This course was developed in 2018, by the Keysborough Learning Centre (KLC) in response to being approached by a local pharmaceutical company which, while looking to promote employees within their company, discovered that the literacy and numeracy skills of their employees was very low. The company decided to train their employees with the assistance of the Keysborough Learning Centre.
After multiple discussions and refinements, this course gained momentum in 2019 and with additional funding from Australian Centre of Further Education ("ACFE"), a ten-week pilot program was launched in October 2019 under the name of "Communication in the Factory".
However, because of COVID-10 restrictions and factory lockdowns and in consultation with Australian Centre of Further Education Board (“ACFEB”), it was decided that the project should target a wider manufacturing sector, rather than the pharmaceutical industry alone.
By broadening the content of the course, any Centre could implement the course to deliver a program to help factory / manufacturing workers gain the necessary literacy skills to work and be promoted in this area. The course can also be geared to the needs of unemployed people wanting to work in the manufacturing, warehousing and transport areas. Three other Learn Local organisations were brought on board to develop and refine the course material.
The need for improved Literacy and Numeracy skills among factory workers has been well documented - a study has found that, ‘an overwhelming 93 per cent of employers surveyed said low language, literacy and numeracy levels among employees impacted negatively on their business, including inadequate writing of documents and reports (21 per cent), time wasting (17.7 per cent) and materials wastage (11.5 per cent)’. The companies surveyed had a range of migrant, Australian-born, young and old employees from small, medium and large-sized firms (Lewis, 2015). It was also discovered that people with low literacy are 1.7 times more likely to be long-term unemployed compared to the average Victorian.
The project proposal was set out to target low-skill, low-literacy pharmaceutical factory workers, at risk of losing their jobs due to industrial changes and organisational restructuring. In particular, the program is aimed at workers with very low level of education in their native language, who needed to overcome the barriers for adequate communication in the factory, including understanding WHS procedures and passing the in-house literacy and numeracy test – a prerequisite to continued employment and promotion.
The course incorporates numerous literacy and numeracy activities surrounding workplace scenarios, workplace communication activities, Work, Health and Safety (WHS) knowledge and skills, visual accuracy in numerical practice and glossary building relevant to individual job roles. It also builds up their employability skills, thus giving learners a better chance of keeping their jobs or gaining employment in related industries.
The course aimed to enhance the employability and work readiness of recently unemployed people in searching for a new job. Businesses and factories stand to gain from a more educated workforce that appreciates the learning opportunity and feel loyalty towards the company they work for.
For the employers, the present course on industry contextualised Literacy and Numeracy training, would serve as a means to saving the disruption of having to replace otherwise hard working factory workers with new intakes of employees, who might have very similar literacy issues.
To achieve the best outcomes for all stakeholders, the proposed Literacy and Numeracy program was contextualised to the learning resources and course content, teaching only what is needed and relevant, at the factory with an intention to eventually deliver the training during work hours, preferably on site.