Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Back to Basics

Magazine article Training & Development Journal

Back to Basics

Article excerpt

Back to Basics

In 1987, New York Telephone had to process 57,000 applications in order to find 2,000 workers who were qualified for entry-level jobs. Motorola estimates that it will spend $35 million over the next three years to bring the reading and math skills of its U.S. workforce up to the sixth- or seventh-grade level. Eastman Kodak says that 10,000 of its employees do not have the basic skills needed to implement necessary changes to make the company more competitive.

(Figures are from the newsletter of the Business Council for Effective Literacy, and a Training & Development Journal interview.)

Those are not isolated cases. According to some estimates, 27 million adults in the United States lack the basic reading, writing, and computation skills needed to perform well in the average workplace. Millions of others have skills that are considered borderline.

The literacy problem in the industrial labor force is compounded by shifts in work patterns and expectations. Many people who traditionally composed the blue-collar labor pool now aspire to college educations and white-collar occupations. Recent immigrants constitute a significant number of potential shop workers, but many immigrants lack the basic skills needed to successfully perform the jobs of today's business and industrial world. In sum, the present workforce includes many inadequately skilled and poorly educated workers.

With foreign competition threatening American business, U.S. industrial plants are pushing to improve worker productivity, often by using more advanced equipment. But many companies have introduced sophisticated, computer-driven machinery, only to find that workers don't have the basic reading and math skills required to operate it. To bring their workers up to speed, more and more companies are undertaking the task of literacy training, designing their own programs or getting outside help.

A tried and true program

There are ways for businesses to address the basic-skills problem. A program with a 20-year track record in literacy training is the Imperial Educational Corporation of Oak Lawn, Illinois. Imperial offers a work- and home-based tutoring curriculum within an accredited special-function school. To date, 5,000 people have been tutored by a faculty of 350 certified teachers. The faculty uses a specially designed curriculum to facilitate the tutorial process. Seven administrators have been involved in the selection and training of tutors, student intake evaluations, and general tutorial supervision.

Imperial offers college and adult academic and vocational programs of study in a variety of areas:

* academic-subject improvement (basic reading and basic math);

* social-emotional interventions;

* treatment of learning disabilities;

* job-related skills;

* English as a second language;

* foreign language instruction for overseas assignments.

Many individuals and businesses have contracted with Imperial to improve literacy levels in the shortest possible time. Skilled or semi-skilled workers enrolled in the tutoring courses attend classes at work or at home.

Individualized Instructional Programs (IIP) are specially designed for use by a trainer or administrative team to bring about rapid, verifiable literacy training. Each IIP--with its associated written methods and reporting materials--is designed to help the trainer follow a thoughtful, sequentially arranged, systematic presentation with an individual or a group of no more than five students. The programs emphasize administrative quality control, student learning awareness, and constant feedback to company management during the training.

The IIP curriculum was designed in an attempt to avoid duplicating many of the pitfalls of traditional classroom instruction. Many illiterate adults dropped out of school because of personal underachievement and frustration in the classroom. …

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