A new northern network is becoming a force to be reckoned with.
In October 2012, the NWT Literacy Council, the Nunavut Literacy Council and the Yukon Literacy Coalition hosted the successful symposium on skill development, Made in the North. We wanted to focus on literacy and skill development issues specific to the north.
We brought together 140 people with an interest in skill development: adult educators, college instructors, training organizations, ASETS holders (Aboriginal Skills and Training), community members, language leaders, labour, business and industry.
People heard about some of the amazing transformative programs that are happening in the north. At the end of the symposium, participants said loudly and clearly that they wanted to establish a northern network. This network would continue to bring these groups together and would gather and share information about skill development.
Last year, the three territorial literacy coalitions signed a memorandum of agreement, and the Northern Alliance for Literacy and Essential Skills (NALES) was born. Each literacy council is still an independent body, with its own projects, but we realized the power of numbers and the potential for working together on projects of mutual interest. So where are we?
Our goal is to improve labour market outcomes for northern communities. To do that, we need to strengthen the development of literacy and essential skills through
- research and knowledge sharing
- resource development and/or gathering and sharing local community-based innovation
- the network of individuals and groups across the north interested in skill development
But we’re still in our infancy.
We just completed a research project led by the Yukon Literacy Coalition to assess the interest in workplace learning in the Yukon. We have two other exciting NALES projects happening.
The first is a research project that the Nunavut Literacy Council leads. It is looking into men’s engagement in learning and the labour market. Each region has hired and trained community-based researchers in two communities. These researchers, with assistance from an academic researcher, conducted in-depth interviews in their community with men in and out of the workforce and are now doing broader community surveys.
The second project is a youth literacy project that the NWT Literacy Council leads. We are looking at how to re-engage youth who have dropped out of school and may not have much interest in returning to a formal learning situation. We have pilot projects in each region, run by community groups. The projects range from traditional sewing projects to bicycle repair, to documenting a boat restoration project, to hockey to building picnic tables.
Working collaboratively is not easy – you have to build strong relationships and that takes time. However, we have a history of working together, and our projects show great success. We’re now actively looking for funding to support the network. You’ll hear a lot more about us in the years to come.
To find out a bit more about NALES, go to our website www.nales.ca.
-- Helen Balanoff