According to a 2006 study, the quantity and complexity of literacy demands appear to be increasing in most sectors of the workplace.
“That research has revealed that reading, writing, and computation in the workplace is ubiquitous (ever-present) and at a relatively high level,” reads the study by Larry Mikulecky,professor of education and coordinator of language education online courses at Indiana University.
A literature review conducted by Mikuleckyfocused on research from the past 10 years and what is known about literacy demands in the workplace and the abilities of various segments of the adult and young population to meet them.
“Since a majority of adult reading is performed upon workplace related material, understanding the nature, difficulty, and prevalence of these functional reading tasks is critical for an understanding of the reading demands encountered by adults and their abilities to meet such demands,” said Mikulecky.
The study showed that young adults entering the workforce were not meeting these basic demands. In the workforce, successful technical and training skills are starting to emerge in the gap left unfilled by traditional schooling, the study said.
The study showed that literacy demands in vocational training were even higher than workplace literacy demands. Basic skills programs that used a more functional literacy approach showed an increase in the development of these basic skills. The review concluded that it is possible to make advancements in the ability of people to retain information if the training is focused on the material.
A study by The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management determined that the responsibility of teaching work place skillsets is up to business leaders.
The study graded people with a report card to review how adept their skills were with reading, writing, and mathematics. The study looked at whether or not the skill levels of entry level employees are currently bringing to their jobs are deemed "excellent," "adequate," or "deficient,” as well as what basic knowledge and applied skills they consider "very important," "important," or "not important."
Basic knowledge refers to the academic subjects and skills acquired in school. Applied skills refers to those who enable new entrants to use what they learned in school to perform in the workplace. The study looked at how the importance of these skills may change over the next five years, what emerging content areas are considered "most critical" over the next five years, and the nature and cost of remedial training or initiatives, if basic skills are lacking.
According to the study, for the most part, what prospective employees rate as “very important” for entry-level jobs is similar across the three educational levels. Responses indicated that, in general, the importance of the basic knowledge and applied skill requirements for entry-level jobs increased as the educational level of recent hires increased.
The study emphasized that employers are the ones who are to outline what is required from people entering the workforce. If training at jobs emphasizes strongly on a particular set of skills, then the training will most likely be enough to get that employee up to speed.
“As business leaders, we must also play a role in creating opportunities for young people to obtain the skills they need. Businesses can partner with schools and other organizations that work with young people to provide internships, job shadowing programs and summer jobs. Businesses can encourage their employees to serve as mentors and tutors. Businesses can invest in programs at the local and national level that have demonstrated their ability to improve outcomes for young people. Finally, business leaders can use their expertise in innovation and management to help identify new and creative solutions,” the report read.