Literacy Courses Helping Workplace in New Zealand

About two-thirds of managersin New Zealand found courses improved employees' literacy, numeracy and increased their understanding of health and safety issues, and subsequent compliance with requirements around them. (WCxKit)
This result came out of an evaluation report for the Department of Labor's Upskilling Partnership Programme showing overall mixed results.
The program ran from 2006 to 2009 with the goal of helping working-age adults without the language, literacy, and numeracy (LLN) skills necessary for sustained employment. It was developed to increase the engagement of employers in workplace literacy programs.
Evaluation of the program found no conclusive quantitative evidence the courses improved participants' reading and writing skills, although apparently this wasn't entirely surprising as similar international schemes found the same results.
Tests apart, the participants themselves felt their LLN skills had improved. Their managers and supervisors also reported improvements in the participants' performance at work, including increased personal confidence and improved communications, teamwork, attitudes towards work, understanding and compliance with health and safety, and completion of paperwork. Productivity improvements tended to be on the small side, with reports of "some" rather than "a lot" of impact.
Twelve comments from participants related to a greater understanding and application of policies and procedures, especially around health and safety. They reported improved abilities in dealing with chemicals, writing memos and an increased awareness of why operating procedures were in place.
According to the report, employers discovered that the need for LLN courses was much greater than they had expected, and many planned to continue with LLN initiatives in their workplaces.
The evaluation found that workplace LLN programs were generally viable in New Zealand, across a range of industries and companies. But challenges included obtaining key stakeholder commitment, locating quality tutors, overcoming the stigma around having poor LLN skills in the selection processes, fitting course logistics around the demands of workplaces, and transferring the new skills to jobs.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce recently commented that more than a million New Zealand adults were held back because they lacked essential literacy and numeracy skills. At a symposium for adult educators he said it was a Government priority to improve New Zealand's record in this area. (WCxKit)
Joyce said opportunities for adults to learn skills while in the workplace were vital to improvements and noted these improvements, in turn, led to other gains like staff retention, product quality and health and safety.

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing.  Contact:

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