[lg policy] New Zealand: Workplace literacy policy 'a step in the right direction'
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Tue Nov 22 15:08:18 UTC 2011
Workplace literacy policy 'a step in the right direction'
Voxy News Engine
Tuesday, 22 November, 2011 - 14:29
The Government's announcement that it will "provide a big push to
improve workplace literacy and numeracy" is a step in the right
direction but more specifics are needed, according to business and
adult literacy support leaders. Katherine Percy - Chief Executive of
adult literacy, numeracy and communication support provider, Workbase
- welcomes the policy but says she will be watching closely to see
what happens if National is re-elected because the Government has
significantly reduced workplace literacy training funding during the
Ms Percy and BusinessNZ's Chief Executive Phil O'Reilly say they both
hope the Government listens closely to the business community's strong
message about its desire for a workforce with better literacy,
language and numeracy skills. More than 86% of around 1000 business
participants in the recent Deloitte Business NZ Election Survey said
that improving workforce literacy, language and numeracy skills should
be a Government priority. Yet there is neither a plan, nor sufficient
resources to enhance workforce literacy skill development.
Ms Percy says businesses recognise the importance of good workforce
literacy skills yet nearly 70% of those surveyed believe school
leavers are not well prepared to be effective in the workforce, and
only 33% think university and polytechnic graduates are sufficiently
prepared to be effective in the workplace.
"If New Zealand is to achieve its growth targets, then our workforce
needs higher level skills, she says, "and people therefore need to be
provided with relevant literacy, language and numeracy skills for the
training and qualifications they are studying towards."
Workbase is New Zealand's most experienced service provider of
literacy, numeracy and communication support for adults. Our practical
solutions help organisations and individuals work smarter, safer and
Most New Zealand adults can read, write and use numbers. Yet 42% lack
the essential skills for example to understand: banking paperwork,
medical instructions and work-related instructions. Further developing
adult literacy and numeracy skills is vital to enabling New Zealand to
better compete in a knowledge economy.
"It's crucial for companies, especially exporters, to have access to a
pool of talented people with a strong grasp of the basics."
Ms Percy says the Government needs a workforce skill development plan
that provides a strategy for ensuring people about to enter the
workforce - and current employees - have sufficient literacy skills to
help New Zealand achieve economic growth.
"Steps need to be put in place to ensure the tertiary and vocational
training sectors can build the practical and functional literacy
skills needed for work and qualifications.
"This will require developing teachers' skills so they can build
literacy and numeracy into vocational courses."
Ms Percy says the necessary changes to the tertiary and vocational
training sectors can only be achieved if an over-arching Government
plan is in place.
Mr O'Reilly added that the Government must provide direction and
sufficient resources to support employers and the tertiary sector to
build the workforce's literacy capability.
"It has been suggested that employers can do more to build employees'
literacy skills themselves, yet workplace literacy funding support has
been cut and few employers know where to begin when developing their
Mr O'Reilly notes that employers recognise the importance of people
development and will train their staff, but more can be done to
support employers to address the barriers they face: "Employers are
willing to partner and co-invest with Government to provide practical,
business focused training that delivers benefits to employers and
Phil O' Reilly agrees, saying the shortage in basic literacy, language
and numeracy skills in New Zealand's workforce is holding back growth
and constraining productivity.
Ms Percy says that improving the workforce's literacy skills will
enable the Government to get better value for its investment in
tertiary, vocational and workplace skills. At a business level, it
will foster operational improvements, enhance profitability and
"Although most New Zealand adults can read, write and use numbers,
around half lack all of the skills necessary to do their jobs well
and, for example, have difficulty interpreting printouts or complying
with process requirements. Ironically the employed comprise the
biggest group of people who need better literacy and numeracy skills,"
"The Government must plan for and resource workforce literacy,
language and numeracy skill development if it is truly serious about
boosting New Zealand's economic growth."
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