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First things first - Basic skills in workplace learning

21/07/2016
by Graciela Sbertoli
Nyelv: EN
Document available also in: FR LV NL

If you have been following the many interesting blogs published on EPALE this week, you will have noted that it is quite difficult to define exactly what we mean by “workplace learning”. Does it mean primarily learning FOR the workplace, or learning IN the workplace? Should workplace learning focus mainly on developing vocational skills, or do transversal skills play a more important role in increasing the employability of an individual and their success in the workplace?

Whichever approach we choose, we shouldn’t forget that basic skills are the gateway to all learning, in the workplace or not. Employees lacking functional literacy and numeracy will only be able to increase their skills up to a certain limit, and the importance of mastering digital competence to progress in any vocational pathway is self-evident. (See also a blog entry on this theme by Vox director Gina Lund)

There are three very good reasons to focus on basic skills training within workplace learning. The first is that many employees are likely to profit from it because it will increase their chances of improving their qualifications.  The second is related to the company’s need for increased competitiveness, productivity, and safety. The third reason is often forgotten and has to do with motivation and efficient outreach. Experiences from the Norwegian national program for basic skills training in the workplace, recently renamed CompetencePlus, show that workplace learning can effectively reach individuals who would otherwise not participate in any organized learning activity.

Relevance and immediacy are important factors in the motivation of adult learners. Any learning that can be put into practice here and now, in the learner’s everyday life and work, will be more attractive because it will be perceived as useful.

To assist teachers of basic skills in this pragmatic approach to training, Vox, Norwegian Agency for Lifelong Learning has created a series of «profiles for basic job skills». The profiles describe where basic skills are relevant in the employees’ actual job tasks in specific occupations. Sixteen of them have been translated into English. The best profiles are those that have been tailored to each individual situation, taking into account a concrete case and adapting them to individual need. These examples are meant as an inspiration for course providers, who can develop their own adaptations to create courses that are really relevant to the needs of the participants.

The profiles can also be used as a base to create self-assessment materials for learners. An example of these tests, based on the profile for Kindergarten Assistants, has just been uploaded to EPALE. Such tests can be used both as a powerful initial motivator and as a tool for continuing formative self-assessment.

The effort to reach the less motivated individuals in our target group is ongoing. Vox is cooperating with other members of the EBSN(link is external) to gather more information about efficient schemes for workplace-based basic skills training. If you are interested in this theme, please share your experiences by commenting below this blog and also join us in the EPALE Community of Practice on Workplace Learning which has been initiated by the EBSN.

 

Graciela Sbertoli

International coordinator at Vox/ Chair of the EBSN / Epale NSS Norway

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  • Ramon Mangion képe

    You asked a number of key questions in your post. I would like to attempt to adress them with my own thoughts on the subject.

     

    1. Does it mean primarily learning FOR the workplace, or learning IN the workplace?

    This is an interesting question in fact. However in literature that I read and also as a personal opinion, I believe that the term refers to the learning IN the workplace ( as you put it ). It is not my intention to write at length in this comment, however there is ample material on the subject.

     

    2. Should workplace learning focus mainly on developing vocational skills, or do transversal skills play a more important role in increasing the employability of an individual and their success in the workplace?

     

    Basic skills are the key to any career. I would link with the aspect of employability skills as well. In this day and age  of technology, digital literacy is paramount, as even some basic tasks are now adays being done through the use of ICT. However apart from numeracy, literacy and digital literacy I would also add 'Soft skills'. This is where many are failing and the  boom in social media and the lack of social interaction is also not helping. Hence to also directly answer your question, I believe that workplace learning should aim at providing a holistic perspective and thus cover both vocational skills and also transversal skills.