International Workforce Literacy Review: Australia
Current literacy provision
Models of delivery
The LLNP and AMEP programmes may eventually contribute to workplace literacy by delivering individuals into employment with increased skills. However, these programmes are pre-employment and classroom-based models of provision and so are not discussed in detail in this paper (basic detail of each programme’s structure is provided in Appendix K).
Delivery of training packages within vocational education and training occurs in a mix of on-the-job and on-the-job combinations that differ according to qualification level, industry and funding arrangements.
WELL Training Delivery
Training delivered under WELL must be integrated with other workplace training using approved training packages where possible and must be delivered by suitably qualified trainers from a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). Training is delivered at the workplace by the RTO trainer, who works with the company’s training manager to ensure the training is supported by both management and staff and becomes part of the normal workplace environment. his helps dispel the reluctance of some workers with low literacy skills to participate in training. Training can be conducted in small groups as well as one-to-one.
The benefit of WELL is that it is a flexible programme that can accommodate a variety of delivery approaches custom-built to meet the needs of the particular enterprise—for example an enterprise-based teacher working onsite 2 days a week within a factory or a trainer working for several hours alongside road construction teams out on the road. Training dollars are not capped per participant and will change according to the scope of the training, numbers to be trained and training environment. 
The role of the government
See also 3.1
Devolution of WELL training contracts
With regard to the WELL programme the Commonwealth’s national office used to have formal delegation for approval of all WELL funds—both training and strategic and resource development projects. In 2006, following the review, the delegation for training projects was devolved to each state DEST officer. This has resulted in more autonomy for states to promote the programme independently to key industries within their state, make decisions about how the training dollars are spent, run continuous application rounds and to deal with approval of training contracts in a timelier manner. A possible risk of the devolution is that the programme may become more splintered and lose a national focus. Another is that the devolution did not come with additional resources or staffing to state offices of DEST so that state officers are now dealing with more paperwork and administration and have less time for project mentoring and associated quality issues.
The role of the state/territory governments
State and territory governments contribute about 65% of the cost of recognised training. The training authorities are responsible for the delivery of recognised training, whether done on or off the job, or whether delivered by public or private training organisations, in that they apply the standards required in the Australian Quality Training Framework.
Of the approximately $4 billion of public funding for training, a proportion is allocated to the delivery and development of adult literacy training or related activities (see 3.2 above under ‘Stand-alone courses’ for details of the nature and extent of this activity). A probably larger, but unknown, proportion would be indirectly allocated to adult literacy via the integrated teaching and assessment of units of competency through national training packages. As outlined above, we do not yet have quantified evidence of the extent of this approach.
Other literacy activities
Recently the Commonwealth government commissioned a report on the current state and potential for development of the Adult Community Education sector (ACE)). The report found that the ACE sector was responsible for the provision of 123,000 Employment Skills and 68,000 adult literacy subject enrolments in 2005 Community Education and National Reform—A Discussion Paper (Bardon, 2006:5).
The paper called for greater funding for and coordination of this sector nationally. Critics argue that it is the idiosyncratic and informal nature of ACE that makes it so attractive to learners and to formalise it or regulate it would defeat this.
In addition to the formal accredited outcomes counted by Commonwealth and states there is also an unquantified amount of informal language, literacy and numeracy activity that takes place in the community, often in ACE providers. An NCVER research project is underway to quantify and describe this activity. The purpose of How's it Going? Monitoring Progress in Non-accredited Community Language, Literacy and Numeracy Programs (release date 2008), is to identify individual needs and the range of outcomes that accrue from participation in non-accredited community adult language, literacy and numeracy programmes across a variety of client groups. The research does not have any explicit intention of investigating workplace literacy issues however it may uncover informal activity that supports the skills development of existing workers or job seekers as it builds a picture of existing programs.
Company engagement with workforce literacy
The extent of enterprise engagement with literacy outside WELL and other government-funded programs is impossible to determine. We know that enterprises spend considerable sums on training within the enterprise. In a survey undertaken by the ABS for the period 2001/2, 41% of all employers spent $4.118 billion on providing structured training to their employees (that is, training with a specified content or predetermined plan). We can reasonably assume that at least a small (perhaps very small) proportion of these funds would be directed towards improving aspects of literacy in the workplace although the survey did not breakdown the stats to ensure literacy related training.
Source: (ABS 6362.0 Employer Training Expenditure and Practices, Australia 2001-02).
Participation in the WELL programme generally reflects the identification of a particular ‘business’ need in a specific enterprise, which in turn is influenced by how much particular industries are impacted by government regulation and industry standards. This identification of need is generally connected to how effectively the WELL programme is marketed to enterprises by a training provider.
Employers are more likely to be interested in participating in a WELL programme when they are convinced that the programme will deliver:
- improved teamwork
- better employer-employee relations
- improved quality outcomes
- quicker training
- reduced time and error in the production process
- improved health and safety
- reduced wastage (WELL Literature review 2006).
Crucial elements that contribute to quality in workplace programs that were identified in the WELL review of Literature are:
- good-quality partnerships between enterprises and providers
- adequate funding
- flexibility in approach to delivery arrangements
- qualified trainers
- effective marketing and sensitivity (in relation to participation which should be voluntary)
- a long-term commitment and effective evaluation.
Barriers to effective programs were identified in the literature as:
- a lack of awareness of potential benefits
- perceived cost
- poor communication between participants (enterprises and providers)
- inadequate brokerage between trainers and employers
- insufficient professional development for trainers.
The KPMG evaluation report on WELL included a number of recommendations that reflected the major findings of the study. The most important of these that related to enterprise engagement included:
- the need to increase the participation of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) by better promoting the program and its benefits to these enterprises
- improving information to employer bodies and targeting the program more effectively to overcoming skills shortages
- developing tools for training providers to market WELL, especially to SMEs.
Profile and roles of main stakeholders
Registered Training Organisations (providers)
Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) are providers and assessors of nationally recognised training. Only RTOs can issue nationally recognised qualifications.
In order to become registered, training providers must meet the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) standards. Training organisations register to provide nationally-recognised training with its relevant state or territory registration authority. This ensures the quality of Vocational Education Training (VET) services throughout Australia.
When registering the RTO must state its scope of registration detailing:
- the training or assessment it intends to deliver
- the fields or industries in which it may deliver training or assessment
- the maximum level of qualifications it may issue.
To ensure an RTO continues to deliver quality training or assessment, its registration must be renewed with the relevant state or territory registering authority at least every five years. The registering authority can audit the RTO at any time during its period of registration.
RTOs include TAFE colleges and institutes, adult and community education providers, private providers, community organisations, schools, higher education institutions, commercial and enterprise training providers, industry bodies, and other organisations that meet registration requirements.
All registered training organisations are entered into the National Training Information Service (NTIS) (www.ntis.gov.au)
ACAL and state literacy councils
The Australian Council of Adult Literacy was established in 1977 to promote issues regarding adult English language, adult literacy and numeracy policy and practice. It is the national body representing the adult literacy teaching workforce. ACAL maintains a strong interest in community-based approaches to delivery and social justice issues. It is funded by DEST to provide PD for the workforce through its LiteracyLink publication and its annual conference. ACAL has also tendered for and received funding to undertake NCVER research. Their NCVER report, Social and Economic Benefits of Improved Adult Literacy: Towards a Better Understanding (Hartley and Horne),attempted to look at the social and economic costs of poor adult literacy and numeracy skills, and the benefits of investing in such skills. The report suggested possible models for measuring outcomes but did not provide new data. However, the Hartley and Horne report contributed an important point that it is not always possible to value costs and benefits in monetary terms in the education and training field, as many of the outcomes do not have a direct monetary value attached to them.
Each state has an Adult Literacy Council that provides PD opportunities for the LLN workforce. Both ACAL and state-based councils have websites, electronic, and print-based publications that inform the LLN field of issues, events, research and upcoming publications. ACAL and state-based councils also run annual conferences.
DEST has invited representatives from ACAL onto the advisory committee for the NCVER Adult Literacy Research (now defunct) and a number of other project selection panels.
Some members of ACAL work in WELL projects although there is no formal special interest group relating to workplace literacy in ACAL.
National Industry Skills Councils
Industry has a voice in Australia's vocational education and training (VET) system through a national system of industry advisory arrangements.
Since the national VET system was formed, a range of industry advisory bodies have been the key conduits of advice and information between the VET system and industry. They provided a way for industry needs to be identified, communicated, and serviced and they have had primary responsibility for the development and maintenance of training packages.
In 2003, the ANTA Board decided to take a new approach to exchanging advice and information with industry through the establishment of 10 new Industry Skills Councils, which have progressively replaced existing industry advisory bodies.
The Industry Skills Councils have two key roles:
- providing accurate industry intelligence to the VET sector about current and future skill needs and training requirements
- supporting the development, implementation and continuous improvement of quality nationally recognised training products and services, including training packages.
The Skills Councils are:
- Agri-Food Industry Skills Council
- Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council
- Construction and Property Services Industry Skills Council
- ElectroComms and EnergyUtilities Industry Skills Council Ltd (EE-Oz Training Standards)
- Government and Community Safety Industry Skills Council
- Innovation and Business Industry Skills Council (Innovation and Business Skills Australia)
- Manufacturing Industry Skills Council
- Resources and Infrastructure Industry Skills Council
- Services Industry Skills Council
- Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council.
National industry WELL network
The ISC WELL network is a strategic national project to promote cross-industry sharing and collaboration on issues relating to essential skills, including language, literacy and numeracy, in workplace training and development.
Through WELL strategic funding, DEST has funded the network over the last 3 years. Previous to this the network was funded through ANTA initiatives. The network receives approximately $250,000 per year to:
- provide a forum for Industry Skills Councils and DEST to discuss issues and exchange information relating to the WELL programme and the inclusion of essential skills, including LLN, vocational education and training
- explore national and international research findings to build ISC understanding of essential skills and their role in workforce development
- consider implications from the outcomes of the International Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey and propose appropriate responses from ISCs and the VET sector
- continue to raise awareness across industry of the value of LLN skills to the workplace and the availability of WELL resources and training opportunities
- help build LLN skills in the VET sector including through the take up of DEST’s Essential Skills Framework (revised NRS). 
The network meets regularly and has been responsible for a promotional publication Up to Speed (Attachment 3) containing a series of industry-specific LLN case studies. It has also organised and facilitated a series of industry breakfast WELL information sessions in three states.
The network is coordinated by the Innovation and Business Skills Council which, as lead agent, pays a facilitator who is the primary driver of the activity to manage the network and draw together information and issues. Each ISC is paid an amount to contribute to the project outcomes, such as publication content and their participant’s travel costs. However, participants are not paid for their time. Despite this, representation on the group remains strong and the impact of the network’s activities is growing across time. The evaluation of the network’s activity has resulted in Industry Skills Council representatives reporting that LLN issues were better represented in broader ISC projects. The recent evaluation of the WELL industry breakfasts was positive, with a high proportion of attendees indicating their intention of following up on the WELL programme.
The network provides the strongest link between industry and government specifically on LLN in the workplace. However it has to be said that some ISCs remain more engaged than others. There are mixed definitions of literacy at play within its discourse and several issues such as the importation of foreign workers under specific visa arrangements remain off the agenda and regaled to the ‘too hard basket’.
State-based industry bodies MESAB network
The State ITAB network complements the national body in each Australian state. The state ITABs work in partnership with employers, employees, vocational education and training providers, and the government to identify training needs. They then facilitate and promote training activity for the benefit of the industry in that State.
The Manufacturing and Engineering Skills Advisory Board (MESAB) in Victoria runs a WELL network that meets regularly. It also has a strongly committed facilitator who has run the network over several years using a mix of funding options (and in some years unfunded).
In 2007 MESAB have three projects running funded from two different sources. The three projects are:
1. Reframing the Future project
MESAB as been funded to facilitate the Victorian WELL Practitioners Network as a Community of Practice under the national Reframing the Future PD initiative. This means that participants will not have to be invoiced for attendance. This group has been responsible for a NCVER research project, The Professional Development Requirements of Workplace English Language and Literacy Programme Practitioners.
2. A Professional Development Guide for WELL Practitioners
DEST has approved the MESAB Funding Application to develop a Professional Development Guide for WELL practitioners as a follow-on from recommendations in the NCVER Research Project Report.
3. National WELL Practitioners Conference
DEST have provided funding support for the first National WELL Practitioners Conference to be conducted on 2007.
It is interesting to note that the interest and commitment from one state industry group is leading the way in the development of PD options nationally.
Australian Industry Group and Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Two major employer organisations, the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry have both supported WELL during its review and the Skills for the Future initiative. The Australian Industry Group (AiG) is currently undertaking a project—Skilling the Existing Workforce. The Skilling the Existing Workforce Project is a Commonwealth-State Skills Shortage initiative. It is funded through the Strategic National Initiatives component of the 2005–08 Commonwealth-State Agreement for Skilling Australia’s Workforce. The research includes:
- consultation to inform industry
- training organisation and government approaches to workforce skilling, and as an input to the development of specific approaches
- models for workforce skilling that will be tested and evaluated through enterprise level trials in 2007.
Two recommendations from the discussion paper include a call for government to:
- adopt strategies to broaden participation in workforce development strategies at the enterprise level by:
- specifically targeting low-skilled and employees with language literacy and numeracy needs
- developing highly relevant accessible and ‘non threatening’ programs employing informal and non-formal learning techniques.
- further target investments aimed at building literacy and numeracy, and learning foundations skills among the low-skilled to boost participation in formal and non-formal learning amongst the low-skilled in workplaces. These investments include:
- the Workplace English Language Literacy programme
- the Australian Skills Vouchers programme
- state programmes
It will be interesting to see if the enterprise trials continue to specifically foreground language, literacy and numeracy or whether these will be swallowed up into broader terms such as Employability Skills.
Workforce literacy data
See Section 2.
Uptake of workforce training
Over the years DEST national office has funded a number of projects that have developed generic promotional materials for WELL. They include information packs and specific industry-based products such as WELL ... On Track: All You Ever Wanted to Know About Managing your WELL Program: Your Guide to Accessing, Implementing and Administering Workplace English Language and Literacy Programs (in the manufacturing industry), (Tina Berghella, 2003). More recent examples include WELL Worthwhile, (Agrifood Industry Skills Council, 2006) and Up to Speed, national ISC WELL Network case studies, 2007.
The national ISC WELL Network has also been funded through WELL national strategic project funds to run a series of breakfast forums in Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane to promote the benefits of WELL to interested industry partners (see Attachments X and Y). These involved speakers from DEST, MESAB and participants of WELL-funded training programmes. Evaluations showed that the most engaging and effective speakers were not the DEST officers, RTO representatives or the employers, but rather the employees who had taken part in WELL training and who articulated the benefits from a personal and organizational perspective. (See Rosilind’s story, Attachment 5.)
Currently the national DEST WELL section has a set of promotional ‘shells’ under development that will allow for a range of WELL information to be collated and distributed by the national WELL office.
Despite the need for engaging glossy brochures and clear guideline material, a central key factor that is crucial to the marketing of WELL is the individual in the RTO who makes contact with the enterprise and either markets the programme or answers an enterprise’s inquiry and converts it into a training solution.
Provider capacity and related issues
Because of the integration of LLN content into training packages, vocational trainers across the training system need to be able to recognise it and ‘unpack’ it from units of competency. WELL resource funding is available for resources to assist with this. The Get Real Factor (http://www.agrifoodskills.net.au/well_main.php) is one such resource. It is produced by the Agri-food industry Skills Council and provides a methodology and tools to assist vocational trainers and assessors to address LLN issues in their training and assessment.
In addition to the generalist vocational trainers delivering vocational courses or training package qualifications, literacy specialists and experienced WELL trainers also need to fully understand how to ‘unpack’ the LLN content built into units of competency.
Research by McKenna and Fitzpatrick (NCVER 2004) found that with appropriate support vocational trainers could successfully deliver a ‘built-in approach to LLN.
… provided they have a framework for conceptualising linguistic practices in the workplace context and within the training package, and can facilitate strategies and activities to develop critical workplace communication. The specialist language, literacy and numeracy teacher needs to have a sound knowledge of the requirements of the specific industry and workplaces, as well as of the relevant industry competencies to understand the reading, writing, oral communication and numeracy skills required by learners in their programs.
However, the research also found that restrictive funding models that do not provide for specialist professional development leave registered training organisations to make commercial decisions about levels of support required by learners. The provision of PD for both vocational and specialist teachers is often lacking and attention to LLN issues is sublimated by a variety of other training and assessment issues.
One of the key documented components of a successful WELL programme is the capacity of the RTO to provide qualified staff. Therefore an RTO that seeks to offer the WELL programme to and enterprise needs to have staff who are trained to deliver an integrated approach.
Within each state and territory there are a number of key private and public providers who have built up reputations and experience with WELL provision. Often certain industries will have an informal allegiance to particular RTOs. Successful programmes gain industry credibility and word of mouth remains a strong component of an RTO building a market share of delivery.
The most successful RTOs are those that have developed personalized relationships with industry, can offer trainers with not only LLN expertise but also a good working knowledge of the industry and the ability to be flexible with delivery.
Quality assurance mechanisms
The Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) is the quality assurance mechanism applying to the delivery and assessment of all recognised qualifications in the VET sector. As explained above, VET qualifications are defined by industry national training packages or accredited courses. Organisations wishing to deliver any VET qualification are required to register as a training organisation with a defined scope of registration—that is, which qualifications they are allowed to deliver and assess.
WELL programme management and quality assurance
WELL training projects are primarily looked after by DEST state officers. These state officers also coordinate applications, monitor projects, follow up outstanding reports, promote the programme to local industry and chair the local State Advisory Committees (SACs).
Incoming applications are assessed by a State Advisory Committee which evaluates on a case-by-case basis the scope, duration and rationale for each project and assesses the budget accordingly. SACs then recommend projects to be funded to the DEST State delegate. Applications must show the capacity of the RTO to deliver (within the AQTF), an outline of the qualifications of the trainers and assessors, and provide a letter of support from the enterprise receiving the training.
The programme has been audited a number of times during its period of operation, both internally and by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), The programme is considered low risk as the application process and the addition of the employer contribution requirement helps ensure that funds are spent appropriately and effectively.
The funding recipient must provide a three-month and six-month report on progress. The final report contains detailed reporting on training outcomes, as well as detailed financial statements and an audit from a licensed auditor for total expenditure on the project including the employer contribution.
Because of these reporting and accountability requirements it is rare for an RTO to seek WELL funding simply as a revenue stream because they have to have infrastructure and capable staff and a legitimate relationship with an RTO to get the training off the ground. Weaknesses of any kind are picked up at application and SAC selection process level.
WELL funding requirements
Employers must contribute 25% (in the first year) to 50% (for the second and third years) towards the cost of the training, as well as provide in-kind support such as training facilities, and wages for workers while they are being trained.
Evidence of relative cost-
Current issues and planned development
 See case studies in Appendix D
 Excerpt from ISC Network work plan 2007-8.