The Role of Technology
Existing and emerging technologies have the potential to be
extremely powerful weapons in the fight against illiteracy. Today,
a relatively small percentage of literacy programs (about 15%)
report any significant use of computers or other sophisticated
technology in delivering services. Technology is an intriguing
possibility for meeting the needs of adult learners who (1) may have
had difficulty with traditional methods, (2) are isolated or
"place-bound" geographically, or (3) feel embarrassed to participate
in a formal program.
An extremely complete study of technology and adult literacy was
presented by the Office of Technology Assessment in 1993. (See
references) While the promise of technology is great, much needs to
be done, particularly in the areas of materials and software
development, to realize its potential. Examples of technology based
• Computer assisted instruction
• Distance learning via satellite• Closed captioning
• Cable TV
• Video games
• Computer networks/information superhighway
A Systematic Approach to Workplace Literacy
To be effective, literacy programs must fit within the strategic
goals and mission of the organization. The successful development of
literacy programs is best accomplished through a systematic process
which defines their role in the company's overall strategy and
develops plans to make them work. The following steps define the
1. Define overall corporate goals
2. Identify job/skill requirements
3. Assess/audit current worker skills
4. Identify knowledge/skill deficiencies
5. Develop education/training goals
6. Develop training plan
7. Implement plan
8. Evaluate effectiveness
Define Overall Corporate Goals
All activities carried out within the organization should be
consistent with overall corporate mission and goals. The mission and
goals may not always address education and training directly, but
they set the tone for what workers must be able to accomplish. The
following steps focus on providing a workforce which can carry out
the organization's mission and meet its goals.
Identify Job/Skill Requirements
A significant step is the identification of job and skill
requirements for the workforce in general (macro analysis), and for
specific tasks and activities (micro analysis). A macro analysis may
suggest, for example, that a certain level of reading, writing, and
mathematical skill is required to effectively do any job in the
organization. A micro analysis would define requirements for
particular jobs or tasks. Macro analysis is particularly significant
in continuous improvement environments such as TQM, JIT, and
kaizen. Motorola determined that in order for its workers to be
effective they needed to function at a seventh grade
level.(Wiggenhorn, p. 71)
Human Resource specialists and Industrial Engineers can be useful in
performing these types of analyses. A tested technique of value in
this step and the following two is the Training Needs Assessment (TNA).
(Bell and Burnham, p. 255; McClelland, p. 15)
Assess/Audit Current Worker Skills
A critical, yet difficult step is an audit or assessment of existing
worker skill levels. The actual evaluations are fairly
straightforward; the hard part is getting people to participate.
For many people, illiteracy is a shameful secret which they have
harbored for year s, and they don't want to be exposed. One
technique that works is to do a companywide assessment that is not
just limited to basic skills.
Some companies make the programs voluntary and others make them
mandatory. In all cases, however, a key consideration is to
maintain a perspective of concern, kinship, respect, and, if
necessary, confidentiality with participants.
Specific techniques for gathering data include observation,
interviews, surveys, testing, and focus groups.
Identify Knowledge/Skill Deficiencies
Once skill levels have been assessed, the organization needs to
identify types and levels of deficiencies. Results should be shared
with individual workers to help them see areas of potential
improvement. Once people know their areas of weakness and see what
they need to improve to be effective in the future, they may be more
likely to participate in a skills improvement program.
Training should not be undertaken without first determining if it
is necessary or required. A comparison of present skills to what
will be required in the future, and the identification of
deficiencies, forms the basis for training program design goals.
(McClelland, p. 15-16)
To be Continued
For balance of this article, click on the below link:
Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 02
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