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Home > News > May 2006 > 26-May-2006

New research highlights workplace literacy failings

New research from Ufi and the Campaign for Learning has highlighted workplace literacy failings which may be preventing individuals and businesses across the UK from fulfilling their potential.

A recent opinion poll conducted by YouGov for yesterday's National Learning at Work Day shows that over a fifth (22%) of working people think there are people in their workplace who have difficulties with literacy.

Commenting on the results, Tricia Hartley, joint chief executive of the Campaign for Learning, which co-ordinates Learning at Work Day said: "People who struggle with literacy skills are often adept at getting around situations which might call for them to read or write.

"If 22 per cent of British workers have noticed colleagues having difficulties with literacy, we're talking about numbers that could and are affecting the performance of the country as a whole."

A third of those who identified colleagues with literacy needs also said that their employer or organisation did not have any type of scheme in place to help people improve their literacy skills, while a further 26 per cent of this group has no idea if relevant training schemes existed.

"Many people underestimate and misunderstand both what we mean by literacy problems, and what effect they can have on everyday tasks', adds Pablo Lloyd, Deputy Chief Executive at Ufi the company behind learndirect.

"We're not just talking about people who have difficulty reading and writing, we're talking about people whose skills have faded, who haven't used their spelling and grammar skills in a while and need to brush up.

"From understanding health and safety notices to representing the organisation through letters, memos and reports, these are not skills we employers can afford to neglect."

Pablo Lloyd continued: "The cost to employers as a result of limited skills can be significant, not just through performance but through high turnover of staff and lack of motivation. It is important that employers are aware of the impact that improving skills such as literacy can have on productivity and on the bottom line of their business - and that doing something about it is not as difficult as it may seem.

"Time and money constraints are factors we know can contribute to a failure to invest in literacy skills. However, flexible learning in the workplace means that employees do not necessarily have to take time off from work, and can learn the skills they need and that their employer can use, both quickly and easily.

"Initiatives such as learndirect, Train to Gain and the Get On Campaign offer help to employers to address Skills for Life in their workplace."

Tricia Hartley concluded: "It is crucial that employers not only develop training initiatives within the workplace that incorporate literacy skills, but ensure that all employees are aware of their existence and are able to take part - and set an example by brushing up their own skills!

"Campaigns such as Quick Reads and the Campaign for Learning's own National Learning at Work Day are perfect platforms to promote literacy in the workplace and highlight schemes that employers may already have in place. Union Learning Reps and other peer learning champions can also help in identifying any literacy needs their colleagues may have, as well as highlighting to them the opportunities to improve their skills.

"The Campaign for Learning's new Workplace Learning Network aims to offer support to these crucial workplace champions, to ensure they can be effective in helping their colleagues."

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