Literacy and numeracy at work

Publication Details

This report looks at the use of literacy and numeracy skills at work, and how this relates to the skills and education of employees. It uses data from the Adult Literacy and Lifeskills (ALL) survey to look at how well employees’ skills match the literacy and numeracy practices that they undertake at work. It looks at how skills and education relate to different sets of practices, such as financial literacy and numeracy. It also identifies which groups of employees are more likely to have a skills shortfall or skills excess, and some of the barriers to further training for those with a skills shortfall.

Author(s): David Earle, Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis and Reporting, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: February 2011

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Chapter 6: Skills match and upskilling

This final chapter looks at the extent to which people with skills shortfalls are able to access opportunities for further training and upskilling. It starts by looking at the extent to which each match or mismatch group feels confident in their current work skills, then looks at the extent of participation on formal and non-formal education and training, and concludes with barriers to accessing work-related training and education.

Main points

People with a skills shortfall or  partial shortfall were less likely to say they have enough reading, writing  and maths skills to do their job well. The area they felt least skilled in was  maths.

People with a skills shortfall or  partial shortfall were slightly more likely to participate in formal education  than those whose skills were matched to their job. However, they were much  less likely to participate in non-formal education and training, including  employer-provided training.

People with a skills shortfall were  slightly less likely to have undertaken the job-related training that they  had wanted to do. The main barriers for them were time constraints, personal  or family responsibilities, training not being a high priority and courses  not matching needs. Courses not matching needs was a much larger barrier for  this group than for the rest of the workforce.

People with a skills excess also  appeared less likely to have engaged in non-formal education and training  than those with a skills match. While this group was less interested in  training overall, those who did want to participate were more likely to say high  cost, lack of confidence or preparedness and personal health were significant  barriers. This suggests that being in a position of skills excess could be related  to personal circumstances that constrain access to high-skilled employment,  such as ongoing health problems.

6.1 Confidence in job-related skills

The ALL survey asked respondents the extent to which they agreed that they had the reading, writing and maths skills to do their job well. Figure 24 shows the proportions of each skills match and mismatch group who strongly agreed they had enough skills for their job.
 In each area, people with a skills shortfall or partial shortfall were less likely to say they had the reading, writing or maths skills to do their job well than those who were matched or had a skills excess. People with a skills shortfall or partial shortfall were more confident about their reading skills than about their writing or maths skills.

Figure 24: Proportion of people in employment who strongly agreed they had the reading, writing or maths skills to do their job wellFigure 24: Proportion of people in employment who strongly agreed they had the reading, writing or maths skills to do their job well.

Note:

  1. The error bars show the 95 percent confidence interval for the estimate.

6.2 Participation in formal and non-formal education and training

The ALL survey asked respondents if they had participated in formal education (leading to a qualification) or non-formal education and training (not part of a qualification) within the last twelve months. Non-formal education and training includes work-based training coursed organised and/or paid for by the employer. Figure 25 shows the proportion who participated in each type of education and training for each skill match and mismatch group.

People with a skills shortfall or partial shortfall were slightly more likely to participate in formal education than those with a skills match. For non-formal education and training, those with skills shortfalls were least likely to participate, while those with a skills match were most likely to participate. People with a skills excess were also less likely to participate in non-formal education and training.

These findings concur with Dixon and Tulay (2010) who found that people with low document literacy skills were as likely as other employees to participate in formal education, but much less likely to access non-formal education.

Figure 25: Proportion reporting participating in formal and non-formal training in previous twelve monthsFigure 25: Proportion reporting participating in formal and non-formal training in previous twelve months.

Note:

  1. The error bars show the 95 percent confidence interval for the estimate.

6.3 Barriers to job-related education and training

Around 41 percent of people in work said that they had wanted to undertake training or education for career or job-related reasons but did not. This proportion was lower for those with skills excesses or partial excesses at 34 percent.

Figure 26: Reasons for not undertaking career or job-related trainingFigure 26: Reasons for not undertaking career or job-related training.

Note:

  1. The error bars show the 95 percent confidence interval for the estimate.

Figure 26 shows the proportion of people who did not take the training or education they wanted to who reported various reasons for not doing so.

The most common reason overall for no doing training or education was time constraints. This was a more frequent reason for people with skills shortfalls and less frequent for people with skills excesses.  Personal or family responsibilities and training not being a high priority were the next most common reasons, with frequency being fairly similar across all groups.  Courses not matching needs the next most common reason for people with a skills shortfall, much more so than any other group. Cost, lack of confidence or preparedness and personal health were more commonly given as reasons by people with skills excesses. This suggests that being in a position of skill excess could be related to personal circumstances that constrain access to high-skilled employment, such as ongoing health problems.