Increasing globalization, rapidly-changing technology and an aging baby boomer generation are all contributing to a growing skills shortage in British Columbia and elsewhere. Post-secondary education must to a large extent address this gap in providing skilled workers to meet employers’ needs. However, many British Columbians, including immigrants, require additional skills, including language ability, to enter an academic or career program at a public post-secondary institution. Developmental programs have been put in place for adults who lack qualifying skills, as well as for students in other programs who have specific learning needs or who lack certain courses as prerequisites for school or jobs. Specifically, development programs are comprised of:
- Adult Basic Education (ABE), or skills upgrading, includes career preparation courses, college/university preparation, access and career programs that enable students to qualify for vocational, career or academic programs (or jobs or leading to jobs), or which lead to a high school diploma (BC Adult Graduation Diploma), as well as courses that lead to a high school diploma (BC Adult Graduation Diploma); and
- English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, also referred to as English as an Additional Language (EAL), English Language Training (ELT), English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL), or English Language Learning (ELL), provide language instruction and information about Canadian culture, society, and the workplace to people who need higher levels of English to help them enter jobs or vocational, career/ technical, and academic programs.
The Developmental Student Outcomes (DEVSO) Survey – one of four annual BC Student Outcomes surveys conducted by BCStats, the results of all of which are available on the BC Student Outcomes website along with other products – focused on former students of the above two development programs. This report presents the full results of the 2014 survey (the last in the series), summarized below.
First, for ABE, a total of 1,394 former students responded to the 2014 survey, a response rate of 41%. Half were female, about a fifth were born outside Canada (i.e., immigrants), and close to a fifth were Indigenous. As for the reasons for taking the courses, 62% did so to prepare for further student (a decline of 15 percentage points from 2013), 22% to improve themselves (an increase of 18 points from 2013), and about 10% to complete high school or to improve their employment situation.
- Views of ABE training: Almost all (95%) said their ABE courses helped them achieve their most important goal. A majority found that their courses were helpful or very helpful in developing academic skills (math: 82%, writing: 79%, science: 78%) and so-called soft skills (independent learning: 76%, problem solving: 75%, and self-confidence: 70%). Large majorities gave a very good or good rating to the quality of teaching (89%) and to the usefulness of what they learned (85%). Almost all (95%) said they were very satisfied or satisfied with their ABE courses.
- Further education outcomes: At the time of the survey, two-thirds had participated in or completed further education or training since their ABE studies, and of these, 49% were or had enrolled in certificate/diploma programs, and 41% were pursuing a degree; almost all (93%) said they were very well or somewhat prepared by their ABE courses. About two-thirds said it was very likely they would enrol in more courses at a B.C. public post-secondary institution.
- Employment outcomes: At the time of the survey, 70% were in the labour force and 57% were employed. Of the employed, about half were working full-time and a fifth had more than one job. The median wage was $13 an hour.
Second, a total of 906 former ESL students responded to the 2014 survey, a response rate of 41%. Of these, 61% were female and 98% were immigrants (born outside Canada). Of the latter, three-quarters had previous post-secondary education and 56% had a degree from their country of origin. As for the reasons for enrolling, 37% did so to prepare for further study, a decline of 16 percentage points from 2013; 42% to use English better in daily life, up 12 points from 2013; and 13% to improve their employment situation.
- Views of ESL training: Almost all (97%) said their ESL courses helped them achieve their most important goal. A majority found that their courses were helpful or very helpful in developing literacy skills (English writing: 84%, reading: 82%, listening: 78%) and so-called soft skills (self-confidence: 79%, independent learning: 76%). Large majorities gave a very good or good rating to the quality of teaching (89%) and to the usefulness of what they learned (87%). Almost all (95%) said they were very satisfied or satisfied with their courses.
- Further education outcomes: At the time of the survey, 55% were studying or had taken further studies since their ESL courses. Of these, two-thirds (68%) were enrolled in certificate or diploma programs, and 14% were pursuing a degree. Just over half (54%) said it was very likely they would enroll in more courses at a BC public post-secondary institution.
- Employment outcomes: At the time of the survey, 72% were in the labour force and 54% employed. Of the latter, 61% were working full-time, 14% had more than one job, the median hourly wage was $13, and 92% used English at work. Of the latter, 80% said their ESL training helped them use the language.
This report will be of value to practitioners involved in upgrading and language training interventions, as well as researchers and program designers, who are interested in improving outcomes for those served by these programs, many of whom are lower-skilled and/or immigrants lacking the needed technical or language skills to enter further education or jobs.