If at First You Don’t Succeed: Toward an Adult Education and Training Strategy for Canada

This study published by the Institute for Research on Public Policy reviews the landscape of formal adult learning in Canada. The authors examine the population of adult learners who might benefit from additional education or training and provide an analysis of those benefits and how they might change with age.

The authors note that “Canada does not suffer from a gross undersupply of education and training opportunities for adult learners.” However, there are a large proportion of Canadina workers who could benefit from improved access to learning later in life, especially among the 1 in 7 working-age adults who report having insufficient qualifications for their current job, and the 1 in 5 who lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. The authors examine why, if there are such benefits from life-long learning, the proportion of Canadians who take advantage of adult education opportunities are so heavily weighted towards younger and/or higher-skilled individuals–a differential that is among the highest in the OECD.

The authors argue that the solution to this dilemma requires an ambitious pan-Canadian adult education and training strategy which includes three key reforms:

  1. Improving labour market information and research to better understand the unique needs of adults, including the development of a permanent adult education and training survey;
  2. Developing a comprehensive, income-contingent loans system targeting older adults; and
  3. Overhauling provincial apprenticeship systems to make the learning process and the capacity of training institutions more similar to those in the post-secondary education system

This report will be of interest to practitioners, researchers and policy makers who wish to gain further insight into the challenges and opportunities faced by Canadian adult learners.