Literacy and numeracy not up to scratch

The latest statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) paint a concerning state of the nation’s literacy and numeracy skills.

New ABS data found 55 per cent of people (aged 15-74) have below level 3 numeracy skills, and 44 per cent have below level 3 literacy. Level 3 or above for literacy and numeracy represents relatively advanced skills.

The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) commented that the data has concerning productivity impacts on business. Ai Group CEO Innes Willox said that while the statistics have improved slightly on previous years, it is clear that a major problem still exists.

Ai Group’s own research into levels of language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) in the workplace found 93% of employers it surveyed reported that poor LLN is impacting negatively on their business.

Willox added that the results of its research, compiled in the report Getting it Right: Foundation Skills for the Workforce, show the Federal Government’s Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) program is failing – just 7% of those surveyed reported having used the system.

“The main aim of the Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) Program is to assist organisations to train workers in English language, literacy and numeracy skills,” the program site states.

According to statistics published in the Ai Group group report, key problems associated with low levels of LLN across manufacturing, services, construction and mining, include:

  • Delays in the completion of workplace documents and reports (21%)
  • Time wasting (17.7%)
  • Materials wastage (11.5%)

The results varied significantly across company sizes, with inadequate completion of workplace documents and reports more prominent in medium and large companies than it was in small businesses.

Notably, time wasting and material wastage was more keenly felt in small and medium enterprises, than large enterprises.

Willox believes that to counteract the problem, so-called ‘foundation skills’ in the workplace need to be strengthened.

“As part of a national public awareness campaign this should also include the new Foundational Skills Training Package and strengthening the WELL program broker service. The Australian economy urgently needs to lift productivity and we cannot do this without increasingly higher levels of the workforce foundation skills,” Willox said.

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