International Workforce Literacy Review: Australia
Excerpt from Current and Future Professional Development Needs of the Language and Literacy Workforce, Mackay et al , NCVER 2006
A number of studies, including the recent NCVER publication Profiling the National Vocational Education and Training Workforce (NCVER 2005), remark on the lack of reliable, centrally collected, quantitative data on the VET and ACE workforce. Accurate statistics on the language, literacy and numeracy workforce do not exist, but demand for language, literacy and numeracy courses remains high and indicates a sizeable workforce (ANTA 2003; McGuirk 2001; NCVER 2005; Harris et al. 2001; McKenna & Fitzpatrick 2004).
The most comprehensive recent snapshot of literacy and numeracy specialists in Australia is that provided in the TAFE New South Wales Access Division project, Adult Literacy and Numeracy Practices 2001: A National Snapshot (McGuirk 2001). This research covers workers from TAFE, ACE and not-for-profit sectors. The sample of language, literacy and numeracy workers (n=642) reported on by their managers portrays a workforce that is largely casual or sessional (70%), female dominated (85% female), ageing (50% of the total workforce between 40 and 50 and with only 2% of language, literacy and numeracy educators under 30).
Demographic data on vocational trainers is provided by the human resources and teachers’ surveys conducted by Harris et al. (2001). Of the 11,084 teachers and trainers reported on, 51.5% were male and 48.5% were female and more males than females held permanent positions. Only 40% of VET teachers/trainers were permanent staff. Seventy-five per cent of teachers were between 35 and 54, and only 13% under 30 (Harris et al. 2001, p.99).
In Australia in 2000 between 1.1 and 1.3 million people took part in ACE learning (NCVER 2001, cited in Harris et al. 2001, p.5). It seems that given the strength of its contribution to the adult language, literacy and numeracy field, community provision remains somewhat ‘under-conceptualised, under-researched and under-theorised and possibly insufficiently appreciated in the current policy context’ (Hannon et al. 2003, p.5).
What is known is that many thousands of volunteer tutors work in the adult literacy field through government and not-for-profit providers, such as TAFE, the New South Wales Adult Migrant English Service, The Smith Family and Mission Australia (McKenna & Fitzpatrick 2004).