Returns to adult education

Img Adult Learning3Despite a strong case for benefits of lifelong learning as a cornerstone for growth, prosperity, and social cohesion, a large percentage of Canadian adults still do not possess the minimum level of skills needed in a knowledge-based economy. This figure has barely changed in 10 years. How can more adults be encouraged to upgrade their skills? Which types of adult education and training work best for what types of adult learners under which types of circumstances? More fundamental, how do we measure the benefits of adult learning?

These questions are at the heart of the Returns to Adult Learning Research Program, a collaboration between SRDC and the Canadian Labour Market and Skills Researcher Network (CLSRN). The program has three objectives:

  • develop and test a comprehensive theoretical, analytical, and methodological framework for understanding and measuring economic and non-economic impacts of learning;
  • use this framework to conduct empirical research and address policy relevant research questions, such as who should invest in adult learning activities, what is the relative role of governments, firms, and individuals in fostering these investments, and what are best practices for adults with low education or low skills;
  • produce an analytical framework that will support the development of future Canadian surveys.

In broader terms, the program will serve several purposes. It will estimate the performance of education and training systems in generating adult learning
opportunities and producing required competencies. It will assess the impact of these competencies on social and economic outcomes at individual and aggregated levels. Finally, it will help to clarify the policy levers that could contribute to strengthening competencies.

The project will involve a multi-disciplinary partnership and will use a number of methodologies, including environmental scans, literature reviews, framework development, and empirical analysis to estimate economic and social returns to adult learning. The research program will be informed by the latest expertise in the field and will also build capacity by engaging new researchers. Internal and academic peer review and the ongoing involvement of policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders will ensure academic excellence and policy relevance of the research.

The Returns to Adult Learning Research Program is funded by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.