Workforce Readiness: Competencies and Assessment

By Harold F. O'Neil Jr. | Go to book overview

of jobs notes that there is one way to conduct a literacy task analysis. To a large extent, how one goes about conducting such an analysis will reflect one's understanding of work, literacy, and the aims and context of the development effort. An important conclusion from the review of the methods for identifying literacy requirements of jobs is the observation that policymakers and management generally wish to express these requirements in an index number that establishes a general goal for the literacy program. Curriculum developers, on the other hand, need numerous examples of the types of tasks and materials used in performing literacy tasks on the job. An example is cited of a research project that combined the predictive validity and task analysis approaches to provide both a summary index number (e.g., grade level) that policymakers could use to set general levels of literacy to qualify for and complete literacy education, and a sample of materials that could be used by curriculum developers to prepare job-related literacy programs. That study suggested that such an approach is feasible. But a great deal more research is needed to evaluate the utility of such an approach.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the conceptual framework developed in this chapter and the review of the assessment of cognitive skills indicate that literacy is not some relatively simple addendum to or foundation for human cognitive competence. Rather, the conceptual framework and the empirical data suggest that, whereas one can be quite intelligent, well developed in oral language, and possessed of high aptitudes for learning, even though illiterate or poorly literate, it is highly unlikely that one can be highly literate and yet low in intelligence, poorly developed in language (vocabulary and syntax), and of low aptitude for learning.

The implication of this observation is that policymakers, such as those involved in the SCANS (U.S. Department of Labor, 1991), and educators involved in developing high levels of workforce readiness in students, must recognize that to develop all youths and adults to high levels of workforce readiness in the so-called "foundation skills" means, essentially, that they must simultaneously be brought to high levels of intelligence, oral language, literacy and learning ability. Fortunately, the significant correlations of all of these types of measures with years of education suggests that this might be accomplished through education. But it is likely to require a very extensive and expensive effort to reform the education system for in-school youth, and a similar effort to develop an adult workforce education system capable of accomplishing this task.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Portions of this work was supported by a grant to the Applied Behavioral & Cognitive Sciences, Inc. from the National Center on Adult Literacy ( NCAL) at the University of Pennsylvania. NCAL is part of the Educational

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