard for people lacking literacy skills.
Why Literacy Matters in the Trades
Literacy helps with job training, and preventing accidents on the job.
Poor literacy can affect decision-making. Bad judgement is usually a result of misunderstandings or a lack of information.
Research also shows that people with higher literacy have better physical and mental health, making them more prepared to do well on the job.
Remember, literacy is a skill that can be improved with practice. More than just improving a workers reading level, improved literacy helps builds ‘fluid intelligence,’ for better problem-solving skills.
Adding Structure Helps Employees and Businesses
Some of your best employees may need extra coaching to learn new work procedures, and that’s okay.
Tradesflow software easily guides employees from task to task, in an easy to use and understand platform.
Everyone on your team can get the benefits of using a computer to help manage their work day, without the stress of learning complicated computer programs.
Digital Literacy Is Also Important
People who are uncomfortable using computers may be considered illiterate in some circles. But today’s customers expect you to be online. And showing up with a tablet or computer presents a professional image to customers.
Digital literacy (using computers and software) is critical for businesses today, even in the trades. Software helps businesses operate smoothly, and get paid properly.
Today’s older workers often don’t like using digital tools. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Digital Literacy is another skill that can be learned.
How Can Tradesflow Software Help Trade Workers?
Tradesflow software keeps tradespeople organised. And it’s super easy to use!
If you hate paperwork, you’ll love Tradesflow. It’s quick for anyone to learn, and you can access it online wherever you go.
Everything you need appears on your tablet or smartphone in one place. You get customer information, property notes, billing info, and more. No more scrambling between phone apps, scribbled notes, paper stacks, and white boards.
Tradesflow builds confidence in communication and digital literacy for your whole team.
Contact Tradesflow today to learn more.