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Improving Adult Literacy

Author: Workbase

Education is as important to adults as it is to children yet workplace education to improve adult literacy has not received enough attention. This has resulted in around 50 per cent of the workforce having low or very low literacy, numeracy and/or language skills.

Functional literacy is an outcome of an individual’s adult literacy levels. Low functional literacy can lead to an individual being unemployed or under-employed. Even though they can sometimes be labeled as illiterate, this term is a misnomer. Few people are truly illiterate; many of those who are labeled illiterate can actually read, write and use numbers but they struggle to do so. This affects their ability to either get jobs, or to get well paid employment. Functional literacy is very important; for example, think of the consequences if an employee fails to properly understand the health and safety instructions that their employer issues in relation to using a new piece of machinery. There are many other examples of why functional literacy is important in the workplace.

A range of steps can be put in place to reduce adult illiteracy, and to help improve the skills of those who struggle with reading, writing and numeracy. Remedial education, instructor-led training and self-enrichment are just a few solutions. All of these methods can be used to help adults learn new skills and to improve adult literacy levels within the nation’s workforce.

Benefits of Adult Literacy Programs

Adult literacy programs in the workplace will lead to many benefits for the workforce, employers and the nation’s economy:

  • Improved literacy, numeracy and reading skills will make individuals more competitive in the job market, and assist them to get higher paid jobs.
  • Improving a nation’s asult literacy level will help to improve the workforce’s skill levels, and therefore improve economic productivity.
  • All businesses are affected by literacy; whether directly or indirectly. Adult Numeracy and literacy will benefit every aspect of an employer’s workplace by improving productivity, reducing rework and wastage, and enhancing employee engagement.
  • Maintaining essential literacy and numeracy skills is a lifelong journey. Individuals can be perfectly literate in one sense (for example, have no trouble reading commonplace work related documents), yet may struggle in other areas. For example, many people struggle with technological literacy. Everyone at some point in their lives – no matter how literate they may be – can further their education with workplace learning, tertiary education, distance learning, and improving their skills and knowledge while thorough work-based training and courses.
  • Literacy training is not just about reading and writing; it also involves learning new skills. It can also involve other types of literacy, such as financial literacy, technological literacy, language skills, effective communication, etc.
  • Employees who participate in adult learning courses typically find it benefits their current career, boosts their confidence levels, and provides them with the skills that also assist in their personal lives (e.g. improved literacy skills often leads to parents being better able to assist their children with homework).

Adult education has many benefits, particularly education in the workplace. This is because it enables people to immediately put their newfound skills to practical use.

Government funded adult literacy programmes are available to employers. Although many individuals and organizations offer adult literacy skills services, best results will be gained by engaging an organisation that specializes in improving adult literacy in the workplace.

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