Time for action on workplace literacy

The recently released employer survey report, Skilling: A National Imperative, highlighted the continuing concerns employers have about workplace literacy and numeracy. Overall 99 per cent of surveyed employers reported that their business was affected by low levels of literacy and numeracy and 39 per cent were highly affected. This represents an increase on the last Workforce Development Needs Survey in 2016 when 96 per cent of employers reported their business was affected.

Given this latest result, it is timely to recall the research completed by the Australian Industry Group that quantified the extent of the positive return on investment from language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) programs in workplaces. On top of the broader economic argument, the business case is clear with the research showing returns on investment of between 102 and 163 per cent.

This report, Investing in Workforce Literacy Pays, proves the value and link between investment in LLN and increased productivity and profitability. Ai Group engaged the expertise of the Australian Council for Educational Research to assist in this important research project.

The message for employers from this new research is unambiguous – making an effort at the workplace to lift language, literacy and numeracy skills pays off on the bottom line and makes a valuable contribution to individuals and the community.

One illustration in the report is the South Australian company Intercast & Forge, which manufactures cast iron products for railway, automotive, mining and earth moving and construction industries. This is a workplace that requires extensive Workplace Health and Safety protocols and exact compliance with procedures. As a result of its program, including customised LLN training for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) employees, Intercast & Forge has seen a return on investment of 163%. The implementation of the LLN program reduced the frequency of workplace errors leading to considerable savings in lost time for supervisors and workers.

Such results are extremely encouraging and while impressive they no doubt underestimate the benefits that accrue to companies. While the cost of training is a point-in-time expense, the benefits of the training are ongoing.

There are many reasons why it is important to invest in workplace LLN. The benefits for individual workers, both tangible and intangible, have been known for some time. The results in this report highlight the business case for employers to invest in LLN training – it makes good business sense. Given the continuing and increasing employer concern about this issue, Ai Group urges employers to consider LLN training as a key plank of workforce development and as a direct contributor to workplace productivity.

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Michael Taylor is Ai Group’s National Policy and Projects Manager, Education and Training. He is responsible for a number of national projects across workplace literacy and numeracy, skills, and the management of a mature age workforce. Michael also contributes to policy formulation across a wide spectrum of education, training and skills.

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1 Comment

  1. Cameron Baker

    Vale Michael, you’ll be missed mate.


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