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Research into workplace LLN levels reveals "disturbing" picture

05 November, 2013

New research into levels of language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) in the workplace has revealed a "disturbing" picture, Innes Willox, AiGroup chief executive has said in a recent statement.

AiGroup research showed 93 per cent of employers reported low LLN levels are impacting negatively on their businesses.

The report "Getting it Right: Foundation Skills for the Workforce" surveyed a number of companies across the manufacturing, services, construction and mining sectors and found low levels of LLN were significantly contributing to the completion of workplace documents and reports (21 per cent), time wasting (17.7 per cent) and materials wastage (11.5 per cent). 

"This did vary between the company sizes with inadequate completion of workplace documents and reports more prominent in medium (19.8 per cent) and large (18.6 per cent) companies than it was in small businesses (15 per cent)," Willox said.

"Time wasting was more keenly felt in small (17.2 per cent) and medium enterprises (16.8 per cent).  Material wastage (14.4 per cent) was also a key concern for smaller companies.

"This behaviour is supported by the recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which shows that 44 per cent of Australians aged 15 – 74 have literacy skills below Level 3 (Level 1 being the lowest) and that 55 per cent had numeracy skills below Level 3.

"While this represents a slight improvement in literacy and a slight deterioration in numeracy compared to previous results, it is clear that a major problem still exists.

"The report is the latest in continued work from Ai Group in this very important policy space.  It clearly demonstrates that the Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) program has had insufficient impact on employers with only 7 per cent reporting to have used it. 

"Instead, the most common solution to low LLN levels appears to be internal company training (30.4 per cent) and skill development support (26.7 per cent), although these both have had limited impact.

Willox concluded: "To better address this chronic problem we believe it is time to implement priority three of the National Foundation Skills Strategy — strengthen foundation skills in the workplace — in conjunction with industry. 

"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."

Read the full report