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Opinion: Jane McCarroll – Workplace literacy – everybody wins when we build it

“When I work, my employers give me money. But when they give me training, they give me love.”

Jane McCarroll, of Skills Consulting Group, reflects on how workers benefit from employers investing in their development.

​Literacy used to mean reading, writing and arithmetic. Now it is so much more than that. It is how we speak to each other, listen to each other and how we navigate all the technology we need to succeed and grow.

 No matter what our level of literacy, every one of us is capable of improving our skills, but some of us hesitate because we lack the confidence to take on further learning, certificates or training because we don’t think we have the skills to succeed. Literacy issues can sometimes go unnoticed or be blamed on poor employee engagement or behaviour, or ineffective training and can affect people across many industries and levels. This may be exacerbated by the rapid pace of change which impacts the systems and processes we use at work.

 Issues with literacy can present many ways, and sadly too often the perception is on the lack of ability to understand direction, poor performance or high levels of errors, or bad training. If there are issues in our workplaces, I think it’s important to think about how our messages are being received and question if they’re delivered in a way that is understood.

 The difference investment in workplace literacy can bring is life-changing. It goes beyond the workplace and leads to empowerment in many areas of our lives – from having the confidence to help our children with their homework, to speaking in public or taking an active part in meetings. We feel better able to cope and less anxious.

 At Skills we have a vocational literacy team and we work with the businesses which have people on their team who, while technically competent in their role, still need to develop some foundation skills around basic literacy and numeracy. We recognise there are different ways of learning and always begin by acknowledging what an individual can do rather than what they can’t do. This might involve bridging the gap in skills required to do the job around numeracy and literacy, or it might be around equipping a team to undertake study or complete a qualification.

 The stories I’ve come across since joining Skills have been so heart-warming! It is wonderful to recognise the positive change that investment in the development of literacy can bring. It is empowering for the individual and for the organisation! Everything improves from morale and confidence to bottom-line results.

 Everyone learns in their own way, and our learning pathways can recognise different ways of learning through support, tools and technology.

 Workplace literacy leads to improved performance, less errors, less waste and problems with health and safety as well as improved behaviours, compliance, teamwork and communication.

 We have seen inspiring examples of individuals receiving a certificate or qualification, maybe for the first time in their lives. They feel pretty chuffed with themselves. There is such pride and relief that their way of learning has been acknowledged and supported and they have succeeded beyond what they dared to hope.

 When they receive their certificate their friends and relations come to support them and it means so much to them all. They often celebrate their learner, their pride and joy, with a standing ovation. The emotion is palpable.

 Honestly, It is fair to say that sometimes there is not a dry eye in the house! Even the senior management can be caught by surprise at the enormity of the impact that learning support delivers to the individual.

 We have seen senior management brought to tears when they award certificates to employees who have made a breakthrough in how they learn – realising at that moment what a life-changing difference their development has made.

 On receipt of achieving his first-ever qualification, one proud and grateful learner said, “When I work, my employers give me money. But when they give me training, they give me love.”

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