No More Excuses

no more excuses - ISC research
More than 7 million Australian adults are likely to experience difficulty with reading skills This does not mean that this number of adults  cannot read at all. It means that the reading tasks required in work or personal environments are sometimes beyond the skill level of 46% of Australian adults . People experience difficulties, or make mistakes, reading and following instructions, communicating reliably via email or interpreting graphs and charts.

Nearly 8 million Australian adults are likely to experience difficulty with numeracy skills

Again this does not mean that people cannot use numeracy skills in their lives. It means that the numeracy tasks required in work or personal environments are sometimes beyond the skill level of 53% of Australian adults . People experience difficulties, or make mistakes, calculating correct change, recording accurate measurements, checking calculations against estimates.

Statistical analysis by the Australian Productivity Commission estimates that an improvement in literacy and numeracy skills has a larger effect on workforce participation and productivity than increasing educational attainment.

The levels and types of English language and literacy required in modern Australian society have increased dramatically. Economic restructuring has placed heavy demands on skills, and on education and training programs to develop those skills. English language and literacy is fundamental to the whole of the education and training effort.

"We are living in a time of skill shortages arising from demographic and technological change and the proportion of jobs requiring vocational education and training qualifications is expected to significantly increase in the future, yet the capacity of many individuals to re-skill and up-skill is constrained by poor LLN."

Julia Gillard, Minister for Education,
Employment and Workplace Relations

Report by the Industry Skills Council
Click here to download

Around half of working age Australians have inadequate Literacy and Numeracy skills

  • This doesn't mean they cannot read, but in a technology rich environment, where text is increasingly used to convey information, their skills are insufficient to perform to the standard required.
  • increasingly this includes all layers of management - it is not a problem of simply "can't read" but an issue of not having the LLN skills to match the job requirements.

What are the causes?

  • inadequately prepared school leavers and workforce entrants
  • limited access to "language, literacy and numeracy" (LLN) expertise
  • an ageing workforce
  • increasing use of technology
  • increasing compliance requirements
  • demand for higher level skills
  • high migration levels

Approximately 53% of working age Australians have difficulty with numeracy skills; 46% of Australian adults have difficulty with reading skills, and 13% are classified in the lowest literacy category. 

  • the situation looks as if it could be getting worse, not better: the LLN performance of Australian students has, over the past decade, worsened in comparison to other OECD countries
  • access to LLN expertise at the right time in the right way remains limited, particularly in rural and regional areas.

Managers have been blinded

Employer's attitudes have contributed to much of the problem;

  1. LLN skills are required for workforce entry and should already have been addressed elsewhere (ie, at school, or by the individual)
  2. low-skilled work roles do not require LLN skills
  3. highly qualified workers do not require LLN skill development
  4. LLN deficits are individual failings that are private and potentially embarrassing for employees, the organisation should not draw attention to them
  5. it is not viable to ‘stop the workflow’ for LLN  training

Change is driving change
Industries with safety and compliance requirements have more readily seen a connection between LLN and business goals . The avoidance of workplace accidents might be the most compelling reason for attending to LLN issues, but many others are also triggering greater attention . Organisations wanting to introduce change in the workplace – new business objectives, restructuring, new technologies, systems or processes – often find that workforce LLN skills are an impediment.

Increasing requirements of regulation, accountability and proficiency in IT are putting more pressure on individuals in the workplace to develop their literacy skills. Those with low level skills are using a variety of strategies to cope including: avoiding work requiring LLN skills, relying on memory, increasing their use of technology to disguise skills deficiencies, and using colleagues and wider social networks to assist them