Your role as a trainer is to assist learners to adapt their skills to suit new environments, training and the workplace.
All workplaces have LLN requirements. Filling in workplace documents, talking with workmates about the job to be done, listening to instructions from a supervisor or reading information from material data sheets and calculating amounts are all examples of the types of writing, speaking and listening, reading and numeracy that are part of a job.
To function effectively, all workers must have some way to deal with these requirements. Sometimes they need help to do so. There are three basic options for addressing the literacy requirements of the workplace:
Option 1 – make adjustments to workplace processes and systems
Make changes to work systems and processes so that workers can cope with them without requiring additional literacy skills – this might be by using visual approaches in training, providing interpreted Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) materials, simplifying safety and quality assurance processes, relying on teamwork, using different work tools/processes, increasing supervision and supervisory responsibility. Sometimes a problem occurs in the workplace where information is hard to read. It is important that the writers of key workplace documents make documents as accessible as possible.
Implementing Option 1
When workers struggle with the literacy demands of the workplace, companies often compensate by making team leaders and supervisors responsible for all important literacy tasks or they translate key information into other languages.
Supervisor-level positions are often made more complex because it is the team leader’s responsibility to complete all safety and hazard incident reports and quality records; and explain or translate instructions to team members.
Increasing demands on the team leader can make the role very stressful. There are risks that if the team leader is away the replacement may not have sufficient skills of knowledge of the literacy tasks. Inaccurately translated materials can also cause misunderstandings.
In some workplaces the demand for literacy skills at lower levels has been removed by technology or changes in processes. When this happens, all team members are not able to gradually build up their literacy skills in preparation for the higher demands of a leadership role.
Trainees attempting frontline management training often need considerable support during training, and can take quite a long time to build their confidence in the literacy–related components of the job and the training. They may also struggle with badly written or complex workplace documents or correspondence.
And so, while this option may have avoided literacy skill development for one section of the workforce, the result is that team-leaders or supervisors require higher levels of skill, and often more training.
Implications of Option 1
- Increased responsibility and literacy skill for supervisors
- Literacy skill gap between supervisors and lower level employees forms a barrier to career progression
- In-house trainees for frontline management positions will need considerable literacy support
- Managers need to take responsibility for their documents and write in plain English
Option 2 – develop workers language, literacy and numeracy skills
Assist workers to develop the literacy skills necessary to deal with workplace requirements – by linking skill development to workplace contexts and accountability/responsibility and providing a safe training environment. People learn best when the content is linked to their immediate environment. By providing targeted on-the-job support workers get a sense of ‘what all the reading and writing’ is about.
Implementing Option 2
If literacy skills are to be developed for use in the workplace, then they are best developed in context alongside other vocational skills.
When workers see the purpose for the reading and writing or communication skills or if they can see that by using certain measurement or calculation skills it will make their job easier, then they are more likely to participate in training to develop new skills.
It is likely that a percentage of workers will need support through any training program. It is important that they are given assistance to grasp and then practise new concepts. In order to know where to offer support it is important to develop a picture of the key workplace communication and documentation and the way it is used in the workplace.
What are points of ‘key risk’ to a workplace? Where can things go wrong if something is not read and interpreted correctly? Written down correctly? Said clearly to the right person? Measured accurately?
Workplace trainers and assessors who may not have specialist LLN knowledge need access to resources and support that will help them to identify both the literacy needs of workers and the literacy requirements of the workplace and to develop training that takes these into account.
- Do a ‘workplace documentation’ audit of the workplace know what documents are key to each person’s job
- Ensure all key workplace documents are easy to understand – get help to rewrite of redesign ambiguous or overly complex documents
- Check translations are accurate using accredited translation services
- Make sure new workers are introduced to the documents that are key to their job during induction and given an opportunity to practise filling these out in a ‘stress free’ environment
- Provide supervisors with LLN training-– the unit ‘Address LLN issues in training and assessment practice’ from Cert IV TAA is a useful start.
Implications of Option 2
- Know what LLN skills are important to the job
- Workplace trainers and assessors need appropriate resources and support
- Build trainer and assessor awareness of LLN
- Develop tools for identifying LLN in Training Packages
- Access specialist assistance through training programs
Option 3 – provide a mixed approach
Where possible make your workplace communication clear. Support workers to develop skills where they need them and make sure supervisors and workplace trainers understand the issues (see what can you do from Options 1 and 2).
Implementing Option 3
- Do a ‘workplace literacy and communication’ analysis
- Identify those aspects that are key to the success of your workplace
- Provide professional development for assessors and workplace trainers – the Unit ‘Address LLN issues in training and assessment practice’ from Cert IV TAA is useful start
- Seek specialist LLN assistance by using outside training providers, through a WELL training program or user pays training programs for the development of higher level literacy skills
- Make sure any Registered Training Organisation that you use to provide training can offer legitimate LLN support to your workers. (See AQTF compliance checklist in The Crux of the matter)