Literacy Link
June 2000
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Editorial

This issue of Literacy Link invited contributions which look at literacy provision in the workplace. The design of industry Training Packages so that language, literacy and numeracy is embedded within the various workplace specific competencies might hold the key to the future of our profession.

In 1994-5, the National Reporting System (NRS) was developed through a national project jointly funded by ANTA and what was then DEETYA. It provided a mechanism for reporting outcomes of adult English language, literacy and numeracy programmes.

The NRS was officially adopted as part of the new reporting requirements for the WELL Programme from the beginning of 1998. Geraldine Castleton is the new ACAL President following the resignation of Rosa Mckenna who stood down this month due to work commitments.

Geraldine first entered the adult literacy field in the early 90s, being involved in the delivery of professional development (ALT) and the development and delivery of in-service education courses for adult literacy teachers. Through this initial contact with practitioners she developed a deep-felt respect for the people working in the field and a desire to learn more about the sector. She has been a member of QCAL since 1993, serving as President for two and a half years.

Geraldine has undertaken a number of research and consultancy projects in the area and has served on a number of state-based committees advising government on the development and implementation of adult literacy policy. Her publication and research interests centre on the relationship between policy and practice across a range of contexts.


Forum on Youth Literacy

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The ACAL Forum on Youth Literacy Issues was held in Canberra, Friday 26 May and attended by nearly sixty invited policy makers, community leaders, educators and young people. The purpose of the Forum was to begin dialogue on new strategic directions in youth policy and bring together for the first time many of the disparate groups representing youth.

At present a policy window exists with regard to youth literacy issues. More young people are falling into the widening pit that exists between school and adulthood.

One youth worker told the Forum of a 17 year old pregnant girl forced to live in Brisbane squats with junkies. She is waiting on a decision and appeal process that is just incredibly time consuming. The girl's request that she sleep in her social worker's car demonstrates clearly the total lack of policy cohesion in the youth area.

The Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs acknowledges that eight per cent of young people are currently breaching the Language, Literacy and Numeracy requirements under the Mutual Obligation programme. The programme is entirely discretionary - breaches are not enforceable by law.

"The Youth Allowance now forces people into literacy class. Threatening to starve them is not the answer. They should want to learn," said one of the young people at the Forum, Simon Perrie of the Youth Affairs Council. "Who consulted youth on Mutual Obligation?"

Further, the Forum was told that the ageing baby boomers that make up most of the teaching profession (indeed, ACAL) are just not aware of global youth issues. How are we to involve youth in the development of literacy policy? Who can represent youth? (There is no longer a National Youth Council.)

Much needs to be done in the exploration of school models for disaffected young people. What are the barriers to Literacy? How are the curriculum needs of young people to be integrated with vocational training?

Where is the intersection of cooperation between teachers and youth workers? There has long been a gap between the teaching service and youth services; even teachers in student services are underskilled in case management for young people.

The Forum, facilitated by Open Space's, Andrew Donovan, was characterised by its breezy informality: "Whatever happens, is what happens." Participants were invited to nominate issues they wanted discussed; dozens of these were posted up on butchers' paper. Issues were subsequently aired at informal sessions - 'informal' in the sense that people could come and go as they pleased. This informality meant there was no reason for anybody to feel 'stuck' - people were allowed to vote with their feet, and they did! Consequently energy levels were much higher than is usual for a conference.

Later in the day participants voted on the relative importance of each of the issues. Five main issues were identified and actions were discussed in the final session. Despite many participants' initial misgivings about the apparent lack of formal structure, most agreed that the Forum had exceeded their expectations at its conclusion. Recommendations for ACAL to act upon that arose from the Forum will be published in a report to DETYA, which will also be made available to participants.

Invited policy makers and community leaders came from the following organisations: ACT Chief Minister's Department, Victoria University, Canberra Institute of Technology, WorkPlacement Incorporated, DETAFE, Charles Sturt University, DETYA, Department of Education (Tasmania), United Nations Youth Association, ATSIC, Northside High School Student Support Centre, ACT Full Service Schools Unit, DETIR (QLD), Premiers Dept Victoria, Youth Affairs Council, Salvation Army, Department of Education, Training and Employment (SA), Australian Student Traineeship Foundation, Parliament ACT, Youth Research Centre, Welfare Rights Centre, National Youth Roundtable 2000 Series, ANTA, Office of Senator Stott Despoja, and the Property Council.


Literacy vs oral communication skills for ESL learners

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Many indications suggest that ESL learners have serious difficulties in learning English pronunciation1, even where their other language skills (vocabulary, grammar, reading, etc) are quite good.

This difficulty is linked to a range of other problems for learners. One of the most significant is its effect on their rates of employment (see Figure 1 - noting that VandenHeuvel and Wooden's later study (1999:27) shows that even after three and half years, the unemployment rate among their sample of those speaking (as opposed to reading/writing) English 'well' was 8%, whereas that of those who spoke English 'poorly' was 41%.)

Poor pronunciation is also linked to a range of problems for learners' employers and co-workers, and for teachers and trainers engaged to help them with literacy, workplace skills, etc (cf. Sanguinetti 2000).

Pronunciation is arguably one of the most important of the language skills, in the sense that, with clear pronunciation, a learner can be easy to understand even when their grammar and vocabulary are not the best, while poor pronunciation can make a learner very difficult to understand even if their grammar is technically excellent.

Thus learners with good pronunciation can be more confident in participating in a range of different types of conversations, and increase their general language skills at a greater rate than those with poor pronunciation. They can also benefit more from other types of training, including literacy training, which so often involves a significant amount of oral communication. There is even evidence that learners with good pronunciation are sometimes formally assessed as having better overall language skills than comparable learners with less good pronunciation.

Clearly then, good pronunciation is something learners should acquire as early as possible. The fact that it is so often their weakest skill is cause for serious concern. It seems worthwhile to investigate, and if possible improve, the situation. A recent study2 has undertaken just such an investigation, and made a number of recommendations.

Out of the too-hard basket

There are some who believe that the fact that oral communication is such a serious problem for learners is 'just the way it is': pronunciation simply is difficult to learn in adulthood, and life will always be tough for first generation immigrants. Some even believe that pronunciation cannot be taught, but, being learned through 'osmosis', will only be acquired by the second generation.

There is of course an important respect in which this is true: it is highly unlikely that someone who learns a new language beyond childhood will ever speak it without a 'foreign accent', no matter what sort of tuition they receive.

However there is a very important distinction to be drawn between a 'foreign accent', and 'poor pronunciation'. Someone with a foreign accent can speak the language perfectly intelligibly, and carry on all kinds of communication without hindrance - unless they are the victim of discrimination against their accent. Such discrimination undoubtedly occurs and is a serious problem (cf. Lippi-Green 1997), whose solution lies in education of the native speakers who interact with learners, rather than in 'elocution' lessons for learners. My report recommends increased and improved implementation of workplace guidelines on cross cultural communication.

However, the problem I am mainly interested in here is a different one: the case of learners who simply have not yet reached a level of proficiency in the oral language that allows them to make themselves clear to native speakers, even those of goodwill who are used to foreign accents.

I argue that any learner can achieve such proficiency with appropriate tuition. The fact that so many are currently not doing so is due to problems in the system, not to deficiencies in the learners. It is wrong to argue, as some do, from deficiencies of the current system to a general impossibility of improving pronunciation.

The current situation is one which can be improved, if its causes are first clearly understood. Pronunciation has been in the ESL 'too-hard basket' for a long time - quite justifiably, as the situation is complex, and improvement requires a coordination of effort, and a willingness to change perspective on a number of fundamental issues. Maybe now is the time for people across a range of sectors to take pronunciation out and give it a thorough analysis.

The causes are complex

1. Teachers

The obvious first place to look for an understanding of the issues is to those who teach learners of English as a second language. It is indeed true (cf. Brown 1992, Claire 1993) that many general ESL teachers are unconfident with pronunciation, and do not give it as much class time as it needs. It is also true that some of the common methods of teaching pronunciation are not as effective as one could wish, leading to a downward spiral in the amount of attention it is given.

The situation is complex and the problems are by no means the 'fault' of ESL teachers. The solution lies in improving the skills of teachers and increasing their opportunities to use them - not in (further) devaluing these skills.

2. Policy Issues

There are two major respects in which policy developments of the past decade or more have contributed to the problems of ESL pronunciation.

a) The huge focus on literacy (in itself of course an excellent thing) in the last decade has failed to distinguish the different needs of different groups in attaining literacy. In particular, learners of ESL who still have low proficiency with oral communication will be unlikely to benefit from the same kinds of tuition (whether in literacy in or anything else) as native speakers, and should be in different classes. In fact ESL learners probably need their oral communication problems addressed before their other training needs.

b) A focus on the needs of members of the 'NESB' category (those of non-English speaking background) has failed to distinguish adequately the needs of the subset of NESB people who have low English language proficiency. The broad 'NESB' category is valid, since the group as a whole has been shown to suffer various kinds of disadvantage, but it does need to be broken down for various purposes, and in particular, the group with low English language proficiency needs to be specifically attended to:

'Levels of English language proficiency vary greatly, but where they are low they pose the greatest barrier to training and employment for NESB people. As Misko (1997, p.61) argued, 'being of non-English speaking background seems of little relevance to being employed as an apprentice or trainee. What was important was the ability to speak English'.' (Volkoff and Golding 1998: 45)

Even the subset of those with low English language proficiency needs to be broken down further, to distinguish the subcategories of ESL adults vs children, and those of Aboriginal vs overseas background (and for some purposes, 'overseas' itself needs to be further subdivided).

3. General knowledge about pronunciation

The fact that everyone can speak can make everyone feel like an expert on speech. However, there are a number of fundamental misconceptions in the community (even in some parts of the language and literacy community) about pronunciation (cf. Beebe 1987). This leads to a lack of recognition of the need for experts to be called in on issues to do with speech, especially in relation to the assessment of learners' pronunciation, or the effects of learners' pronunciation on the assessment of other types of knowledge.

4. Research issues

The post-war history of language teaching, and of academic linguistics and phonetics, has seen a serious lack - for a variety of reasons - of good research on pronunciation for teachers and teacher educators to base their classroom practice on, and to spawn the development of reliably effective teaching materials. The solution requires coordination and cooperation.

a. Policy and policy research

Policy research needs to investigate in more detail the needs of ESL learners (as opposed to the more general NESB category), and the effects of low spoken language proficiency on people's lives.

My analysis suggests that assessment and placement procedures in vocational education and training should enable learners with ESL pronunciation problems to have these prioritised and addressed effectively, rather than being put straight into other types of training. Of course, research is necessary to demonstrate the advantages of this procedure for different groups, before major changes are implemented.

b. Academic research

There is currently a dearth of reliable research-based information about what works and what doesn't in pronunciation teaching, and why - though a large number of opinions can be heard. There is a need to increase the amount of academic research on these topics, as well as to increase the research orientation of teachers, and their opportunities to contribute to serious research.

There are currently few if any such tools, and general language assessment is almost always done with competency-based tests, which, though they have their place, are unsuitable for specific pronunciation assessment.

c. Methods and materials development

There are many methods and materials for pronunciation teaching on the market, but few which have been rigorously demonstrated to be effective. Hopefully improved research will enable the good to be distinguished from the less good (according to their purposes). Once this is done there is an urgent need for development of many more methods and materials, and for an increase in (voluntary, well-supported) professional development for teachers who deal with ESL pronunciation.

 

References

Beebe, L. 1987. 'Myths about interlanguage phonology.' in G. Ioup and S. Weinberger (ed) Interlanguage Phonology. Cambridge: Newbury House p.165-175.

Brown, A. 1992. Survey of Attitudes and Practices Related to Pronunciation Teaching. Perth: AMES

Claire, S. 1993. Pronunciation in the NSW Adult Migrant English Service: Current Practice, Future Directions. MA(TESOL), University of Technology, Sydney.

Cobb-Clark, D. and Chapman, B. 1999. The Changing Pattern of Immigrants' Labour Market Experiences (Discussion Paper No. 396). Canberra: Centre for Economic Policy Research, Australian National University

Lippi-Green, R. 1997. English with an Accent: Language, ideology and discrimination in the United States. London/New York: Routledge

Sanguinetti, Jill. 2000. The Literacy Factor: Adding Value to Training - Investigation of the inclusion of literacy in training packages in the food processing industry. Victorian Centre of ALNARC. Commonwealth of Australia

VandenHeuvel, A. and Wooden, M. 1999. New Settlers Have their Say: An analysis of data from the three waves of the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia (Dept of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs)

Volkoff, V. and Golding, B. 1998. Vocational Education for People from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds. Adelaide: National Centre for Vocational Education Research

Notes

1. Please note that by 'pronunciation' I intend all aspects of speech, not merely the articulation of individual sounds.

2. Coordinating improvements in pronunciation teaching for adult learners of English as a second language, by Helen Fraser, June 2000. This report was funded under the ANTA Adult Literacy National Project through DETYA. It is available from the author's website: http//metz.une.edu.au/~hfraser

A CD-ROM called Learn to Speak Clearly in English was also produced.

Helen Fraser
Senior Lecturer Linguistics
University of New England
hfraser@metz.une.edu.au

On chickens, challenges and communication

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When Steggles (now Bartter Enterprises) joined forces with Industry Education Services (a business unit of West Coast College of TAFE) to deliver a WELL programme, many challenges faced management and trainers. How the challenges were addressed can be summed up in two words - Training Package. The task was made easier by tying the training into the Food Processing Industry Training Package. Using the training package addressed two major challenges, firstly, how to motivate the workforce to attend training and secondly, what to include in the training.

There is no need to elaborate on what happens when adults are forced to attend training that they think they don't need or know they don't want. Introducing the concept of training for the whole organisation in something as obscure as communication is always going to be difficult. Our selling point was definitely the training package. Each worker was told that any training they undertook was nationally recognised and would help them work towards a qualification if they so chose.

A number of the people interviewed had given up any thought they could "make it" in education. This was especially true of a small section of the workforce who are refugees from places like Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq and Bosnia. When they discovered that by attending workplace training in company time and at no cost to themselves they had put their feet onto a career path, new options suddenly opened up.

Typical of these is Te Huia Chase, a 24-year-old Maori in Perth on a rugby contract. He left school in favour of a sporting career but reached a point recently where he began wondering what his future held. "I'm pretty excited about this training", he said. "These courses are nationally recognised so when you go to other workplaces you've already got that to call on."

At a recent meeting of supervisors it was put in the minutes that morale in the workplace had increased since the training began. The reason for this was attributed to people feeling more optimistic and motivated. The benefits are trickling into other areas as well. Sheryle Foxton is the Human Resources manager who has worked in the food processing industry most of her career. "I firmly believe", she says, "that it's assisted with the industrial relations side of things. Since the programme commenced both workers and supervisors are using the skills learned from the training to solve day-to-day problems without involving HR."

In the assessment process we discovered a pool of workers who badly needed some sort of literacy support. This group included several women who had been in Australia for years but had never managed to get on top of the language. It also included people who were forced to cut their English language classes short because they needed to earn money. Bartter management had some concerns about health and safety issues with this group of people as all the written and verbal instructions, standard operating procedures and policies are in English.

These groups are called "Pre-Certificate 1" to acknowledge they lead into the standard certificate training. When participants feel ready and able, they can request a transfer into the mainstream training groups.

An essential part of the initial training was to raise the awareness of the English speakers as to the needs of their NESB co-workers. There were a few pockets of intolerance most people were aware of and prepared to admit to. The main lack of understanding revolved around the NESB workers speaking in their own tongue to each other.

I ran a session where all the groups in turn role-played going to Japan to work without knowing how to read or speak Japanese. As a result of this session, the NESB workers reported an increase in support and the English speakers reported an increase in understanding of the unique needs of their work mates.

"I've got a lot from the training," said Lynne Miles (47). "But the ethnic workers have got more. It's helped us realise how it is on their side of the fence. I used to froth at the mouth easily. I've learned to be patient and tolerant."

A key element in the success of the training so far is the commitment by the company to the workers. This training is very costly to them in terms of the hours people are spending out of production. This represents something like 2,000 hours of individual time. The workers are getting a strong message that their learning and development is important and that the company is willing to support it.

To assist with the logistical nightmare of getting the training started, one of the supervisors, Tammy, was seconded to the project for two days per week. The training package provides a relevant content and competency framework that also motivates the workers to participate. "It gives the workers an opportunity to expand. You can see who is interested and wants to move on," says Tammy.Phone Jennifer Riatti on 08 9225 4251 to find out more about this programme.

Vanessa Lynne
Vanessa is an adult educator and facilitator with vast experience working in community education projects. Vanessa established and coordinated Australia's first Peace Education Project, the Promoting Adolescent Sexual Health (PASH) Project and the multi-award winning Kidlink Early Intervention Programme.


A whole industry approach to training

WELL and the transport and distribution industry

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The Transport and Distribution Industry in Australia is a complex network characterised by an enormous system of roads, railways, airports ports and distribution centres. Within this industry are the following industry sub sectors: road transport, rail transport, water transport, storage, air and space transport, other transport and services to transport. The industry spreads through cities and rural areas, linking large and small enterprises and employs around 390,000 people, predominantly male, nationwide.

The Transport and Distribution Training Package was designed to assist companies and training organisations to produce a flexible and nationally consistent workforce for the transport and distribution industry. The Training Package sets national standards for the provision of training and skill recognition, a series of nationally recognised qualifications and generic guidance on how the assessments should be conducted within the industry.

The modern approach to the provision of Transport and Distribution services requires workers understand the use of and use new technologies, comply with quality assurance procedures, and comply with a wide range of regulations and policies such as OH&S regulations.

The bulk of the workforce in the industry, however, has been working in it for some time and many were drawn to it by the fact that it was an industry that did not require post secondary school training or qualifications.

In a changing industry, the need for well developed language, literacy and numeracy skills has increased as has the complexity of job functions - a truck driver today does not "just drive a truck." He may also be responsible for the logistics and safety of the load he is carrying, loading and unloading materials, planning routes, reading schedules, completing paperwork and entering and interpreting data on computer systems.

Within the Industry, the need for support with communication and numeracy skills is not limited to workers at entry level, but also relevant to those with higher job roles, at a time when all workers try to adjust to the impact of technology, quality assurance procedures and legislative requirements of their job functions.

In some areas of the industry the focus is on the need for numeracy skills and mathematical knowledge, at a level higher than that currently possessed by the some members of the workforce.

The Transport and Distribution Training Package was designed so that language, literacy and numeracy is embedded within the competencies. For Example:

However even with units at Level 1, language, literacy and numeracy skills are assumed at a level that may not have previously been achieved by some workers in the course of their life experience. The WELL Programme is available to assist these workers.

The WELL Programme

In recognition of the need to support workers as they adjust to the rapidly changing nature of their industry and workplace requirements, the Department of Training and Youth Affairs has provided funding for the development of a three year National Strategy. It is anticipated that the strategy will support the industry and address issues regarding language literacy and numeracy, through the WELL Programme, to assist enterprises with the implementation of the Transport and Distribution Training Package.

One unique aspect of the Transport and Distribution Training Package is that it does not import units from other packages while the Transport and Distribution units are imported into every other industry that stores or transports goods. This means that language, literacy and numeracy support for forklift operators, for example, may occur in relation to the food or manufacturing industries. This broadens the scope of the WELL Programme.

Providing language, literacy and numeracy support within an industry that employs a significant number of contractors and self employed operators will prove a challenge as will the delivery of training and support to a mobile and often rostered workforce. The provision of 'flexible delivery' may include flexibility on the part of trainers to be mobile, training at points along the railway track or at truck stops.

Trainers will also need to develop new and innovative ways of providing language, literacy and numeracy support for coaching, mentoring and peer tutoring to take place. In order to achieve this, trainers, assessors, coaches, mentors and peer tutors need to develop awareness of the functions of language, literacy and numeracy within the job function. They need to develop means to identify a worker experiencing difficulties withcommunication.

The WELL co-ordinator's role

The role as WELL Coordinator at TDT has been to consult widely within the industry to ensure that the development of the three-year strategic plan accurately reflects the needs of the Industry including:

Liaison with state ITABs, WELL Coordinators, RTOs, union and industry representatives to work together.

Coordination of state and enterprise WELL programmes for the Transport and Distribution Industry on a national level.

Creation and maintenance of a network of interested parties that can exchange information within the context of industry training.

Support the production and distribution of resources that support the integration of language, literacy and numeracy training to help workers achieve the competencies of the units of the Training Package.

Support the development of programmes and resources that support trainers and others in their understanding of language, literacy and numeracy issues.

Act as an adviser on language, literacy and numeracy with regard to assessment tool development, development of new materials and other resources within the ITAB.

Enterprises, RTOs, ITABs and others within the Transport and Distribution Industry are embracing the recognition of skills, qualifications and structure for training provided by the Training Package. To ensure that the Training Package is fully implemented and effective, the workforce must be supported in the development of communication skills that empower workers to carry out their job functions competently.

Cinthia Del Grosso
National Project Manager - WELL
Transport and Distribution Training Australia
L1/351 William Street, West Melbourne.
Email cinthia@tdtaust.com.au

FREECALL 1800 257 114

Cinthia has had 20 years experience in teaching including 9 years of expertise as a workplace communications teacher and programme developer. This has included teaching and developing programmes within the ALBE, Pre-Vocational, CGEA, CEVEFS, VET in Schools, Certificate and Diploma Courses. She has also developed customised non-endorsed training materials for enterprises within the Transport and Distribution Industry.


Training package for the sawmilling sector

- an industry perspective

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A number of successful Workplace English Language and Literacy Programme (WELL) projects in Tasmania are addressing identified literacy and numeracy problems in the forest industry.

Surveys of the Tasmanian sawmill industry conducted by the Forest and Forest Products Employment Skills Company (FAFPESC) in 1995, and the Tasmanian Forest Industries Training Board (TFITB) in 1996, revealed that over 30% of sawmill workers were not functionally literate. It is important for the industry in Tasmania to take whatever steps possible to redress the safety, productivity and personal esteem issues associated with this extensive problem.

WELL funded projects:

Member organisations within the industry have sought to address literacy and numeracy issues through a number of different projects. These are:

The features of each of these projects are:

Forest & Forest Products Employment Skills Company Ltd. (FAFPESC) "Branching Out" and "Growing On" Projects

The "Growing On" project was developed to update Branching Out (developed in 1994) as a strategic plan for literacy and numeracy in the forest and forest products industry. This report recognised the lack of a training culture in the industry and the need for systematic examination of communication in the forest industry.

The project brief was to:

Examine the literacy and numeracy demands of work in the forest industries

Investigate the current literacy and numeracy skills of the workforce

Identify any areas in which improvement was needed

Develop a literacy and numeracy strategy plan and recommendations

At the conclusion of this project it was found that there are substantial skill areas in need of development if the industry is going to achieve a better occupational health and safety record, greater productivity and allow the workforce to reach its potential.

TFITB Country Sawmill Project

This project commenced in 1998 and sought to redress literacy barriers through the use of plain English Standard Operating Procedures (linked to National Competency Standards), symbolic signage and the training of mill managers to deal with literacy problems in their own workforce. It was a great success with some excellent resources produced and assistance given to 97% of the mills targeted.

 

FIAT Mills Project

The resources developed in the TFITB project were picked up by FIAT and are currently being delivered to the medium to large hardwood sawmills that are members of FIAT. Communication problems caused by literacy difficulties will also be addressed by a process of Recognition of Current Competency, training, assessment and coaching against National Communication Competency Standards.

North East Tasmania Forestry Project

Workplace Learning Services, a programme of TAFE Tasmania, is developing a literacy and numeracy resource for use in the forestry industry for workers with low literacy and numeracy skills. The resource is in the format of a CD-ROM which will address some of the learning barriers faced by workers in remote areas.

Two units of competency taken from Level 1 of the National Forest and Forests Products Training Package for the sawmilling sector, "Stack and Bind" and "Tally Material", have been included with literacy activities being integrated throughout the learning package.

Trialing of the resource will be in the north east of Tasmania using the Tasmanian Communities Online Access Centre at Ringarooma. At the completion of the programme, and with workplace assessment, workers will be given the opportunity to gain accreditation in both units of competence.

As a learning tool this resource aims to promote independent learning and increase workers' awareness and confidence in the use of technology to achieve learning outcomes.

Each project has tackled the problem from a different approach and altogether they have had a significant impact in addressing the literacy and numeracy issues identified in the forest industry.

Industry Perspective

Representing the industry sector, Dave Olden, is currently employed at Auspine Tasmania (Auspine Limited), a softwood sawmill in north east Tasmania. He says:

"We at Auspine Tasmania have been involved in a number of WELL funded projects. The company had recognised the need to develop the level of communication skills and increase workers awareness of changes in the worldwide competitive market.

"The first project actually started everything snowballing, workers started taking an interest in improving their literacy and numeracy skills and an awareness of what was actually required of them in the sawmilling sector emerged. Some of these workers needed encouragement

to actually say they needed support to increase their low level of literacy and numeracy skills. They needed to have someone that could boost their confidence, understand where they were coming from and who had credibility. It's no good having a project leader come in and tell them its all going to be marvellous if you haven't got somebody there on site to actually hold their hand and take them through it. We have put in place a mentoring system so that they have someone on site that they can contact.

"We have progressed to the point now where communication as well as training and assessment are moving to a higher level. Career paths have been mapped and workers are gaining recognition for the skills they have gained over the years.

"For the workers; confidence at work as well as being able to confidently communicate with their family and understand what is actually going on with their children at school. Finding that they can actually read and comprehend the newspapers can give them a wider view of the world. Auspine Tasmania decided to be on the Reference Group of the North East Tasmania Sawmilling project after looking at what the company, employees and the industry would gain from it.

"Even though the project is still in its early stages we have had two employees gain accreditation in basic computer training during preparation for trialing of the learning resource. The confidence of these employees increased so much that they have taken on board improving their literacy and numeracy themselves by calculating volumes and writing reports; even before the programme commences."

This overview of the quality of the resources produced by each of the projects has shown that there is an opportunity for a national project to make these successes available to sawmills in other states. These new resources developed would be substantially under-utilised if not used nationally.

Ruth Bakker

TAFE Tasmania, Workplace Learning Services

51 York St, Launceston TAS 7250


Soapbox

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The analysis of the new technologies and their relationships to texts , discourses, culture, gender and class constructions, is an essential part of adult literacy learning and teaching. Technology is not a neutral space free of power relations. The push to expand the use of the World Wide Web and computers is representative of Western Society's mainstream corporate, economic rationalist agendas. By reinforcing dominant discourses, the promotion of ideologies through information technologies has the potential to further discriminate against marginalised learners.

Teachers need to work with students so that they can independently investigate questions such as:

Who is producing the technology?

Whose interests are being represented?

Whose interests are being omitted?

What literacy practices are needed to access the texts contained in the technologies?

Adult literacy teachers need to make a commitment to incorporating new technologies and

critical literacies into their curriculum and practice. If they don't their students will be further disadvantaged.

Adult basic education learners and teachers are too frequently marginalised by government policies and education institutions because they are not seen to be contributing to industry-based programmes and economic productivity.

Teachers must take a pro-active role by urging educational institutions to ensure access to technologies for marginalised learners. Otherwise they are contributing to the further marginalisation of their students.

Jim Thompson

WA Coordinator for the Certificates in General Education for Adults

Address your correspondence to The Editor, Literacy Link, PO Box 2283, Canberra ACT 2601 or email: acal@mira.net


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