The Upskilling Partnership Programme was an initiative established by the Department of Labour in collaboration with partner agencies. The programme ran from July 2006 until June 2009. It was designed in response to the large numbers of working-age adults without the language, literacy, and numeracy (LLN) skills necessary for sustained employment and active participation in society. Very few employers undertake workplace LLN training, despite poor foundation skills being a constraint on an organisation’s ability to modify workplace practices and introduce innovations to increase productivity. The programme was developed to increase the engagement of employers in workplace literacy programmes and to evaluate the impact of these programmes.
The evaluation aimed to find out more about the different approaches taken to LLN development in the workplace and the success of these approaches from both learners’ and companies’ perspectives.
The evaluation sought to assess the impact of workplace LLN training courses on participants’ skills, as well as the impact on participants’ job performance and work practices. A key part of this evaluation was to identify the extent of the link between improved LLN skills and improved work performance. It was expected that the individual courses would vary in terms of their impact on participants’ skills and work practices and in terms of the benefits from companies’ perspectives.
Other objectives of the evaluation were to better understand the issues companies’ faced when developing and implementing LLN courses and to determine whether it was viable for companies to run these courses longer term.
The key messages from the evaluation of the Upskilling Partnership Programme
are as follows.
- Workplace LLN programmes are generally viable in New Zealand across a range of industries and companies.
- The Upskilling courses reached the right people – those with low levels of LLN skills and who have low or no qualifications, including Māori and Pasifika.
- There was no conclusive quantitative evidence that the courses improved participants’ reading and writing skills. This finding is consistent with international studies, which have found that similar length courses have no or little impact on participants’ measured literacy skills.
- Participants reported improvement in their LLN skills, particularly in language and communication skills and tasks involving reading and writing.
- Managers and supervisors reported improvements in participants’ performance at work, including increased personal confidence and improved communications, team work, attitudes towards work, understanding and compliance with health and safety, and completion of paperwork.
- Evidence was mixed about the direct links between improvements in LLN skills and improved workplace practices.
- Including LLN in workplace training provides the opportunity for participants to improve their workplace knowledge and skills at the same time as they improve their LLN skills.
- Employers found the need for LLN courses was greater than they had originally expected, so most of them are continuing LLN initiatives in their companies.
- Contributions to productivity improvements happen in small ways.