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New Zealand businesses overlooking skills shortfall

Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017, by Sheryl Blythen

Lack of awareness around the literacy and numeracy needs of their staff could be preventing New Zealand businesses maximising their productivity and profit. The latest New Zealand Diversity Survey revealed that 65 per cent of organisations surveyed believe addressing the literacy, language and numeracy needs of a diverse workforce is not an area of concern. Yet statistics from the OECD's Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) suggest that nearly one million New Zealanders in the working age population of 15 to 65-year-olds may not have the skills to participate fully in learning, life and work. Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie says that when employees lack the skills they need do their job effectively, they are less engaged with their work and less productive. “Companies we’ve worked with that have introduced training programmes to lift the literacy and numeracy levels of their people have reported increased communication, more participation in meetings, better health and safety reporting, decreased absenteeism and fewer production errors,” Cassidy-Mackenzie says. About a quarter of the organisations surveyed reported they were taking action to address the literacy, language and numeracy needs of their staff, with 14 per cent offering informal coaching and mentoring, nine per cent referring staff to external training providers for assistance and eight per cent running formal training programmes in the workplace. Nicky Murray, Skills Highway Programme Manager, says that businesses that have taken action on workplace literacy and numeracy are discovering the business benefits and productivity gains to be made from improving employees’ literacy, numeracy and communication skills. Skills Highway is a workplace literacy and numeracy initiative funded by the Tertiary Education Commission and managed by the Industry Training Federation. Murray says some employers don’t realise they can get funding to implement workplace learning programmes. The Skills Highway website has information about workplace literacy and numeracy, including funding availability. The NZ Diversity Survey, which was initiated in 2013 to create a better understanding of the key diversity challenges facing New Zealand organisations, is carried out twice a year by Diversity Works New Zealand, in partnership with the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and supported by Massey University. This is the first time the question on literacy, language and numeracy has been included. Click here to read the full report.

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