The Industry Skills Council released a report in April entitled NO MORE EXCUSES, An Industry Response to the Language, Literacy and Numeracy Challenge. This report covers the literacy and numeracy skills of Australian workers across the country. It was found that 2 million Australians of working age are classified in the lowest literacy category. More than 7 million Australian adults are likely to experience difficulty with reading skills and nearly 8 million Australian adults are likely to experience difficulties with numeracy skills.
On their DVD entitled ‘Literacy is Everyone’s Business’ The Community Services & Health Industry Skills Council discusses a recent survey that shows that most Australians have language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) difficulties. This DVD quotes that 46% of working age Australians have difficulties with reading skills, 53% have difficulties with numeracy. That is approximately half of all working age Australians struggling with LLN issues. These figures are complicated by the fact that 1 in every 4 Australians come from another country with non-English speaking backgrounds (National Ethnic Disability Alliance estimate). Naturally these statistics show an amazing gap in the LLN problems in the workplace. These difficulties produce insecurities in staff and can lead to lower productivity and high staff turnover.
The DVD highlights this with an example of an organisation that introduced a LLN program and achieved a 40% decrease in staff turnover and a $150,000 increase in savings. This lead to staff being happier and more motivated. Another trial used the Australian Core Skills (ACS) framework for writing, oral communication, numeracy and reading to assess the LLN training on various participants. This trial showed a 38% increase in communication core skills and a 64% increase in learning core skills after completing the ACS framework. These new skills have the flow on effect of staff being more skilled at passing on information to their fellow workers. This would substantially decrease the need for “on the job” training time and increase an organisations talent pool. Better communication can also create a safer working environment.
I personally work in the Transport and Logistics training sector. Academy of Workplace Learning provides traineeships to people living with a disability. The figures reported by the Industry Skills Council for able bodied workers are staggering. At a first glance they look comparable to the figures in the disability sector. Unfortunately LLN issues are a hidden problem in disabilities as much as the able bodied community. Our training participants are mature aged workers who have learnt over the years to compensate for their poor LLN skills. The basis of our Transport and Logistics training is built upon the fundamentals of workplace documentation. As we progress into the traineeships, much of the practical work is based on understanding and completing documents including invoices, delivery dockets and job cards. This is when the LLN issues of individuals are revealed .
We have learnt how to coach people through their LLN issues and we have appointed peer supports in classrooms. This has been very successful as we have been able to assist 250 trainees complete their certificates. People who began our training can be very nervous and insecure, but soon learn that they would be supported and assisted in developing their LLN skills. Over the 1 ½ to 2-year traineeships, our students have gained the confidence to be able function at a reasonable level of LLN skills with many outgrowing the need for peer support upon completion of the traineeships. Some of these people have since become confident enough to enter open employment and large majority of these trainees have progressed in their careers.