Australian Industry Group workforce development report emphasises the importance of literacy and numeracy

A new report by the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) has identified critical skill issues facing Australian businesses, with 75% of employers reporting skill shortages and 99% impacted by low levels of literacy and numeracy.

“These significant findings from the Australian Industry Group’s 2018 Workforce Development Needs Survey Report come at a time when digital technologies are increasingly disrupting workplace environments, and when education and training is being recognised as one of the most important enablers for successful, future-focused companies,” writes the Ai Group.

“It is clear we need new approaches to education, training and re-skilling to maximise the benefits of the digital economy. This is particularly important as employers reshape workforce capabilities and seek higher level skills, advanced technical and soft skills, digital literacy and changed management know-how,” said Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox.

“Our survey has found major skills demand issues facing employers. It provides an important gauge of employer sentiment around skill needs, education and training at a critical time for industry transformation,” said Mr Willox.

The survey found that literacy and numeracy was an important pressure point affecting employers, with “99% of employers (up from 96 per cent in 2016) affected in some way by low levels of literacy and numeracy in their workforce. This is disturbing at a time when the workforce increasingly requires foundation skills that include not only literacy and numeracy but digital literacy and advanced soft skills.”

The report also says:

  • Employers continue to report that low levels of literacy and numeracy are affecting the business. The most significant effect on the business is poor completion of workplace documents and reports followed by teamwork and communication problems.
  • Employers are dissatisfied with the basic numeracy (29%) and basic literacy and use of English (22%) of school leavers.
  • Some 39% of employers indicated that their businesses were highly affected by low levels of literacy and numeracy, 32% moderately affected and 28% slightly affected (see chart below).

Access the full Ai Group report (PDF) here.

Community Colleges Australia comment

CCA CEO Dr Don Perlgut comments: “The Ai Group report confirms the importance of the role that Australia’s adult and community education providers play in teaching basic skills – literacy and numeracy – to adults. Our sector does especially well with older learners, but across the board we are the most efficient means to upgrade adult literacy and numeracy for all ages.”

Adult Learning Australia reports that, “1 in 7 Australians (14%) have very poor literacy skills and 1 in 3 (30%) Australians have literacy skills low enough to make them vulnerable to unemployment and social exclusion.”

In August 2018, CCA joined with the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Council for Adult Literacy, Adult Learning Australia and the Reading Writing Hotline to call for a new national strategy for workplace literacy and numeracy.

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