“New Zealand has a big literacy challenge and it’s good to see the government facing that challenge,” said Josh Williams, chief executive of the Industry Training Federation.
“Literacy issues must be addressed at all levels of the system, whether someone is five or fifty-five,” he added.
Tertiary Education Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce confirmed yesterday that industry trainees starting out at Levels 1 and 2 on the NZ Qualifications Framework will be able to get help from specialist providers if they’re in need.
“The Workplace Literacy and Numeracy Fund is doing a great job of providing training and support for businesses and workers who see the need to lift literacy and numeracy in their workplaces,” said Joyce.
“With this change and our previous decision to extend the time period businesses can access the Fund, it is now well placed to improve the skills of many more people,” he added.
Williams told HRM that the additional education could have a positive knock-on effect across other areas of employment.
“Low literacy underpins lots of other issues in businesses, like health and safety, correctly following procedures, and absenteeism,” he said.
“Workplaces are a great place to address literacy issues, since the training is relevant to their day-to-day work, and we have lots of case studies about how this has helped businesses in terms of staff culture, and engagement, and even wider benefits back at home.”
As part of this year’s budget, the government boosted the Workplace Literacy and Numeracy Fund by providing an additional $2 million to support around 600 more places and next year, an additional $3 million will fund enough for approximately 900 places.
Williams says it’s a move in the right direction but warns the initiative is still only scratching the surface of a major national issue.
“In the end, it’s fantastic that the government is providing this direct support to business, but overall, the scheme is still very small, when you consider the extent of the challenge - we are hopeful that it will grow further and be available more widely,” he told HRM.
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Employers and advocates alike are welcoming a recent government announcement after it was revealed industry trainees will now be able to access financial support to improve their literacy and numeracy skills.