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It’s time: Language, literacy and numeracy  and the new Core Skills Profile for Adults
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It’s time: Language, literacy and numeracy and the new Core Skills Profile for Adults

Research 4 minute read

Tools that provide an evidence base for student learning are critical to the success of language, literacy and numeracy skills programs, says Blanca Camacho.

For the first time since the early 1990s, both government and industry acknowledge that adult language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills are important and worthy of government support at a national program level.

The Commonwealth government increased funding for adult LLN programs in the 2011 budget and is currently developing a new national foundation skills policy, with further initiatives and programs this year. The growing policy interest goes back to the release of the international Adult Literacy and Lifeskills survey results in 2007, which showed that between 46 per cent and 70 per cent of adults in Australia had poor or very poor skills across one or more of the five skill domains of prose literacy, document literacy, numeracy, problem-solving and health literacy.

There’s been a plethora of reports, programs and strategies to improve the LLN skills of the Australian workforce since then, including:

the Industry Skills Councils April 2011 report, No More Excuses: An industry response to the language, literacy and numeracy challenge
the Skills Australia May 2011 report, Skills for Prosperity: A roadmap for vocational education and training
the Commonwealth Government May 2011 report, Building Australia’s Future Workforce: Skills to promote increased participation
the research and report by the Australian Industry Group released in 2011 as the National Workforce Literacy Project: Report on employers views on workplace literacy and numeracy skills
the announcement of the National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults with the Commonwealth Government working with state and territory governments this year, and
Skilling Australia’s Future Workforce program, worth $3 billion over six years.

ACER’s work to support these programs and strategies has focused on the development of assessment tools to measure the core skills of adults participating in VET and workplace training.

ACER’s Vocational Indicator began development in 2009 and was launched in 2010. Key stakeholders insisted that they needed data that allowed early identification of potential learning problems in their existing or potential learners, independent of the subject matter to be studied. The Vocational Indicator was created to assess four areas considered important to VET success, and broadly aligned to the Australian Core Skills Framework:

mechanical reasoning, and
abstract reasoning.

Since its release, the Vocational Indicator has been delivered to clients across Australia, including TAFEs, private RTOs, industry skills councils, group training organisations, industry and a range of other associations that sponsor training.

Most have been using the Vocational Indicator to identify gaps in the literacy and numeracy but also the reasoning skills of students, so they can look at their own courses and training programs to identify the level of literacy, numeracy and reasoning required and then match students to courses, but equally identify the intervention required to upskill students to courses.

The main purpose is to enable educational institutions to identify levels of skill and gaps in skills for those beginning vocational education and training. Some employers also use it for the purpose of recruitment, but typically to identify skill levels to match employees to suitable positions.

With a growing demand for assessment tools to gather evidence on student learning and program effectiveness across the sector, ACER has made a major investment to expand the Vocational Indicator to offer greater coverage across the Australian Core Skills Framework levels 1 to 5, improve the ability to discriminate at the lower and higher levels, and cover a wider spectrum of mathematics that would be relevant and useful as an indication of potential vocational ability or for an assessment of an adult’s numeracy ability.

Find out more:
Further information about the new Core Skills Profile for Adults is available at <>

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