What s happening with language, literacy and numeracy in vocational education and training (VET)?

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1 What s happening with language, literacy and numeracy in vocational education and training (VET)?

2 Contents About the Symposiums... 3 Why focus on language, literacy and numeracy (LLN)?... 5 What do we mean when we talk about LLN skills?... 6 Why do we need better LLN skills?... 6 The Issues... 7 Built in, not bolted on... 7 Capability... 8 Vocational teacher/trainer capability... 9 Specialist capability... 9 Other areas of capability Better identification of LLN skills: Using the Australian Core Skills Framework Integrating LLN into training delivery LLN resources Addressing the needs of Indigenous learners LLN issues in regional and remote areas and in private RTOs And also Awareness of LLN issues Funding What next? A final word Appendix A Symposium Presenters Appendix B Useful Links What s happening with language, literacy and

3 About the Symposiums The Queensland VET Development Centre s VET Connect series provides vocational education and training (VET) practitioners with opportunities to engage, through a series of symposiums and workshops, with a range of issues affecting contemporary teaching, learning and assessment. From late 2010 to early 2011 the focus was on Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN), with two Symposiums held to examine the issue one in Brisbane in November 2010 and one in Cairns in March Almost 100 participants, including teachers, trainers, managers and literacy specialists, came together at the Symposiums to hear a range of speakers address LLN issues in the VET sector. The keynote address at both Symposiums was given by Robin Shreeve, CEO of Skills Australia, who provided a clear rationale for the need to improve the LLN skills of Australians, giving LLN and other foundation skills a prominent place in the arena of workforce development. Jen Coughran and Mark Radley of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) outlined the Australian Government s response to LLN and Foundation Skills, while Louise Wignall and Anna Ridgway provided an overview of Innovation and Business Skills Australia s (IBSA) approach to building VET workforce capability in LLN through the new TAE10 Training Package. Insights into the issues faced by Indigenous learners, and practical strategies for addressing them were provided by Pam Bigelow of the Indigenous Lead Centre and Janice Steven of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker Education Program Aboriginal Coorporation (QATSIHWEPAC). Checha Chako of Barrier Reef Institute of TAFE described a highly effective, proactive approach to addressing learners LLN needs through team-teaching, and a concrete example of how LLN can be integrated into teaching, learning and assessment resources was provided by Yvonne Williams of Bremer Institute of TAFE. Phillip Barrow of the General Education Lead Institute also addressed LLN in teaching, learning and assessment, by providing details of pathways available to learners needing preparatory LLN and employability skills. Les Retford of the Queensland VET Development Centre presented an overview of the new Australian Core Skills Framework, and an insight into some of the particular issues faced by private providers was provided by Susan Rees and Carol Doyle of the Cairns Study Group 1. 1 A list of the topics and presenters can be found in Appendix A. 3 What s happening with language, literacy and

4 Symposium participants also spent time discussing ways in which the sector might better address the LLN needs of learners. These discussions centred on: integrating LLN into VET training and resources practitioner capability and the new TAE qualifications LLN issues in regional and remote areas LLN issues for Indigenous Australians using the Australian Core Skills Framework. This report draws upon these presentations and discussions to outline the key issues and ideas arising from the Symposiums, as well as highlighting ways in which VET practitioners and RTOs might more effectively address the LLN skills of their learners. 4 What s happening with language, literacy and

5 Why focus on language, literacy and numeracy (LLN)? Around 7 million Australians do not have the level of literacy skills required to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work. Nearly 8 million do not meet the minimum numeracy level. Just over 2 million working-age Australians score at the lowest level of literacy and almost 3 million score at the lowest level of numeracy. These figures, drawn from the 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALLS) Survey 2, present a compelling argument for focusing greater attention on the language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills of Australians. In the past year, LLN has received considerable attention: In March 2010, Skills Australia released Australian Workforce Futures, which recognised LLN skills as fundamental to improved workforce participation, productivity and social inclusion, and called for the development of a national adult language, literacy and numeracy strategy and for substantial expansion of the Workplace English Language and Literacy (WELL) program and Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program (LLNP). In the 2010 Federal Budget, close to $120 million was allocated for investment in foundation skills over four years, including greater funding for the LLNP, expansion of the WELL and Foundation Skills Taster Course Program and the establishment of the National Foundation Skills Outreach and Leadership Project. This will include the Federal, State and Territory Governments working together to develop a National Foundation Skills Strategy. In April 2011, the 11 Industry Skills Councils released a joint response to the LLN challenge, No More Excuses, which called for the Council of Australian Governments to establish an overarching blueprint for action on language, literacy and numeracy which spans early childhood, school and tertiary sectors, and the workplace, to identify and address long-term goals that will profoundly shift the capacity of learners and the workforce. The release of the report generated substantial media attention. 2 The Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALLS) Survey measures four different aspects of LLN prose, document literacy, numeracy and problem solving and ranks them on a scale from level 1 level 5. Level 3 is considered to be the minimum required for individuals to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work in the emerging knowledge-based economy. 5 What s happening with language, literacy and

6 These significant actions indicate that there is appetite in both public and policy arenas for addressing the LLN skills of Australia s population. The Symposium series therefore was timely in providing VET practitioners both LLN specialists and non-specialists with the opportunity to discuss what is happening with LLN in VET and to identify ways in which they can better address LLN issues in their own teaching, learning and assessment practices. What do we mean when we talk about LLN skills? When people talk about LLN issues, they often think about basic reading and writing skills. The issue however is not just about low level skills, or skills needed by particular equity groups. As pointed out in the Innovation and Business Skills Australia (IBSA) presentations - language, literacy and numeracy skills form a continuum. They are the key underpinning skills for learning at all levels of the Australian Qualification Framework and they are part of all delivery, including Training Package qualifications and Adult Basic and General Education accredited courses. In fact, it is when individuals move into higher-level, supervisory positions and are required to undertake more complex tasks, or when learners commence higher level vocational qualifications, that LLN barriers often become apparent. Many people are quite functional in their current jobs, but are held back from progression in their learning or careers by LLN issues. Changing technology and increasing safety and compliance requirements also often raise the need for higher-level literacy and numeracy skills. As the demands of life and work change over time, so too do the language, literacy and numeracy skills required to meet them. Why do we need better LLN skills? Strengthening the language, literacy and numeracy capacity of the workforce is perhaps the single most constructive step that can be taken to make Australia more productive over the long term... Overcoming widespread foundation skills deficits will ensure more Australians are ready for work, are productive when in work, and can participate meaningfully in economic and social life. 3 Of the large numbers of individuals who are considered to have inadequate LLN skills, only a small percentage will end up in a specialised LLN skills development program, such as the LLNP or WELL programs. Some may receive assistance through mainstream VET programs and some who are unemployed may receive support through social or community welfare services. The majority however, may receive no support at all. 3 Statement by the Honourable Julia Gillard MP, Budget : Skills and Infrastructure Building a Stronger and Fairer Australia 6 What s happening with language, literacy and

7 As Robin Shreeve of Skills Australia outlined in his presentation, in order to address Australia s ageing population and declining workforce participation and productivity, Australia will need to bring people into the workforce who have not previously participated, and increase the productivity of those in the workforce. Foundation skills (including both LLN and employability skills) play a significant part in both of these endeavours. Modelling undertaken for Skills Australia shows that there will be a significant shortfall in the supply of qualified people over the next five years, especially at higher levels of Diploma and above. The Skills Australia report 4 points out that LLN skills of level 3 or higher are necessary to complete Certificate III qualifications, therefore low level LLN skills pose significant barriers to increasing the number of higher level qualifications. Removing the barriers that prevent participation in the workforce or education and training is therefore of critical importance to Australia s economy. However it s not all about economic factors. Improvements in language, literacy and numeracy have been shown to have significant benefits for social participation and health 5. Inadequate LLN skills can also impact on workplace health and safety. For example, individuals with low levels of literacy and numeracy skills: are potentially at risk because they are unable to read and understand machinery operating instructions, safety precautions, equipment and repair manuals, first-aid instructions, or organizational policies on workplace health and safety. 6 The Issues The following are the key issues arising from the presentations and discussions at the two Symposiums. Built in, not bolted on While learners with very low level skills can benefit from stand-alone delivery to prepare them for vocational learning, at most AQF levels, contextualisation in VET makes LLN skill development more meaningful and effective. As Skills Australia point out in their discussion paper on the future of VET: Connecting LLN to a student s core VET program enables the student to address their poor LLN skills in a meaningful and relevant context. This is considered preferable to students feeling singled out and potentially stigmatised. 7 4 Skills Australia (2010) Australian Workforce Futures: A National Workforce Development Strategy 5 Skills Australia (2010) Australian Workforce Futures: A National Workforce Development Strategy 6 Campbell, Alison (2008), All Signs Point to Yes: Literacy s Impact on Workplace Health and Safety, Conference Board of Canada 7 What s happening with language, literacy and

8 Or as one of the Symposium presenters put it: It s not surprising that some learners are reluctant to go to reading and writing classes when everyone else is going off to the pub! Since its introduction in 1998, the concept of built in, not bolted on has seen a move to have LLN and employability skills embedded into all Training Package qualifications and accredited courses. More than 10 years later though, the built in approach of addressing LLN skills is still not a system-wide reality. Despite LLN skills being made explicit in Training Packages, there seems to be widespread agreement that they not addressed consistently in training and assessment practice, and they are still not often considered as a core aspect of enterprises training or workforce development strategies. One of the issues getting in the way of an integrated approach to LLN lies in the criticism by some that LLN is not built in, or bolted on, but buried 8. This has led to debate around how explicit LLN and employability skills (or foundation skills as the combination are now being referred to) need to be made in Training Packages. Work being conducted by Industry Skills Councils (ISCs) to map the Australian Core Skills Framework to Training Packages and to incorporate LLN units into qualifications or skill sets will help to make LLN requirements more explicit. What participants said Discussions during the Symposiums highlighted two further barriers that are preventing LLN from being truly integrated: Outside of specialised programs, funding practices do not support necessary levels of delivery of integrated training. The VET system doesn t have sufficient capability and expertise to successfully address LLN issues in an integrated way. Capability There is widespread agreement that currently there is not enough LLN expertise within the VET system to address learners LLN skill needs to the standard required. There are several parts to this issue. 7 Skills Australia (2010) Creating a future direction for Australian vocational education and training 8 Roberts, Anita and Wignall, Louise (2010) Briefing on Foundation Skills for the National VET Equity Advisory Council 8 What s happening with language, literacy and

9 Vocational teacher/trainer capability The first part of the capability issue is that skills in identifying and addressing the LLN requirements of Training Package qualifications and skill sets are generally not well enough developed in VET trainers and assessors who are not LLN specialists. Innovation and Business Skills Australia (IBSA), the Industry Skills Council responsible for the TAA and TAE Training Packages, has been investigating how practitioners LLN capabilities might best be strengthened. Their consultations uncovered a division of views over whether the skills to identify and address the LLN skills of learners should be a core part of the Certificate IV in TAA/TAE, the mandated minimum qualification for all VET practitioners. While some believe that an awareness LLN unit should be compulsory at Certificate IV, others feel that a big stick approach is counterproductive, or that there should be recognition that practitioners develop their skills over time and that it s impossible to address everything at entry level. While there is currently a level 4 unit of competency in LLN as an elective in the Certificate IV, very few RTOs that deliver the Certificate IV TAA offer this LLN unit, which means that the system does not currently have the capacity to train large numbers of practitioners. Professional development would also be needed for practitioners who already have the Certificate IV, but need to upskill in LLN. To address these problems, IBSA is suggesting a staged approach to moving LLN capability into the core of practitioner education. In their submission to the Productivity Commission for building VET workforce capacity in LLN, they have recommended that: For now, the level 4 LLN unit should become core in the Diploma, but should remain an elective in Certificate IV. In three years, the level 4 LLN unit should become core in the Certificate IV and a level 5 unit will become core in the Diploma. Deliverers of the Certificate IV should be qualified in the Diploma. Specialist capability The second part of the issue relates to LLN specialists. For a start, there are not enough of them. RTOs in regional and remote areas, as well as smaller RTOs, particularly in the private sector, find it particularly difficult to access specialist expertise. While the ageing of the VET workforce is resulting in a decrease in the number of available specialists, the opportunities for VET practitioners to specialise has also been decreasing. Over the past 15 years, the number of postgraduate teacher qualifications in LLN offered by universities 9 What s happening with language, literacy and

10 has diminished. There are now only two university courses on offer at Griffith University and University of Technology Sydney, as well as a number of state-accredited courses at Vocational Graduate Certificate and Certificate IV level. To address this issue, IBSA is developing two new qualifications in LLN Vocational Graduate Certificate in Adult LLN Practice and Vocational Graduate Diploma of LLN Leadership. These new qualifications will provide teaching and educational leadership skills for people working in: formal educational settings (eg. TAFE, Private Registered Training Organisations or Community Education Colleges) informal education, social welfare and community-based settings (eg. libraries, neighbourhood houses or CFA fire sheds) workplace or correctional settings. Resources are currently under development for these new qualifications, including facilitation guides, learner guides and an online RPL tool for both qualifications. In an effort to increase the number of qualified adult LLN specialists, DEEWR, under its Foundation Skills Outreach and Leadership Project, is offering scholarships for practitioners to develop LLN expertise. Now in its second year, the Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practitioner Scholarships Program offers scholarships of up to $5,250 to support successful applicants in undertaking study towards an adult LLN practitioner qualification. The Program is aimed at encouraging a range of people to enter the LLN field, including vocational trainers or generalist teachers who wish to upskill into an adult LLN specialisation, and new entrants with no prior qualification as a teacher or trainer. The Scholarship Program has also highlighted the issue of lack of opportunities for specialist training, with IBSA receiving reports from two Scholarship recipients in two different States, saying that they were unable to find a suitable qualification on offer in their State. The hope is that the availability of the new qualifications and scholarships for practitioners will help to increase the level of expertise in the VET system, including the number of people and RTOs available to deliver the LLN content of the TAE Training Package when the Certificate IV unit becomes mandated. Other areas of capability LLN specialists and non-specialist practitioners are not the only groups needing skills in addressing LLN needs. Capability-building options are also needed for volunteers, frontline 10 What s happening with language, literacy and

11 community services and health workers, and enterprise-based leaders and supervisors. A variety of pathways are being developed for these groups. They include: a national skill set for LLN volunteers that is being developed by the Community Services and Health ISC a unit that can be incorporated into frontline worker qualifications in areas such as welfare, housing and care provision a possible skill set for workplace leaders and supervisors that is being scoped through IBSA and Australian Industry Group s Pathways to LLN Expertise project a mentoring unit for supervisors working with Indigenous employees in the resource sector that is being developed by Skills DMC ISC. What participants said. Participants agreed that there is a need to improve the awareness and understanding of LLN amongst VET practitioners, and that mandating the level 4 unit alone is not the answer. They emphasised the need for a range of options to support the different needs of VET practitioners, including: building a community of practice where LLN expertise can be shared and assistance sought using the TAE LLN unit as the basis for a stand-alone professional development activity providing greater guidance and support for assessing the LLN skill levels and gaps of learners, as this is the starting point for addressing LLN needs developing some case studies to help practitioners gain a better understanding of what LLN actually is and how it can be addressed. This may help to demystify LLN and make practitioners more receptive to building their knowledge ensuring companion documentation to the TAE10 Training Package (such as user guides) includes accessible, hands-on materials to help trainers build their understanding of LLN. This should include a focus on how to identify LLN needs, where to get help and strategies to use. 11 What s happening with language, literacy and

12 Better identification of LLN skills: Using the Australian Core Skills Framework One of the challenges faced by VET practitioners and Registered Training Organisations is unpacking the LLN skill levels required for a particular course or qualification, then identifying the skill levels of their learners and figuring out what the gap is between the two. The new Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) may help to address this challenge. As Les Retford from the Queensland VET Development Centre explained in his overview, the ACSF provides a comprehensive framework for identifying, measuring and reporting LLN skills. Unlike its predecessor, the National Reporting System, which was used mainly in relation to specialised language and literacy programs, the ACSF has been designed to be used in a range of contexts, by people with varying degrees of LLN expertise. The framework provides clear benchmarks and a common language for talking about LLN; using everyday language to describe what people can do at particular skill levels. There are five Core Skills Learning, Reading, Writing, Oral Communication and Numeracy and five Levels of Performance for each of them. This allows for the fact that individuals often have different levels of proficiency in different core skill areas (this is the concept of spiky profiles ). Indicators, in the form of short statements, provide an overview of performance at each level of each core skill, and Performance Features provide additional detail about each indicator. The Framework recognises that core skills are contextual, and therefore also incorporates Six Aspects of Communication: personal (for or about yourself) cooperative (interacting in groups) procedural (performing tasks) technical (understanding the function of, and using tools, equipment and technology) systems (interacting in organisations) public (for interacting in the wider community). 12 What s happening with language, literacy and

13 Industry Skills Councils are currently working towards mapping Training Package qualifications against the ACSF. This will provide VET practitioners, for perhaps the first time, with a simple and effective way of understanding the LLN requirements of particular learning programs. When combined with tools for assessing learners skills in line with the ACSF, practitioners will be able to identify whether their learners have the skills to meet the requirements of the program they have chosen, and provide or seek assistance in the cases where they do not. A range of initiatives to support or complement the ACSF are under development, or are being considered. They include: The Crux of the Matter, a guide produced by Queensland Department of Education and Training to assist practitioners in understanding and applying vocational language, literacy and numeracy within the Australian Quality Training Framework, which is being updated in line with the new ACSF and will be released later this year a series of professional development workshops on using the ACSF, which will be offered by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations later this year a proposal for a using the ACSF as a diagnostic tool elective unit as part of the Certificate IV TAE development by DEEWR, of a framework for assessing employability skills that will sit alongside the ACSF. A full copy of the ACSF framework, and a concise summary, are available from the DEEWR website at What participants said Symposium participants felt that the ACSF would be helpful in building understanding of LLN amongst practitioners who are not LLN specialists, and would assist in developing training and assessment materials and identifying learners skill levels. They emphasised however, that tools, resources and professional development are needed if the framework is to be used effectively. Integrating LLN into training delivery Not only is the lack of LLN expertise held by VET practitioners an issue, the lack of vocational knowledge held by LLN specialists can also make contextualising LLN skill development to the industry / workplace setting a challenge. One way of responding to this situation, which seemed to 13 What s happening with language, literacy and

14 resonate with Symposium participants, is to take a collaborative approach to addressing LLN in training and assessment. Checha Chako of Barrier Reef Institute of TAFE described the Institute s proactive approach to addressing learners LLN needs through team-teaching. This integrated support approach, which is similar to the Course in Applied Vocational Study Skills (CAVSS) model, involves the vocational teacher/trainer and an LLN specialist teaching the same group of learners, in the same place, at the same time. The integrated support teacher works with the whole group, providing individual support as needed, acting as an intersection between the vocational teacher and the learners, and helping the vocational teacher, if needed, with structuring assessments, designing materials etc. There are substantial benefits to this model: No learner is singled out as being in need of extra support, as all learners in the group have access to the support as they need it. The literacy and numeracy support is always relevant to the industry skills the learners really want to learn. The collaborative model of teaching provides a model of collaborative behaviour for learners. A collaborative learning environment, access to an extra teacher and the opportunity to revise maths or literacy skills, all help learners to focus on learning and the student success rate improves as a result. 9 Improvements in student success rates have certainly been evident at Barrier Reef Institute of TAFE: In the trades area, student completion rates in the year 2000 were 75%. Since the introduction of the integrated support approach they have risen to 92%. Similarly, in the Institute s nursing program, the completion rate for the cohort of 25 learners in the year 2000 was 70%. For the most recent cohort of 60 learners, the rate was 93%. The integrated support approach is now in use for all courses at the Institute. Every learner enrolling in a course does a contextualised pre-training assessment. This triggers funding for about 9 from 14 What s happening with language, literacy and

15 2 hours a week extra support for those who need it, and this is used to fund the integrated support teachers in their team-teaching role. Some of the presenters and participants pointed out that for some learners with low LLN skills, vocational training is not the best way to acquire basic reading, writing and numeracy skills. Standalone preparatory courses are needed to prepare them for further learning. Phillip Barrow of the General Education Lead Institute presented an overview of the new Access Employment Education Framework, which provides nine certificate programs in foundation skills up to Certificate III level, as well as allowing for nine different statements of attainment. The framework allows for mixing and matching a range of units within a program in order to meet the needs of a particular group, and provides a ladder for learners to complete vocational qualifications. The current suite of programs for Vocational Literacy and Numeracy will also soon be replaced by Core Skills for Employment and Training programs. There are 12 proposed programs, aligned with the ACSF and covering communication and numeracy from Preliminary level through to Certificate III. What participants said. Symposium participants raised the fact that LLN can be daunting to non-specialist practitioners, which can result in resistance. Sometimes this can be because the practitioner lacks confidence in their own literacy or numeracy skills, but often it s because practitioners are already pressured to get through the content they need to cover, and see this as adding to their work burden. They emphasised that persistence, ongoing support and encouragement are needed in order to build practitioners capability. The issue of addressing LLN needs in an online delivery setting was also raised as a particular challenge, and one that has not yet received much attention. Participants had a number of other suggestions for addressing LLN in vocational training: Approaches adopt the integrated model used by Barrier Reef Institute use the disability support model, which involves talking to learners informally before or after class 15 What s happening with language, literacy and

16 enrol learners in a group tutorial, rather than providing one-on-one support engage a learning support person in the workplace use the LLN specialist to help non-specialist practitioners develop or modify their assessment tasks and materials. This also acts as professional development for the practitioner provide online support (although this is difficult to do successfully) publicise best practice models provide greater LLN support at higher levels. Building capability find out what support and expertise is available and use it provide practitioners with awareness of the ACSF include mentoring of new practitioners by an LLN specialist in induction assist practitioners by unpacking the LLN requirements in Training Packages place LLN liaisons in faculties, or have LLN specialists focus on particular vocational contexts. Addressing resistance start with responsive practitioners build relationships send s, provide examples and case studies, leave cake.. LLN resources Developing resources can be a time-consuming and costly exercise for VET providers. Symposium participants highlighted the value of accessing existing resources and sharing those that are developed. Yvonne Williams of the Bremer Institute of TAFE shared her approach to developing a series of LLN resources for the mining industry. Her starting point was to identify what LLN skills the 16 What s happening with language, literacy and

17 learners needed to achieve vocational competence and what support resources would be useful for achieving them. The ACSF was integral to the approach, forming the basis for identifying which core skills were relevant and for describing the outcomes to be achieved. The end product was a package of resources that included core skills summaries, reference guides and indicator tools with marking criteria. Key features of the resources were their focus on core skills, rather than vocational outcomes, and their brief and user friendly format. What participants said Participants pointed out that good LLN resources are available, but that many of them are not appropriate to particular contexts, and are not easily adapted. Many are also difficult to find. They emphasised the need for both more resources, and clear directions on how to access them. Suggestions for designing and accessing LLN resources include: Designing resources make the distinction between the skills needed to undertake the program, and those to be developed during the training don t let the LLN skill level needed to use the resource exceed the level of LLN needed for competence include a glossary (generated by learners, as well as more formal versions) design assessment tools to identify LLN needs make resources engaging and user-friendly provide professional development for using resources include a variety of assessment modes (eg. written, oral, short/long answers) include alternatives for non face-to-face delivery (eg. podcasts) include teaching, learning and assessment support in the one resource rather than separating them use learning support teachers to help design training and assessment materials at the appropriate level. 17 What s happening with language, literacy and

18 Sources of good resources: Toolboxes WELL resources (available on DEEWR website) Taking the Lead website Jigsaw Fineprint. Addressing the needs of Indigenous learners Given that the Far North Queensland region has the largest Indigenous population in the State, the LLN needs of Indigenous learners was a focus of the Cairns Symposium. While the issues and ideas raised in the presentations and discussion are focused on Indigenous learners, many aspects of them are relevant to all learners needing LLN assistance. Pam Bigelow of the Indigenous Lead Centre in Cairns highlighted many pertinent issues and described some of the many resources the Lead Centre has developed to support Indigenous learners. She started by pointing out that the ACSF provides a good framework for assessing needs and providing evidence to support applications for funding. Caution must be exercised in developing LLN assessment tools though, so that they are testing individuals LLN skill and not their ability to pass the test. Learners can easily be excluded because of fear of the test, or the context or layout of the test. English is often not the first language for Indigenous learners, adding to their need for LLN support. One of the resources developed for Queensland Transport by the Indigenous Lead Centre, is a tool for supporting Indigenous learners to pass their driver s licence test. The resource is not only relevant to driving, it also models literacy best practice, using plain English and relevant examples and activities, including a simulation activity. The resource is available to training providers from Queensland Transport. Other resources include a new guide to LLN Assessment for Indigenous learners, and web-based resources on preparing for work and Indigenous tourism, as well as a professional development website for trainers of Indigenous learners. These are available at Janice Steven from QATSIHWEPAC, discussed the challenges faced by Indigenous learners and provided some very practical examples of how to meet these challenges. QATSIHWEPAC makes 18 What s happening with language, literacy and

19 extensive use of the ACSF and tests all learners prior to commencing their training, using an inhouse tool based on the framework. The resulting spiky profile is used to determine what additional support they might require. One of the challenges is lack of funding for this assessment process for programs above Certificate II, as is the fact that no allowance is made for LLN delivery in higher level courses, which is often where the most extensive support is needed. A scaffolded approach is used to support learners, whereby an inclusive group approach is taken in class, but learners can access individual support if they want to. This is done is a way that doesn t stigmatise learners. For example, the teacher might say I m not going out for lunch. I m staying in the classroom. A learner might then come back to the classroom later to ask for help when their peers aren t around. All of the tutors used by the organisation are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander to help meet the language needs of learners, and all tutors are required to complete the TAALLN401B unit and the Course in Volunteer Tutoring, as well as attend internal professional development and mentoring. From these presentations emerged a number of strategies for supporting Indigenous learners: conducting pre- and post-training LLN assessments customisation of training and assessment materials, including: o modifying language o customising the layout o providing a cultural context through the use of artwork and references to community using e-learning and self-paced learning building self-employment opportunities through the learning providing learning support in regional and remote locations. What participants said Participants cited funding as the number one issue for Indigenous learners, as it is not sufficient to provide the level of support required. The ideal situation would be to have content and LLN experts working together, but funding, as well as lack of LLN specialists in regional and remote areas 19 What s happening with language, literacy and

20 makes this difficult. Regardless of the availability of LLN expertise, trainers and tutors working with Indigenous learners need to have training in LLN and in cultural awareness. LLN issues in regional and remote areas and in private RTOs There is no doubt that many of the LLN issues faced by practitioners across the VET system are intensified in regional and remote areas. Smaller numbers of learners and practitioners, combined with the difficulties of distance, make addressing the LLN needs of learners and building the capability of VET practitioners even more challenging. Similarly, private RTOs, many of which are relatively small, often do not have access to sufficient expertise and resources for addressing LLN issues. As pointed out by Susan Rees and Carol Doyle of Study Cairns, funding is an issue of particular concern for these RTOs, especially when relying on Government contracts, which do not provide sufficient funds for addressing the LLN needs of many of today s learners. Support for international students is also of concern, as many have literacy issues in their first language, which impact on their ability to function in the English language. The presentations highlighted a need in the private sector for: greater focus on building the LLN capabilities of practitioners (which the new TAE qualifications will help to address), particularly as private RTOs often do not have ready access to LLN experts building awareness of the importance and value of assessing learners LLN skills before, during and after training. This will help in changing perceptions of LLN assessment as being a screening tool, to being a part of good training practice improvements in enrolment processes for learners, so that their needs, or ability to complete a course can be better identified. This is particularly important for online learning. What participants said Participants cited a number of issues of concern to those working in regional and remote areas, including: insufficient access to LLN expertise and resources difficulties with providing services in remote areas, or for learners from remote areas to travel to access services lack of appropriate accommodation for learners and trainers when delivering in remote areas 20 What s happening with language, literacy and

21 lack of tutors to support learners after they return from training blocks. And also... There were two other issues that received attention in discussions. Awareness of LLN issues The stigma that still exists around poor literacy skills and the reluctance of individuals to disclose LLN difficulties, or perhaps to even recognise that their skills are lacking, pose additional challenges to addressing LLN issues. There is a need to build greater awareness of language, literacy and numeracy not only within the VET system, but in the broader community. As part of their National Foundation Skills Outreach and Leadership Project, DEEWR will conduct a national awareness raising campaign. Based on the Beyond Blue campaign, its aim will be to remove the stigma surrounding language, literacy and numeracy difficulties and encourage individuals to seek support. There are also some useful resources available for building awareness of LLN issues amongst employers, including the combined Industry Skills Councils Five Good Reasons document, other initiatives being undertaken by specific ISCs, and resources produced through the WELL program. Funding The issue of funding was raised in many of the discussions across the Symposiums. Of particular concern was the lack of, or underfunding of the process of indentifying learners LLN skill needs. It follows that if learners needs are not adequately identified, then they won t be addressed. Other funding issues identified by participants included: lack of provision for LLN support at higher certificate levels lack of funding for Certificates I and II, which are needed for many learners with LLN difficulties. Participants suggested that Certificate I and II should be provided free to Indigenous learners, in order to provide a stepping stone to higher qualifications. This may be equally appropriate for the broader pool of learners the disconnect between the LLN policy agenda being driven nationally and the way in which LLN is funded in the States and Territories. 21 What s happening with language, literacy and

22 What next? The Symposium presentations and discussions outlined in this report present some clear opportunities for action around language, literacy and numeracy: 1. Build awareness of language, literacy and numeracy needs and dispel the myth that it s just about basic reading and writing 2. Improve practices for identifying the LLN skills levels and gaps of learners 3. Use the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) as a basis for assessing skill levels and designing training and assessment activities and materials (and access the professional development opportunities regarding the ACSF that will be offered by DEEWR) 4. Make use of existing LLN resources and expertise 5. Share ideas and resources, perhaps through communities of practice 6. Investigate alternative models for providing LLN support to learners 7. Encourage more individuals to undertake LLN qualifications (and take advantage of DEEWR s Language Literacy and Numeracy Practitioner Scholarships). 22 What s happening with language, literacy and

23 A final word As highlighted through the Symposiums, language, literacy and numeracy is starting to receive the attention it deserves. There a great deal of activity going on in this space, and there is more to come. Perhaps the most important message arising from the Symposium is that there is no need to wait for all of this work to be completed. There is already so much available to help practitioners. What is needed right now is for practitioners to: access the available resources get help from existing LLN experts talk to other practitioners come up with your own solutions and share them. 23 What s happening with language, literacy and

24 Appendix A Symposium Presenters Robin Shreeve CEO, Skills Australia Keynote Presentation - Australia s Workforce Futures: the role of LLN for VET practitioners Louise Wignall Wignall Consulting Services, on behalf of Innovation and Business Skills Australia (IBSA) Building VET workforce capability: New language, literacy and numeracy qualifications and units of competency in TAE10 Jen Coughran DEEWR Foundation Skills: an Australian Government Perspective Yvonne Williams Bremer Institute of TAFE Integrating LLN into learning resources Checha Chacko Barrier Reef Institute of TAFE Integrating LLN into VET training Mark Radley DEEWR The Australian Government response to LLN issues Anna Ridgway Innovation and Business Skills Australia (IBSA) Language, Literacy and Numeracy in TAE10: Building capacity in the VET workforce Les Retford Queensland VET Development Centre (QVDC) The Australian Core Skills Framework Phillip Barrow General Education Lead Institute Programs for addressing LLN and Employability Skills Susan Rees and Carol Doyle Cairns Study Group LLN in teaching, learning and assessment in Regional Locations a private RTO perspective Pam Bigelow Addressing LLN in teaching, learning and assessment for 24 What s happening with language, literacy and

25 Indigenous Lead Centre Indigenous Australians Janice Steven QATSIHWEPAC Integrating LLN into training, learning and assessment 25 What s happening with language, literacy and

26 Appendix B Useful Links Queensland VET Development Centre VET Connect website DEEWR Home page WELL Program acy/stratprojects/pages/well_application_forms.aspx LLNP Australian Core Skills Framework TVET Australia Skills Australia NCVER IBSA ACAL Adult Literacy Resource (archived NCVER) 26 What s happening with language, literacy and

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