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Wednesday, 03 June 2009

A, B, C; it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3

Written by Matt Rowland

Care providers play a crucial role in up-skilling their workforce and in turn raising basic literacy and numeracy standards. Matthew Rowland, senior product manager of ThirdForce, explains the importance of literacy and numeracy training provision in the care sector.

Across the UK there are over 26 million people aged 16 - 65 years not meeting NVQ level 2 standards in literacy and numeracy. This astonishing number demonstrates the necessity for Government action, in order to provide a better future for the population of the UK.

1.3 million care workers are employed in the UK, and so, to ensure high-quality care and fulfilment of their person-centred roles the Government has implemented a target of 50 per cent of all care workers to be qualified to NVQ level 2 in literacy and numeracy. Adult literacy, language and numeracy are defined as; “The ability to read, write and speak in English and to use mathematics at a level necessary to function and progress at work and in society in general,” (Skills for Life strategy, DCSF, 2001).

Through embedding skills for life it is possible to maximise learning and raise levels of confidence, self-esteem and achievement in the care workforce. Improved communication and number skills have massive benefits to care employers and staff; for example an improved service of care to the elderly and care home efficiencies. The work of care staff is largely client focused and therefore involves much communication and interaction. The need to speak clearly for the service users to understand their carers is of utmost importance. Volume and tone of voice are of essence as well as clearly spoken English to ensure that the individual is comfortable with the care provided and effective communication occurs. If the service user understands the carer, then the process of support and treatment is likely to be much more efficient. High standards of literacy and numeracy are also paramount in order for carers to complete paperwork and calculate medication dosages.

The training spectrum

There are a number of options for skills for life training; care providers can choose between traditional classroom based training or the modern alternative approach; e-learning. Whilst many care providers see traditional forms of training as their only option, others are taking a step away from the norm and adopting a fresher approach to training their workforce.

As with everything in today’s dynamic workplace, time is of the essence. Traditional forms of training such as classroom based learning can be labour, and time intensive if carried out on site. Additional issues such as varying standards of delivery and/or a lack of available in-house resources and learning space must be considered.  Furthermore external courses incur additional costs such as travel and subsistence and add increased pressure to a manager’s role to provide employee cover.

Care providers face many a challenge of integrating skills for life commitments and embedding learning within the workplace, alongside the everyday business pressures and targets which can grow exponentially by the day in the context of an ever more challenging economic climate. Many care homes look for outsourced skills for life solutions that are not only compatible with their core business practices but will also integrate with their established learning and development (L&D) strategies and minimise workplace disruption.

The key to these problems is technology enabled training solutions.

Gaining skills from the World Wide Web

Tackling the literacy and numeracy skills gap of the UK population, specifically care workers, will result in a more loyal and motivated workforce. Literacy skills that can be gained through high quality training content include reading, comprehension, writing techniques, grammar and punctuation, and spelling. Learners can also grasp a range of numeracy skills including fractions, decimals, percentages, data and statistics.

Empowering staff to further their personal qualifications and capabilities to fulfil their job role at a time and place that suits them, allows for heightened confidence and completion of courses. This is where e-learning comes into play.

Now, in an age of rapidly advancing technology, educational advantage should be taken of the way people live their lives. The easiest way to do this is by employing the same media and thinking habits they foster in their everyday technological interactions, for the facilitation and betterment of their learning outcomes. Due to the fact that so much of our day-to-day experience is shaped and surrounded by image laden, highly visual, interactive activities, this has truly become the most effective and accessible method of learning. e-Learning is not a new phenomenon but in this digital age its popularity is growing rapidly and the engaging presentation of e-learning materials is increasingly being chosen to ensure that  learners are provided with highly constructive and rewarding learning environments.

As a computer based training resource, e-learning offers the flexibility to operate around complex and varying shift patterns allowing employees to progress at their own pace. e-Learning, designed around the individual employee, can be delivered anywhere, anytime to suit the learner’s requirements. Knowledge is delivered on demand and can be accessed 24/7 allowing the learner to dip in and out of the learning as required. Employees are able to return to the subject as and when convenient, to refresh their minds and enable further retention of the taught information. The use of technology also adds a scalability dimension for care providers who implement multi-site programmes that are spread over a wide geographical area.

Suitable for all ICT abilities ranging from the technophobes to the tech-savvy, e-learning makes training accessible to all workers.

Traditionally e-learning was presented solely on desktop computers. Over the last five years it has become available on mobile tablet-form computers and it is increasingly being made available on mobile phones, PDAs and iPods demonstrating the dramatic, and rapid, advances in technology. This allows learning to be ‘on tap;’ learners can perfect their literacy and numeracy skills on the move and whenever easiest.

Greener skills

e-Learning is also another important step forward in a greener approach to business. Online learning eliminates the need for large groups of staff to travel to one location to complete a classroom based training day. Environmental costs such as travel related air pollution and paper consumption through the generation of paper-based training materials can be eliminated.

The effective blend of technology with training provides a truly personalised approach to learning and results in a workforce that consistently achieves positive and lasting results. The goal should be for skills for life training to be delivered at a time and in a format that suits each individual employee and also that the training activity itself can diagnose, identify skills gaps and then provide tailored learning content. 

Only when employers embrace the true benefits of technology enabled blended learning solutions for basic skills training can the real returns on training investment be realised.

ThirdForce is the UK’s leading e-learning provider. For further information, please visit www.thirdforce.com