The ABCs of Workplace Literacy

By Hays, Scott | Workforce, April 1999 | Go to article overview

The ABCs of Workplace Literacy


Hays, Scott, Workforce


As long as he kept a low profile and didn't draw attention to himself, Gilberto Hernandez figured he could coast through life with limited reading and writing skills.

Hernandez dropped out of school in the ninth grade, entering the workforce because he needed money to pay for food, clothing and shelter. Prior to landing a job as a groundskeeper for the Phoenix Parks, Recreation and Library Department in 1997, Hernandez toiled as a janitor for the Phoenix Elementary School District. It was a good job that paid well.

Still, he was nagged by the notion he could do better, maybe one day even go to college. So last year, when the City of Phoenix offered Hernandez the chance to attend six hours of classes per week to improve his reading, writing and math skills, and work toward his General Equivalency Diploma, the 31-year-old groundskeeper returned to school for the first time in almost 20 years.

The Phoenix Literacy Program began in 1988 after a citywide study revealed that many employees lacked the basic skills to be considered "promotable." The program has since served more than 1,ono city employees fi-om seven different departments. "They come out with enhanced skills and increased selfesteem," says June Liggins, Phoenix personnel curriculum and training coordinator. "The program has not only made for more productive city employees, but has met our demands for a future workforce."

"Ever since I started taking classes," says Hernandez. "I've had a whole new outlook on life"

Even Hernandez' front-line supervisor, John Melisko, reports that "not only have his communication skills improved, but he seems more confident in himself. He always has been a good employee; now he's a better one."

As much as 20 percent of the American workforce may be functionally illiterate. In everyday work life, this deficiency translates into secretaries who can't write letters free of grammatical errors, workers who can't read instructions that govern the operation of new machinery, and bookkeepers who can't manipulate the fractions necessary to compute simple business transactions.

The Washington, D.C.-based National Alliance of Business (NAB) and the National Institute for Literacy estimate employees' lack of basic skills results in a $60 billion loss in productivity for American companies each year. Why? Because workers who can't understand warning signs or shipping instructions cause mistakes, workplace accidents and damage to equipment.

According to a 1994 survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 2.2 percent of U.S. employers provided basic skills training. And the skills shortage will only get worse, thanks in part to the integration of information technology into the U.S. workplace. Gone are the relatively simple single-product assembly lines of yesteryear; in today's high-tech workplace, one assembly line may produce a dozen items, each with its own complicated set of directions.

As American companies retool to meet the demands of a new global economy, workers must continually upgrade their knowledge and skills to qualify as "promotable." It's little wonder that U.S. presidents and pundits alike continue to hammer home the need to improve employee education, efficiency and well-being. There used to be a time when people who were functionally illiterate could find jobs. No longer. Modern economies demand a well-educated labor pool, and skills have become the key competitive weapon.

Employees' skills are employers' competitive edge.

The American Association for Career Education in Hermosa Beach, California, defines literacy as an individual's ability to read, write and speak in English, compute and solve basic math problems, and develop one's knowledge and potential through listening skills. Of course, it's undeniable that all of these skills should be taught in high school, but in many areas of the country, the nation's educational system can't be relied upon to produce literate graduates. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The ABCs of Workplace Literacy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.