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The importance of raising foundation skills

Published: Wed 27 Nov 2002 09:02 AM
The importance of raising foundation skills
Comments at the launch of the E-learning Literacy pilot. Skills Update Training Institute, Mangere.
Introduction
Welcome, everyone, to the launch of the E-learning Literacy pilot.
You will be aware that the passing of the Tertiary Education Reform Bill and the establishment of the Tertiary Education Commission was delayed by the early election in July. A great deal has been happening since then, and we are making steady progress toward implementation of the tertiary reforms. I know that many of you here contributed to the consultation process around the reforms, and I thank you for your input.
The enactment of the Tertiary Education Reform Bill is imminent - it is expected that the Bill will complete its third reading before Christmas. This will complete the first stage of the reforms, and implementation will follow.
E-Learning Pilot
One important strategy in the Tertiary Education Strategy is to raise the foundation skills of our people. Another is to enhance collaborations and partnerships. This pilot contributes to both these goals. The partnership between Government (through Skill New Zealand), two Training Education Organisations, and Oracle is a prime example of what the Strategy wants to achieve.
Skill New Zealand currently contracts with Future Skills to deliver Training Opportunities and Youth Training in a number of areas, including electronics, computing and telecommunications.
Concerns about the current level of literacy among New Zealanders led to a collaboration between Future Skills and Skill Update Training Institute to produce ‘LAMP’, a literacy and maths programme, using the computer as the delivery medium.
Oracle has been closely involved in this project (as well as that other special project underway in the Hauraki Gulf) through its development of an enterprise Learning Management System called Oracle iLearning. The assessment packages, used by Future Skills, use this software, which facilitates the delivery and management of learning over the internet.
The E-learning programme puts training into a practical context with over 60 literacy related topics that can be applied to everyday life, from Reporting Skills to Problem Solving, from Taking Messages to GST.
Such practical training is vital in order to transfer skills from the computer face to the workforce and everyday life.
Situation in New Zealand
The International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) conducted in 1996, revealed that we have a high number of people whose choices in life and work are severely restricted by poor literacy. The relationship between unemployment, lower pay rates when in work, poor health, and poor literacy is indisputable.
The consequences of a lack of foundation skills are far reaching. Adequate foundation skills provide the base upon which further, higher-level generic and specialist skills can be developed. Without foundation skills people struggle to continue learning. They struggle to keep up to date with technological advances. They struggle to adapt to workplace change throughout their lives. They also struggle to support their children’s learning.
Without a doubt, this problem is critical. We need to take effective action if we want a satisfied and happy people, and successful Knowledge Society.
Benefits of a solid base of Foundation Skills
Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of employing people who have solid foundation skills. From the board room to the shop floor, literacy and numeracy skills are vital.
People who demonstrate solid foundation skills are more attractive to employ. They maximise job growth and contribute returns to their employers and their company.
They are also more likely to have the confidence to give more to their community, and get more in return.
And, ultimately, they contribute to the building of New Zealand’s Knowledge Society.
What are we doing about it?
So, yes, without a doubt, we need to improve the foundation skills of our people. And yes, doing so will have positive effects on every aspect of a person’s life. So, what are we doing to meet this need?
Government has made a commitment to improving adult literacy. In this year’s budget we have allocated an additional $8 million over the next four years to further implement the Adult Literacy Strategy.
The funding will provide a greater investment in workplace literacy, whänau literacy projects, family literacy projects for Pacific communities and other groups, and refugee and new migrants literacy, and will resource improvements in the quality, skills and knowledge of the tutors and providers responsible for the development of literacy programmes.
For the first time in many years the Ministry has a person dedicated to work within Adult and community Education. This reflects Government’s commitment to its vision of a revitalised Adult and Community Education sector and will facilitate co-ordination between providers within the sector and within the tertiary education sector as a whole.
Why choose E-Learning to develop Foundation Skills?
Not everyone learns in the same way. The traditional classroom setting works just fine for some people. For others, it doesn’t work quite so well. So, if we want everyone to have the opportunity to develop foundation skills we have to be responsive and provide alternative learning arrangements. E-learning is one of those alternative arrangements.
Future Skills have identified a number of advantages of using this form of learning over the traditional classroom setting: Accessibility to the learning resources (the beauty of the internet!), personalised and self-paced learning and an interactive and user-friendly training tool.
While this programme was initially designed for Training Opportunities and Youth Training learners, it has the potential to be used more widely, for example it could be made available to remote learners and in workplaces.
Conclusion
The partnership between Future Skills, Skills Update, Skill New Zealand and Oracle is reflective of the type of collaboration we are seeking to achieve, and it is so pleasing to see the results that can be achieved when organisations, with common goals, combine their different areas of expertise.
Future Skills, Skills Update, Oracle, Skill New Zealand, congratulations on your hard work and achievements with this pilot.

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