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Indiana: Investing in workplace literacy December 14, 2006

Posted by Tom in Education, Workforce.

The nasty little secret that we must address in America is that many of our workers – even some well-paid workers – do not possess basic workplace literacy skills. So says a study, “A Demand-Side Strategy to Meet Indiana’s Workforce Basic Skills Challenge” (Full Report, Executive Summary), that the Indiana Chamber of Commerce published in January 2005.

The study states that 50% of our adult workforce has low literacy skills, meaning that they have a hard time with these tasks:

Skills Needed to Get a Job

  • Read a want ad and complete a written application
  • Talk about skills, abilities, accomplishments, likes and dislikes
  • Answer and ask questions

Skills Needed to Survive on a Job

  • Follow oral and written directions, ask for clarification or reasoning, and make small talk
  • Locate written information, facts or specifications
  • Understand technical vocabulary and the enabling words attached to them; for example, “pour the pellets into the extruder”
  • Understand and use charts, diagrams and illustrations

Skills Needed to Thrive on a Job

  • Give as well as follow instructions
  • Participate in group discussions
  • Teach others
  • Predict outcomes
  • State a position
  • Express an opinion
  • Access and use information from diverse sources

Fortunately, The study did not go unnoticed.

The Lilly Foundation of Indianapolis just announced a $1.25 million grant to address this issue in the Hoosier State through a new program through the Indiana Chamber called Ready Indiana. Here’s a little more:

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce estimates that about 1 million Indiana workers should improve their workplace literacy skills, but only about 20,000 receive additional training each year. So the chamber is heralding a new three-year program – called Ready Indiana and paid for with a $1.25 million Lilly Endowment grant – that will help companies find the training they need for employees.

Some workers need to improve reading levels or technology skills, while others need to improve working as part of a team or following directions, said Ready Indiana director Jane Howard: “It’s not just reading and writing and math, but it’s all of the other skills that go into making a productive workforce.” The program is an important step to help workers get the skills they need in the new knowledge-based economy.

Good work. Not the most glamorous work, to be sure, but perhaps among the most important.



1. Workforce Development - April 8, 2007

America’s Dirty Little Secret

Tom from Convergence has published a report that was sent through the Indiana Chamber of Commerce that we’ve discussed a lot on this blog – that even some well-paid workers – do not possess basic workplace literacy skills. Citing the

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