Armed Forces’ effective approach to literacy and numeracy Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 10:21
The support the Armed Forces give to their personnel to help them improve their literacy and numeracy - which also improves their personal and professional development and operational effectiveness - is one that other large employers could learn from. This is NIACE's headline response to the publication of a 3-year Armed Forces Basic Skills Longitudinal Study on Thursday 7 June, which illustrates how a large employer has taken steps to resolve the impact poor literacy and numeracy skills have in the workplace.
Conducted by NIACE and NRDC, for the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Armed Forces Longitudinal Study illustrates how sound literacy and numeracy skills are essential in helping Servicemen and women to carry out their jobs effectively and to take advantage of the training and career opportunities on offer. The Armed Forces' strong commitment to helping those who join the Services with low levels of literacy and numeracy skills has brought benefits to both the individuals and the organisation.
NIACE believes the following areas of literacy and numeracy provision in the Armed Services are of particular importance:
- Provision is conducted to meet the needs of individuals wherever they are stationed (including during deployment at sea and on operations). Arranging this support around operational commitments, military training and the many other demands of Service (and individuals' family) life has been a significant challenge that the Armed Forces have addressed with success.
- Senior officer support for this provision is very clear and the Study highlights the role played by line managers in releasing personnel to access literacy and numeracy programmes during work time. Anchoring minimum literacy and numeracy standards as requirements for promotion to higher rank, as a matter of policy, has been fundamental to its success.
This has been a fascinating study to be part of and the first longitudinal study about literacy and numeracy within a large employer...[It] highlights the kind of provision, infrastructure and support needed to enable...[service men and women]...to do their job competently, to get more out of life and to give them the skills they need to enjoy and thrive in their jobs and beyond, whenever they decide to leave the Services.
- The Services have historically recruited all their personnel at the lowest rank and have ‘grown their own', promoting staff to all posts from within the organisation. As such, there is a strong culture of training and development to prepare for immediate job roles and promotion, with overt encouragement and support for individual improvement and progression. Securing such a supportive and enabling environment is critical in adult learning, especially for those with poor experiences of school.
- Making literacy and numeracy provision directly relevant and purposeful for learners is an essential component. The Services' adoption of Functional Skills provision is re-enforcing the importance of learning in context and developing transferable skills.
Martin Rose, NIACE's Programme Manager working with the Army's Director of Educational & Training Services, said:
"It is evident from this study that much can be learned from the Armed Forces' provision of literacy and numeracy for their workforce. NIACE welcomes the focus given to speaking and listening skills and the impact on personnel's confidence and self-esteem. The early and enthusiastic move to introduce Functional Skills provision and qualifications has been impressive. The emphasis on the practical application of skills to solve every-day and work-related problems, combined with the more rigorous assessment, delivers the very skills that Service personnel need and that their employers expect."
Carol Taylor, NIACE's Director of Research & Development, said:
"This has been a fascinating study to be part of and the first longitudinal study about literacy and numeracy within a large employer. The wealth of data we have been able to obtain, complemented by the voices of the learners themselves, has enabled the examination of what is happening to improve the skills and effectiveness of our service men and women. The study highlights the kind of provision, infrastructure and support needed to enable them to do their job competently, to get more out of life and to give them the skills they need to enjoy and thrive in their jobs and beyond, whenever they decide to leave the Services."