Foundation Skills: sites, questions, and resources

Some months we have a lot to share, but, we need to be pragmatic. The information in this blog comes in multiples of two (2).

We offer two:

  • career-focused government websites
  • answers to two frequently asked questions
  • resources – one to support numeracy skills, and the other to support reading, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

2 Sites with a career focus

There are two sites that provide useful information about Australian career opportunities and what’s involved within specific roles. Each has had a recent revamp.

1 My Skills

The My Skills  site has been updated in line with the current government theme ‘REAL SKILLS FOR REAL CAREERS’.  The site offers insight of roles across 15 industries through videos of workers in action, as well as some demand projections.

This is a good first stop for anyone thinking about a particular career who may not know much about it or what’s involved. 

2  Job Outlook

The Job Outlook site has much to offer. The focus for this site is to reveal current skills involved with roles, and offers projections about job opportunities in this line of work, in Australia. Here, the jobs are not industry clustered but identified A to Z – and the range is wide.


For each role tabs reveal facts, figures and lists which provide an overview of key tasks, current prospects, career pathways, required knowledge, skills and abilities.

You’ll see specific and embedded foundation skills.

The Activities, Demands, Abilities and Interests (in Work Environment) are a bonus – providing greater insight into the role and the work environment (also relates to foundation skills).

This site provides sufficient detail to enable an informed decisions about a career choice, and offers key skills used and required to perform the role. 

2 Answers to two frequently asked questions

Out and about, and on-line,  Chemène and I communicate with a wide range of trainers. Where foundation skills are concerned, we welcome and expect to be asked questions.  This post answers 2 of the most frequently asked questions

1 Are AQF levels and ACSF levels the same?

No. The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) provides the broad learning outcomes for each Australian national qualification level and qualification type.

It’s the first place to look if you want to identify the broad skills and knowledge involved with a course of a specific level. For example, see this summary of the difference between the broad skills and knowledge aspects of a Certificate II level course, and a Diploma level course.

The AQF does not mention the specific skills and knowledge within a course, or the specific foundation skills required at that level.

The Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) relates to the Language Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) skills used to demonstrate competency to perform workplace tasks. Each unit of competency may require the application of different language literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills, and at different levels of complexity (from level 1 to 5). For example one unit may involve mostly oral communication and reading skills at ACSF level 3, whereas another may involve writing and digital  foundation skills at ACSF level 4.

The ACSF provides performance descriptions within each core skill across each of the 5 levels. The descriptions help to identify and confirm what learners and graduates are expected to perform or demonstrate at the LLN skill level of complexity.

The key points: 

  1. Foundation skills demand and level of complexity can vary between units of competency in the same course
  2. Refer to the ACSF and the CSfW to check the foundation skills demand and level of complexity required to demonstrate a performance criteria 

2 Does reasonable adjustment mean make the LLN or foundation skills demand easier?

No. Generally reasonable adjustment relates to learners with a disability. The Standards for RTOs 2015 outline the responsibility of providers to adhere to the principles of
access and equity.

‘Access and equity means policies and approaches aimed at ensuring that VET is responsive to the individual needs of clients whose age, gender, cultural or ethnic background, disability, sexuality, language skills, literacy or numeracy level, unemployment, imprisonment or remote location may present a barrier to access, participation and the
achievement of suitable outcomes’ (Glossary, Standards for RTOs 2015)


Most RTOs enable learners to identify if they have a disability during or at the enrolment stage. The RTO and trainer will then follow policies and procedures to find out how the learner may be impacted by the disability and therefore how they may be assisted so that they can access and engage with the course.

Some don’t want to reveal that they have a disability, they prefer to try to see how they go independently. Some learners may not be aware that they have a disability. They may have adjusted their life to existing capabilities, or may not have had the opportunity to be diagnosed. Tuning in to learners’ needs may require implementing more than one assistive approach.

You may need to develop multiple strategies where the needs of different learner cohorts require different approaches to the delivery of training and/or assessment.”


Sometimes reasonable adjustments are made to the learning environment, training delivery, learning resources and/or assessment tasks to meet the learner’s needs. For example this may be with the use of assistive technology to facilitate reading and writing (eg Read and Write Gold), or the engagement of a Reader/Writer for assessments.

The assistance provided to a learner with a disability requires that competency is maintained. The learner/graduate must have the ability to perform particular tasks and responsibilities to the standard of performance expected in the workplace.

The key point is:

  • Adjustments, support, and assistance must maintain the competency standards.

2 Resources to boost foundation skills development

1 Numeracy resource

VALBEC Building Strength with Numbers mustn’t be overlooked if your goal is enable learners to engage with, discuss, and use a range of  numeracy skills related to various workplace contexts. The resources include games, paper-based resources, tips and advice. Develop learners’ confidence with ‘in-the-head’ techniques – a necessity for many workplaces.

1 Problem-solving and critical thinking resource

The terms problem-solving skills and critical thinking skills are often mentioned in information about the ‘enterprise’ or ‘smart skills’ employers seek in their workers. Our experience is that learners need a way forward with how to develop these skills. Some learners are comfortable and confident to identify the facts within a text but less certain about how to interpret, link, make projections, or think about it from a different perspective.

From the Global Digital Citizenship Foundation, the Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Critical Thinking  Infographic  is a useful resource containing 48 questions to stimulate discussion and deeper thinking. Locate this in your tool box so it’s easy to find!

The LLN and VET Meeting Place exists for you to:

  • ask questions
  • comment on information
  • and recommend strategies and sites for us to share

… about foundation skills.

What’s on your mind now?!




Learners and industry employers, need YOU!

If you are preparing people for the workplace, then you have a critical role to build the bridge between the learners’ knowledge and skills, and the workplace skills demand. Learners need your expertise and guidance to make informed decisions about the range of skills graduates they will develop through delivery.

Consistent messages, like this one from the OECD (2013), signal the importance of preparing graduates with a range of skills – workplace specific and more:

“In addition to mastering occupation specific skills, workers in the 21st century must have a stock of information-processing skills, including literacy, numeracy and problem-solving, and ‘generic’ skills such as interpersonal communication, self-management, and the ability to learn, to help weather the uncertainties of a rapidly changing labour market.”

OECD Skills Outlook, 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills,
page 46.

The purpose of this post is to provide current, relevant data with compelling information designed to stimulate discussion, guide decisions and prompt action to ensure your training will be as effective as possible at preparing learners for the demands of modern workplaces. These reports offer similar messages about the predicted disruption to industries, workplaces, and workers, from broad to specific skills strategies and suggestions.

Based on current Australian research and reports, this post offers three focus areas that your learners, and employers need you to ‘tune-in’ to:

  1. Tune-in to what is expected of workers – the industry and employers’ perspective
  2. Tune-in to the range of foundation skills workers and learners need
  3. Tune-into the skills demand of your industry

To facilitate discussion, here are 48 critical thinking questions to use in any context (including training!). 

1 Tune-in to what is expected of workers – the industry and employers’ perspective

Australian reports suggest that in coming years, we will observe and experience a range of subtle to significant changes across industry workplaces, and the workforce. Two recent publications reveal compelling rationales and considerations for VET—ways of working, delivery approaches and the foundation skills focus to align with an evolving industry environment. The reports are:

  1. The Australian Industry Skills Committee (AISC), (2017) Future skills and training: A practical resource to help identify future skills and training.
  2. CSIRO & TAFE Queensland (2016). The VET Era: Equipping Australia’s workforce for the future digital economy

Future skills and training: A practical resource to help identify future skills and training.

“This project gathered and analysed data on
Australian and international skills trends and
megatrends to build an understanding of the
potential impacts on Australia’s workforce in
the future, with particular emphasis on the
implications for the VET sector.” (p 5)
Read the range of ESSENTIAL Skills (pp. 28 to 30)

The VET Era: Equipping Australia’s workforce for the future digital economy

“It is time to bring the VET sector back to the forefront as the key strategy to ensuring Australia’s workforce has the skills required by employers and industry and that individuals have the skills needed to continually adapt and advance in new and unfamiliar circumstances.” (p. 1)

  • Read employer and trainer experiences & issues
  • Look at Implications for VET – Future Skills for Learning and Educational delivery (pp. 54-55)

Refer to these reports, and ask:

  1. how does the training you offer enable learners to be relevant to contemporary and emerging skill needs?
  2. what scope is there to innovate delivery practices?

2 Tune-in to the range of foundation skills workers and learners need

The skills mix required by industries is evolving. Employers need workers with a broader skills base, particularly in the range of foundation skills.

Yes – the foundation skills used to perform the workplace tasks remain important. An addition,  so are the foundation skills that enable workers to contribute to the enterprise objectives.  These  may be referred to as:

  • Essential skills (in the AISC report above)
  • Enterprise (Foundations for Young Australian)
  • Smart Skills (Foundations for Young Australian.)

These reports reveal the range of skills employers value, and provide clear considerations for a strong foundation skills focus throughout delivery:

  1. Australian Industry Group (2106) Workforce development needs survey report
  2. Foundations for Young Australians (2017) The New Work Smarts: Thriving in the New Work Order

Workforce development needs survey report includes employers’ current observations and concerns, eg

“Employers express some dissatisfaction with the skills of VET graduates especially problem solving, initiative and enterprise (14.4 per cent), self -­‐management, planning and organisation (13 .6 per cent) and basic numeracy (12.6 per cent).” (p. 4)

Look at the Key Findings (pp. 3-5) and Section 4: Specific Skills issues.


The New Work Smarts: Thriving in the New Work Order

This report focuses on what it means to be work smart. It is the fifth in a series by the Foundation for Young Australians. Although it is future focused, they note, “Some of this shift is already underway” (p. 6)
Read more about the skills needed to be Smart workers (see p. 7):
  • Smart Learners (p. 14)
  • Smart Thinker (p. 15)
  • Smart Doers (p.18)

Refer to these reports to:

  • initiate discussion about the key foundation skills messages.
  • inform the skills focus and adjustment of delivery approaches.
  • inspire others to focus on a broad range of foundation skills through training.

 3 Tune-in to the skills demand in your industry

Learners and industry employers need you to be on top of the changes to workplace roles and demands in your industry. You represent the industry area the learners are interested in—you are the expert. There is evidence that the skills mix is evolving. So…

“…how do you make sure that you are informed, in touch, and connected to the changing nature of an industry, and its practices, and then the interaction between the practices of that industry, and the skill component?”

TAFE Queensland
The VET Era: Equipping Australia’s workforce for the future digital economy, 2016, p. 37
Accessed from:

Remember, to be competent means having the range of skills and knowledge to perform particular workplace tasks and duties expected in the workplace.

In the industry you represent:

  • what subtle or significant changes to workers roles and workplaces have you noticed?
  • how can the underpinning skills be incorporated or strengthened through delivery?


Pre-Training LLN assessment tools: which one?

It makes good sense to identify learners’ support needs

If the Standards for RTOs 2015 guide your training and assessment processes,  then you’ll recognise Clause 1.7 – Support learners


Foundation skills underpin ability to do all workplace tasks. Regardless of the task – foundation skills are involved. It makes good sense to have a robust process to identify learners’ needs with a focus on foundation skills.

Some potential learners demonstrate this with relevant documentation, others through completion of one or more tasks that form part of the application or enrolment process.

If you are considering using a Pre-training assessment tool, this post presents 3 considerations to guide your decisions.

  1. Consider the foundation skills that matter most
  2. Consider learners’ characteristics
  3. Consider paper-based, or on-line tool

Step 1: Consider the foundation skills that matter most

Begin by checking the range and complexity of the foundation skills required to demonstrate task competency so that when you identify learners’ existing foundation skills you can make an informed decision about cohort and individual support strategies.

All workplace training requires graduates to perform a range of foundation skills. Clarify the foundation skills that matter most in your industry context now.

We suggest you refer to:

  •  industry employers and stakeholders
  • accredited training package, and Unit of  Competence
  • the performance descriptions in the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF), and the Core Skills for Work (CSfW).

What to think about

  • When will the assessment be administered – prior to, or upon commencement?
  • Does the Pre-training assessment cover the range of foundation skills you need to know about? What additional evidence may need to be gathered?
  • How are the learner’s foundation skills outcomes reported?
  • Does the report provide sufficient information to make informed decisions about the support learners may need?
  • For auditing, what documentary evidence is required?

Your goals:

  1. identify the range of foundation skills that matter most in your industry context.
  2. identify a Pre-training assessment tool that assesses and reports on the range of foundation skills that matter most in your industry context, if it doesn’t  how can they be assessed?

Step 2: Consider learners’ characteristics

Knowing the learners’ characteristics may influence the process and tool you select.

Generally, generic contexts are preferred. Familiarity with the content is important – for example content related to everyday life of an adult living in the community. Unfamiliar content can be a barrier to interpreting the instructions, tasks,  and resources. Barriers can skew the outcome,  and provide you and the learner with information that does not indicate learners’ competency.

Statistically, the ABS report that 1.3 million Australian households were without internet access at home in 2014–15 (14%). Even though most homes have a device connected to the internet, the download limit will vary. Accessing a pre-training assessment via a device may be a barrier for some learners.

What to think about:

  • Will the learners manage the language used in both the instructions to get started and the assessment tasks? Is plain English demonstrated in all texts learners must read?
  • How long will the process take to complete?
  • Are learners aware of available support and adjustments where meeting individual needs is necessary?
  • How are the assessment outcomes reported to the learners? Where is the information accessed?

Your goal is to, ask:

  • will the Pre-training assessment tool context be recognisable to most learners?
  • is the Pre-training assessment tool easily accessed by the learner cohort?
  • if necessary, can the learners access the Pre-training  assessment an alternative way?

Step 3 Consider: paper-based, or on-line tool?

What to think about

  • Given your annual applicant numbers, which assessment process (face-to-face, or on-line) can be efficiently, and reliably implemented?
  • What is the process to connect learners to the tool – who will be responsible for this?
  • Does the existing structure and processes allow time for team members to design, trial and validate a tool  (if developing your own)?
  • If using a fee for service on-line tool, how will the administration of participants passwords (or similar) be managed? What time is involved?

Design your own paper-based or on-line

This can be a complex process to get right. It requires sufficient knowledge of the foundation skills range and complexity to ensure the tasks, tools, instructions, stimuli, and assessor marking guides align with the intended foundation skills level, range and complexity. It’s very easy to be off-track.

There’s a lot at stake for both the learners, and you, if the tasks are not valid and the identified, or indicated foundation skills held NOW, are not reliable.

Helpful resources: existing paper-based tools, and validity and reliability advice

Existing paper-based tools

Precision Consultancy ACSF tools offers a range of generic and contextualised paper-based tools. Precision Consultancy was commissioned by the government to prepare a range of  tasks across the 5 Language Literacy and Numeracy core skills; each is validated by foundation skills specialists, and freely available.

The tools demonstrate instruction, task, text, and stimuli complexity from ACSF levels 1 – 4. Each task provides Assessor performance description criteria.

Your goal: to identify the foundation skills and knowledge the learners demonstrate NOW, especially the foundation skills that matter most in your training context.

If you use Precision Consultancy ACSF tools as the Pre-training assessment tool:

Your goal is

  •  to match the tasks with the range of foundation skills matter most in your training context (ie writing, numeracy, learning).
  • to consider the ACSF levels you will assess

If you use Precision Consultancy ACSF tools as a guide to prepare assessment tasks at specific ACSF levels.

Your goals are to ensure:

  • that tasks reflect the foundation skills that matter most
  • the tool is trialled, to check for foundation skills consistency
  • tasks are validated by a foundation skills expert
  • assessors have explicit foundation skills performance criteria

Validity and reliability advice

The Assessment of LLN testing tools for the VET student loans program. was prepared to guide to prepare a Pre-training LLN tool for approval under the requirements for VET Fee Help (Now VET Student Loans).

This document comprehensively explains the importance of  validity and reliability with a Pre-training assessment tool and provides advice about what’s necessary to achieve validity and reliability wit an ACSF focus.

Mostly on-line with some paper-based: ACER Foundation Skills Assessment Tool (FSAT)

It’s the first of its kind in Australia.

FSAT covers all 15 foundation skills across 5 levels of complexity – LLN (ACSF) and Employability skills. (CSfW) It has been extensively validated by foundation skills experts (this is ongoing as it is in a thorough trial phase) – and it’s freely available.

For more information about the tool including how the different core skills are assessed:

At present FSAT cannot be used for VET Student Loan learners.

DET approved on-line tools

These Language Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) assessment tools have been approved by DET for VET student loan program student entry requirements. Currently there are 6 approved tools. Each can be used as a Pre-training assessment tool for all students.

The tools must identify if learners Reading and Numeracy skills competency is at, or above, or below ACSF Level 3. Some of the tools on the list include assessment of Oral communication, Writing and Learning as well. Each requires  a service fee payment.


The list current as at 9 March 2017, is below and is updated as tools are approved.

Your goal: identify the foundation skills and knowledge the learners demonstrate NOW, especially the foundation skills that matter most in your training context.


  • does the tool assess and report the foundation skills information I, or our trainers, need to know?
  • has more than one tool been trialled?
  • what are the implementation considerations for us? (see below)

Yes, there’s a lot to think about!

We encourage you to share your experiences

Any questions, contact us, or ask via this meeting place.

Technology developments and foundation skills: what is trending?

This blog has a technology and foundation skills theme.  No, it is not about software, apps, tools, and platforms.  It’s about:

  1. Technology as a learning tool
  2. Technology and career advice.

We collated four recent information sources related to technology and the development of workplace skills. We considered how the information relates to foundation skills, and present our thoughts in this post.  The first section invites you to reflect on very recent reports about the effectiveness of eLearning delivery and the second reveals the rise of both the ‘gig’ economy, and the impact of artificial intelligence.

First, a quick reminder – The 2016 CSIRO’s Data 61 report: Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce identified six megatrends.  These megatrends are predicted to rapidly propel the workforce into new directions—some jobs will be lost, some will change significantly, and many new jobs will be created.  A key contributor to these significant changes is the emergence of technological capacity.

The document reveals that:

  1. Education and training remain critical to preparing people for the workplace.
  2. Current and accurate career advice will be important for people to navigate the workforce.

1 Technology as a learning tool

Does eLearning work?  What the scientific research says

Will Thalheimer is a learning expert, researcher, instructional designer, consultant, speaker, and writer. This research began with a question: Does eLearning work?  And if so, how effective is it?  Thalheimer examines outcomes from eLearning, classroom and blended learning models. He examines a number of research studies, each selected for their rigour and real-world learning.  There is a brief summary at the end of each section and a conclusion on pages 25 and 26.

“What matters in terms of learning effectiveness, is NOT the learning modality (elearning vs. classroom); it’s the learning methods that matter, including such factors as realistic practice, spaced repetitions, real-world contexts, and feedback.”

The research findings are interesting and worthy of considering if you are establishing or reviewing your technology training delivery approach.

Whichever model you use, building foundation skills involves:
  • Real world contexts – based on the real-world. Foundation skills are best learnt in context with a strong connection to the real world (or workplace) application.
  • Practice – more than once, sometimes many times. Plan how and where additional practice resources are made available.
  • Spaced repetition – use previously practiced foundation skills at different stages of training delivery.
  •  Feedback – meaningful and skill specific guidance. Feedback that informs the learner of their strengths and specifically, what to do to progress, understand, or master the skills.

How do adults prefer to learn?

Jane Hart, a thought leader in learning and development, produces a weekly blog called, Learning in the Modern Workplace.  On 08 August 2017, she released the results of the 6th annual learning in the workplace survey.

Jane listed 12 delivery strategies – most have parallels to the strategies used in adult training and education. The survey asked respondents to rate the strategies against their importance to them as a learning tool. Respondents selected from (NI = Not important, QI=Quite Important, VI=Very Important, Ess=Essential). 5,000 people from 63 countries (including Australia) responded.

The results are interesting, they reveal the learning strategies adult value more than others. We have prepared a table of results (below) with the key findings for the top 5, and 2 of the bottom 3 learning strategies. The table includes :

  • the overall learning strategy ranking
  • the learning strategy
  • the total percentage of respondents who rated this strategy as either VI or Ess (VI+Ess)
  • Our thoughts about why adult learners may prefer this learning strategy in education and training
Respondents Ranking Learning  strategy Percentage of respondents VI+Ess
Our thoughts: why adult learners may prefer this strategy
1 Daily work experiences (ie doing the day job) 93 Developing skills in the real workplace. Skills make more sense with real workplace application and relevance
2 Knowledge sharing within your team 90 Collaboration to affirm skills, knowledge and understanding. Assists ‘need to know now’.
3 Web search
(e.g. Google)
79 Learn in own time, Ease of access. Learning support resource.
4 Web resources
(e.g. videos, podcasts, articles)
76 Learn in own time, Ease of access. Learning support resource.
5 Manager feedback and guidance 74 Confirm skills strengths and how to progress
  • There are twelve delivery strategies.
  • At the bottom (10 – 12) are: 10 (elearning), 11 (conferences) and 12 (classroom training)
10 eLearning 41 Some models, the learner is left to work through independently
12 Classroom training 31 Satisfaction relates to many uncontrollable factors – e.g. trainer skill, peer influence, timing,

The results show that the ideal way is to practice the skill in the real workplace setting. In the education and training context the opportunity for learners to be situated in the workplace is increasing but not possible for all. There is an increasing trend towards simulated classrooms, role plays, use of industry tools, and the gradual introduction of virtual reality tools.

Beyond practice in the real world, to build skills and knowledge, adults value:
  • Connection with others  – opportunities to collaborate, share and learn from and with others
  • Resources -easily accessed and relevant resources to support understanding and skill development
  • Feedback  – to guide and progress skill development and skill adjustment

2 Technology and career advice

The emergence of the Gig economy

Last year, the CSIRO Data 61 Tomorrow’s Digitally enabled world  report signalled:

  • the rise of the freelancer and portfolio worker who may have multiple employers
  • and, for many people, a job will not there waiting for them, so it will be necessary to create it themselves.

Fast forward to now, one year later…

The Australian Industry Group (AiGroup) recently released a Thought Leader paper: The emergence of the Gig economy. 

Digital platforms allow freelancers:

  • flexibility
  • to promote and market their skills
  • to be connected to more than one employer
  • to use tools to manage clients

“Whatever the motivation for freelancing is, it is indisputable that this mode of work is rapidly growing alongside the emergence of digital freelance marketplaces.” (p4)

As trainers, how will you:
  • Highlight the freelance and entrepreneur employment trends?
  • Identify and develop learners attitudes, and mindsets to engage with a ‘gig’ economy?
  • Prepare learners to use technology based freelancing and networking platforms?

Could a robot do your job?

Last year, the CSIRO Data 61 Tomorrow’s Digitally enabled world  report signalled that all jobs will be shaped by technology and automation.

Fast forward to now, one year later…

Research house AlphaBeta (The Automation Advantage) created this data set to reveal predictions of how automation will effect jobs.

Their online resource is available via the ABC.

” It’s not so much about what jobs will we do, but how will we do our jobs, everyone will do their job differently, working with machines over the next 20 years.”

( could a robot take your job?)

 The resource provides useful information for trainers and learners to guide and respond to  career and skill advice. The information provided includes:

  • the percentage of the job (and related tasks) most and least likely to be automated.
  • the tasks, or skills most and least likely to be impacted by technology.
  • the automation percentage compared to other roles.

Search to find your job, or the jobs you are preparing learners for. Access the tool by clicking Could a Robot do your Job? or by clicking on the image.

AS Trainers how will you:
  • Keep abreast of the foundation skills and technology trends in the industry you represent?
  • Adjust delivery to embrace the emerging foundation and technology skills?
  • Engage  learners with a broad range of technology applications to be digitally literate?





Prepare graduates with numeracy skills for 21st century workplaces

Workers perform sophisticated functions which require them to be confident to use mathematical skills in problem-solving situations and to see the consequences of the mathematics related procedures.” 

(2014. p. 2 Identifying and supporting quantitative skills in 21st century workers )

Workers need to interpret, use, and report mathematical information within most industries and most workplace roles. The change in workplace practice is generating new numeracy demands. To be ready for the 21st century workplace graduates require strong foundation skills – including strong numeracy skills.

This post includes four (4) key messages about numeracy and developing numeracy skills. The first comes from the AIGroup/AAMT report Identifying and supporting quantitative skills in 21st century workers. Followed by a quick reminder about what numeracy involves,  some numeracy-based resources , and numeracy-centred questions to identify the learners’ thinking . Look out for:

  1. Check – what must graduates be aware of, equipped with, and ready to do?
  2. Check your understanding of what numeracy involves
  3. Check out 4 resources that introduce numeracy concepts
  4. Check learners’ numeracy understanding

What must graduates be aware of, equipped with, and ready to do?

The Australian Industry Group and the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers partnered to explore the mathematics workers do in 11 different industries. The purpose of the project was to:

  • identify numeracy skills used in the workplace
  • identify how these skills were acquired
  • consider how the findings may influence future teaching approaches.

The 21st century workplace needs workers who tune in to the bigger picture of how and where numeracy matters, and how they, the worker, matters to that enterprise. The report providess specific numeracy skills workers are expected to perform – you may be surprised with the range. This is an interesting read. We think it will make you think about if, and how, your graduates demonstrate the skills identified. In summary, gradauates must be:

  • Aware and familiar with a broader expectation of their role and the skill repertoire.
  • Equipped with a strong focus on HOW TO (concepts, strategies and skills). In the head techniques and using tools. Identify when accuracy is critical, or estimation is ok.
  • Ready to use the outcomes to contribute to workplace, provide solutions, use an inquiry approach. THINK about what’s going on here? What is the consequence, who needs to know?

“It is now more important for teachers to consider how they teach rather than what they teach “ (2014. p. 2)

Check your understanding of what  numeracy involves

Is numeracy just the LLN word for mathematics? Most people associate numeracy with the applying mathematical knowledge – the second part of the process (the green circled aspect). But it’s more than that.

Numeracy is influenced by , and situated in Language and Literacy” 

(Dave Tout, 2015 ACER presentation,  How do the L, L and N in LLN intersect? Some connections between language, literacy and numeracy).

The first part of the numeracy process is to interpret. We use our language radar to think what is this about and what is involved? To do this we relate the contet to what we know about the context and information.  We then use literacy skills to read the information and identify key words or details.

The second part of the numeracy process is the use of mathematics – number and calculations – to find out or answer the question. We may use in the head, or paper-based, or calculator techniques.

The third part of the numeracy process is to communicate the solution. To communicate we use our language and literacy skills again. Language skills help us to respond in context and use appropriate words/sentences. Literacy skills enable us to write, speak, or indicate with a diagram the solution.

Check the language and literacy demand required to interpret the numeracy task.

Check out 4 resources that introduce numeracy concepts

Victorian Adult Literacy and basic education council (VALBEC) Beth Marr Introduction series designed for trainers. They offer tips and advice to progress these numeracy aspects:

  • How to get students talking about numeracy
  • Sense of Volume
  • Volume 2: metric units of volume
  • Making sense of fractions
  • Making sense of subtraction
  • Guess, estimate and measure

Khan Academy

Trainers can use this to, check own understanding,  demonstrate concepts to learners, or observe helpful ways to explain concepts. Each mathematics area has practice examples, and a video to explain the concept or process. Learners will need some introduction to navigate the site easily, and their own password.

Learners may need some introduction to navigate the site, and their own password.

Numbers: The context is Construction and plumbing services.  These key mathematics concepts are introduced: calculations, area, volume, ratios and measurement – and include  practice examples.

Fliplets is a hospitality resource with a strong language, literacy and numeracy focus. It can be used to introduce language and literacy across a range of kitchen related aspects.

There are 9 areas – from kitchen types and tools, to measurements, food groups, menus and recipes. Each section has a glossary – visual and audio. No practice examples but the format is is interactive.

Introduce numeracy concepts in context a variety of ways. Follow-up with examples.

Check learners’ understanding

Unpack the numeracy question – ask learners:

  • What exactly is the question asking?
  • What data is involved?
  • What calculations are involved?
  • How confident are you to work this out?

Unpack the working out – ask learners:

  • How did you work this out?
  • Explain what you are doing as you do it.
  • Does this approach make sense?
  • Are there other ways to work this out?
  • How confident are you with the answer?

Make communicating about numeracy the norm

We hope the information, suggestions and resources enable you to help graduates develop strong numeracy skills to equip them for the 21st century worklace.


Building foundation skills: a mid-year refresher

No matter where you may be at with building your learners foundation skills – there’s always scope for some strategy refreshment. Sometimes we reach the half-way point in a year and reflect on what went well and what might need a tweak.

If you want to top-up or refresh tips and strategies to build your learners’ foundation skills so they can perform the workplace task with confidence, then this post might provide just what you are looking for.

Which foundation skills are covered here?

Building foundation skills involves a range of strategies. These tips and strategies can make a difference to learners who are revising their skills, or learning new foundation skills in any context, including in the workplace.

This blog provides a combination of general and targeted trainer and learner resources, as well as suggested relevant professional development opportunities in the second half of 2017.

An article to read and print

This downloadable resource contains generic strategies to build a foundation skills approach to adult training and education. There are five tips which we believe are worth considering, they cover:

  1. Looking to the future in your industry, what changes are happening?
  2. Referring to the ACSF and CSfW to clarify the skill level and identify specific foundation skills strategies
  3. Knowing the difference between up-skilling learners to use a new or higher level foundation skill, and supporting foundation skill development
  4. Exposing and explaining the foundation skill
  5. Stretching the instruction and practice phases (where possible)

Videos: by trainers for trainers

If you are short on time and want a quick update, then you might find what you want here. These videos are short and focused, each with a different foundation skills aspect covered. Although some of them discuss approaches for adults who may be at the early stages of developing their skills – the approaches mentioned are relevant to many adult learners and provide helpful reminders that there is a range of strategies to consider..

Local video resources worth another look

What works for LLN Video Library

There are 33 videos in the What Works for LLN video library grouped into the following three series:

  1. Introduction to LLN (9 videos)
  2. Practical LLN tips for trainers and assessors (16 videos)
  3. Introduction to workplace literacy and numeracy (8 videos)

International video resources

The Irish National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) has a Tutor’s Corner

The Tutor’s corner includes tips to read, apps to suggest, downloadable worksheets, and Teaching Tips videos. The videos cover these foundation skills: Reading, Writing, Spelling, Numeracy and there is a video to support trainers with English as a second language learners. Enjoy the Irish accents.

The Canadian Government identifies nine ‘essential skills’
Developing adult learners’ foundation skills to work in the current and future workplace is also a concern in Canada. Skills Competencies Canada (SCC) endorses the increased skills demand. Here’s what they have to say…

“The level of essential skills required in the skilled trades and technology careers is as high or higher than it is for many other jobs … Essential Skills are linked to better performance, which then leads to better quality work, productivity, and retention.”

VET and adult education and training in Australia refers to Foundation Skills. The 5 core LLN skills identified in the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF), and the 10 Employability skills identified in the Core Skills for Work (CSfW)  – 15 foundation skills altogether. Canadian adult training and education refers to Essential Skills (9). There are many similarities.

The resources tab leads to:

  1. A written and visual (video) explanation of each of the essential skills. The videos are workplace based and show workers performing the tasks, using the equipment, and feature the different ways the skill is used.
  2. Trainer resources. Most are instruction examples from different vocational areas that link the learner questions to the essential skill that will be used.

The videos focus on how the role requires the skill/s. and may be useful to

  1. remind trainers of the foundation skills within a role
  2. show learners who may wonder why their training has a focus on foundation skills.

Look ahead: professional development opportunities in the second half of 2017

Australian Council for Adult Literacy (ACAL) national conference

13 and 14 September 2017.  Read more on the ACAL website.

The ACAL annual conference includes international and local presenters. The focus is on developing adult literacy – there are many sessions with a ‘how to’ approach revealed. You will hear the latest research, and gather tips and strategies to build learners foundation skills

Velg Training’s National VET Conference for 2017

14 and 15 September 2017.  Read more on the Velg Training website.

Last year, Velg Training introduced a Foundation Skills stream to its National VET Conference program  The focus on Foundation skills will continued this year.

We – Ann and Chemène – will be presenting again. Look out for more about Foundation Skills from us, and other key presenters. For more information, click the image.

We – Ann and Chemène – will be presenting a webinar on 19 July- Where does LLN fit into the Assessment Validation Process? For more information, click the image.

We encourage you to refresh, or affirm the foundation skills strategies to develop your learner’s foundation skills. Perhaps we will meet you via the webinar, or at the Velg Training National VET Conference.

When is language the barrier to building literacy skills?

Increasingly we hear from trainers that there are more learners for whom English is a second, or third, or … language in the course they deliver.  This brings additional challenges to assist learners who may be unfamiliar with the workplace context and language. Language is the link or key to being able to grasp concepts, interpret texts, and communicate.

It’s not surprising that more trainers speak about the multiple languages spoken by learners in class. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reveals:

  • in 2016, for approximately 40% of the Australian population English is not their primary or first language.
  • in 2016, over 400 languages were spoken in Australia – more than a 100% increase since 2006.
  • the percentage of the population that speak only English is declining.

Furthermore, RTO delivery has expanded to include training within, or for countries other than Australia, so more trainers are involved with workplace training and learners situated off-shore.

This post will explore:

  1. the link between language and learning
  2. why all workers need strong language skills
  3. how you can build language skills: key considerations.

1. The link between language and learning – how does knowing the language help learners?

Language helps us interpret and express ANYTHING. Language is linked to how we understand a topic, a question, an article, a video, a numeracy calculation, a conversation.  It provides us with a rich set of expectations related to how we interpret and use:

  • the range of vocabulary – i.e. knowing word meanings and how/when they are used
  • grammar to construct phrases or sentences
  • appropriate grammar – e.g. expected norms for opening and closing a conversation
  • expected register – i.e. communication formality
  • facial expressions, physical gestures and other forms of body language.

Rosie Martin says…

“It is the internal, mental symbol-system with which we represent the world out there and in here.”

(Reference Island magazine)

Rosie is Tasmania’s 2017 Australian of the Year.  She earned this for her work building literacy skills with men in prison.


Language provides the cultural framework for the industry or community skills you are teaching. For example, industry workplaces can differ in how they expect colleagues communicate. They may use formal or less formal communication, specific vocabulary, or use nick names for certain tasks

Knowing the language is a critical mobilizer to success in learning and employment

2. Why all workers need strong language skills

The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) says:

Employers value numerous common technical and enterprise skills within a job cluster.”

(Reference:  FYA, 2016, The New Work Mindset p. 22)

Employers seek workers who have strong skills in:

  • written and oral communication
  • team work
  • problem solving.

We often relate the impact of language just to speaking reading and writing. The capacity to communicate, contribute to team discussions and develop solutions to problems will also involve numeracy aspects. Numeracy is part of most workplace roles and increasingly productivity outcomes are measured. How much… How long… How many…?

Understanding Numeracy also involves strong language skills. This is what Dave Tout said about the connection between language and numeracy in a 2015 ACER webinar presentation titled Where do the L, L and N intersect in LLN?

Learning, Reading, Writing, Listening & Speaking, and Numeracy skills involve knowing, using and interpreting the contextual language

3. How can you build Language skills?

Build the ‘field’, not just vocabulary lists

Some English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers refer to the term, ‘building the field.’ This is an intentional approach to help learners either develop new concepts or map already acquired concepts on to the new language. It involves, for example:
  • building an awareness of the range of words and expressions, and the use of these
  • the purpose for the text, task, activity, process
  • the social or cultural norms
  • the actions and activity involved
  • and the names and purpose of tools, equipment or resources involved
  • the expected or usual response format, tone, technique.

Each of these aspects contributes to learners’ ability to grasp new concepts. Think about how this relates to the workplace below.

Expose the cultural orientation of the Australian Workplace

Linda Achren discusses the role of cultural differences in workplace communication. In an article called, Cultural orientation to Australian workplaces (written for VALBEC‘s Fine Print magazine, she discusses the need for explicit teaching of workplace expectations and rules.
For example, Linda suggests that it is important to explain:
  • WHO they need to report to
  • WHAT they must report or speak about, and
  • WHY this is important.”

(Reference: Achren in VALBEC, Fine Print, 2013, Vol 36 #2, p14)

“Australia prides itself on egalitarianism. This value manifests itself in such ideals as equal pay, equal opportunity, gender equity, and so on. More subtly, it influences how we relate to our colleagues, how we relate to our boss and how the boss relates to us. It is reflected in out relatively flat structure of our workplaces, in which there is not a huge distance between workers and the boss. This can be problematic for CALD learners from more overtly hierarchical societies where the line of commend is clearly delineated.” (Ibid, p.13)

Consider using subtitled videos

Subtitled messages make the literacy and language stronger.

Anne McGrath says:

“Subtitles and captions make the message stronger and clearer”

(Presenter at ACAL/ACTA Conference, 2016)

Anne advised, “Don’t put subtitles or captions in the too hard basket.”  Are you aware that all programs aired on ABC, SBS, Seven, Nine, Ten and regional channels between 6:00am and midnight include subtitles and captioning?  Some YouTube content also includes subtitles and captions.

Increase the ‘how to do this’ explanation repertoire


Use a multi-sensory approach to expose the dominant literacy practices you are trying to teach.  To do this, role model, model and/or use diagrams, videos, films, visual text, multi-model texts, electronic and printed texts, audio recordings and examples to expose desired literacy practices.


Provide assistive technology  where possible – e.g. Read and Write

Step 3

Follow with examples, practice opportunities, targeted feedback, and opportunities to draft and edit written work.

So to sum up…

Australia continues to evolve into an increasingly multi-cultural (and multi-lingual) society. This, combined with our expanding reach into international training markets, means that educators must continuously add to their ‘toolkit’ of strategies to help learners with English as a second language build the language skills they will need to contribute to, and flourish in, modern Australian society and workplaces.  We trust that the suggestions made in this post offer some helpful additions to your ‘toolkit’.

Maintaining LLN currency

Does this happen to you? At the start of the year you receive a request from your manager like this – ‘Please update and complete the Trainer and Assessor Profile Verification of Competence and Currency’.

It may be straightforward to complete the verification of competency and currency with the industry and workplace requirements if you train and assess within your industry area, say auto-mechanics, or accounting. It may also be straightforward to identify the sources of information and networks that guide and inform your knowledge and skill currency.

But if you have completed TAELLN411 Address adult language, literacy and numeracy skills, remaining connected to LLN and foundation skills developments may be new to you and somewhat different to your key vocational context.

This post offers information to help you – a vocational trainer/assessor – access opportunities to maintain currency and engage in ongoing professional development activities related to LLN and foundation skills.  We’ll cover:

  • where you can look for updates, developments, and insights to inform and influence your practice
  • how to remain connected with others who share an interest in LLN and foundation skills.

Peak Australian, State and Territory LLN organisations

The Australian Adult Literacy and Numeracy councils are not-for profit orgnisations managed and run by volunteers. They offer a range of LLN resources, links and professional development opportunities. Explore each one to see what is offered, or make contact using the contact details listed below. The range of professional development opportunities include:

  • annual conference with keynote and experienced practitioners
  • conference papers (sometimes)
  • eNewsletters and/or Facebook pages
  • Membership (which gives access to publications)
  • Links to resources–e.g. VALBEC has FREE numeracy resources. See Building Strength in Numbers
  • Workshops


Peak Australian LLN organisation

ACAL Australian Council  for Adult Literacy

ACAL’s 2017 National Conference for 2017 will take place in Darwin on 13 and 14 September.

State Adult Literacy organisations

NSWALNC New South Wales Adult Literacy and numeracy council
QCAL Queensland Adult Literacy Council
NTALBP Northern Territory Adult Literacy and Numeracy Best Practice
WAALC Western Australia Adult Literacy Council
SACAL South Australia Council of Adult Literacy
TCAL Tasmania Council for Adult Literacy
VALBEC Victorian Adult Literacy and Basic Education Council

Peak Industry Skills Service Organisation

Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC)’s Skills for Australia is the Skills Service Organisation responsible for the Education Industry – which includes the TAE and FSK Training Packages.  Register for their NEWS released via email.

Last chance to give feedback about the Foundation Skills (FSK) Training Package
Currently PwC are undertaking a training product improvement survey to review the Foundation Skills Training Package (FSK).  They will welcome your feedback, but the survey is due to close soon, so act quickly!

LLN Journals

1. UTS Literacy and Numeracy Studies

This is an international journal in the education and training of adults.  It is edited and distributed via the University of Technology, Sydney. There are no annual fees. Access the journal here.

2. Fine Print

This journal is produced by VALBEC and includes contributions from the LLN and Foundation skills arena. It’s available to those who take out a VALBEC membership. Older versions are archived and available for free. Inquire at VALBEC.

LLN and Foundation skills webinars

Sometimes we want to learn from practitioners in the field. There are many aspects related to LLN and foundation skills instruction and assessment.  The VET professional bodies listed below offer a ever-increasing array of LLN and foundation skill webinars. Search their websites for upcoming webinars of interest to you.

  • Adult Learning Australia (ALA)
  • Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET)
  • Velg Training
  • Vet Development Centre (VDC).

You do not need to be a member to access the webinars. Just register and pay to participate. If you can’t access the webinar at the scheduled time, most of these organisations will send you the webinar recording and any related resources if you register and pay before the event.  Listen in the luxury of your time in your space – with a colleague if you like.  Most of these VET organisations provide a certificate of participation.

Adult Learning Australia offer a range of webinars. Some are relevant to LLN. Each year they offer two webinars which focus on aligning LLN tasks to the ACSF.  If you have a teaching or assessment question that you want some feedback about, you can submit it prior to the webinar.  Phillipa McLean – principal writer of the ACSF – often assists with delivery of these webinars and provides guidance and feedback from an ACSF perspective.

Social Media networks and connections


ACPET has the LLN Community of Practice LinkedIn group.

Image result for facebook logo

Facebook has two groups that discuss LLN and foundation skills:

  1. FS Teach is open to LLN and VET trainers. It’s a safe place to ask a questions.
  2. LLN Skills for Employment and Education was established for Trainers involved in the Skills for Employment and Education (SEE) program)

We encourage you to get connected!

  • Ask us, if you have further questions.
  • Tell us, if you have any other suggested sources you think people my find useful.




Millennial messages relevant to all learners

Almost 45% of VET learners are aged 15 – 24.  Society has various names for people who fall into this age group—generation (Gen) Y/Z, millennials, young adults and more.  Whatever you call them (we’ll call them millennials), they make up a significant portion of the VET student cohort.

Recent research about millennials  reveal skill and knowledge expectations of the workplace, the skills employers select for, and insight into reading and social engagement.

How do these findings inform our practice and enable us to help our learners graduate with strong foundation skills?

In this post we’ll:

  • introduce 2 findings about millennial learners
  • offer some ways to support them in their learning.

Finding 1: Employers want broader skill sets

Research from Australia, USA, Canada …

1 VOCED Plus

Focus on Millennials offers a snapshot of research findings from Australia, USA and Canada about:

  • how prepared millennials are for workplace roles
  • employer approaches to selection and retaining this generation.

More jobs require higher qualifications, so more than ever before “millennials feel the need to complete post-secondary education“:

“However, employers are looking for more than qualifications and technical skills; leaving many millennials feeling under-prepared for the world of work.”

Overall, employability skills such as being adaptable, able to resolve conflicts and possessing an eagerness to learn are increasingly sought after:

“…in a competitive job market, those with the strongest soft skills, especially the ability to network and communicate effectively, have an advantage.”

2 Foundation for Young Australians

You may remember the release, early in 2016, from the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) of The New Basics: Big data reveals the skills young people need for the New Work Order.  This research also reveals that employers are selecting for soft skills, as well as vocational competencies.

Soft skills are viewed as critical for workers to fully engage and contribute to the enterprise outcomes.

Later in 2016, FYA  released, The New Work Mindset which digs deeper into the New Basics findings and reveals some key messages for trainers,  and learners preparing for work. 

“Jobs are more related than we realise…When a person trains or works in 1 job,, they acquire,skills for 13 other jobs.” (p. 4)

“The future of work is complex but skills are more portable than we realise.” (p. 11)

“There are 7 job clusters in the Australian economy, based on skills demanded by employers” (p.13)
“Job clusters require similar skills that are often portable across occupations” (p.18)


What opportunities do your learners have to develop the ‘similar’ , or soft, skills for the New Work Mindset through authentic and purposeful instruction and delivery approaches?

  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Team work
  • Problem solving
  • Planning, time management
  • Detail orientation

Tip: Promote interaction

What’s key is to constantly ask, “What’s next? How can I take this to the next level?”.  Check you learning management system for opportunities to connect with learners. Here’s some suggestions that are simple:

2 Some may read very little

This Australian research Teen Reading Habits explores the frequency and range of tools used by teens to read for pleasure.

  • 70% read for pleasure – weekly
  • 30% may not read for pleasure
  • Of those, 50% read for at least 15 minutes
  • The other 50% may be less

Think about the range of text types we read for work; emails, websites social media posts, training material, compliance documents, website information, learner assessments, podcasts, webinars, forum posts, IT instructions and infographics. Will the workplace your learners are preparing for involve similar texts?

Learners commencing a VET course may be very unprepared for the volume and range of texts involved.


  1. How can we ease learners into reading unfamiliar texts?
  2. How can we promote engagement with the text while reading?
  3. How can we build reading skills to embrace deeper reflection about the text?

1 Prepare learners: Introduce the text

  1. Discuss the content overview
  2. Provide background to the text
  3. Describe the structure and ‘flow’ of the text
  4. Ask, “What do you know about this topic…” questions, and respond as appropriate

2 How can we promote engagement with the text while reading?

It is not enough for learners to passively read the words on a page. We can encourage them to think about the words, question ideas, interact with the text.

  1. Highlighting alone is a passive activity, make some notes, flag paragraphs that stand out in some way.
  2. Decide on the author’s most important points, identify how they fit together. Draw something visual if that helps, for example a mind map.
  3. Ask; what initial questions do I have?

3 How can we build reading skills to embrace deeper reflection about the text?

Ask learners to return to the text they have been reading.  First, seek an initial response to the text—ask them to explain or justify their responses to the text.  Then, dig deeper with questions and tasks that require consideration of the text.

The table below shows some examples of useful questions and tasks for learners:

 An initial response

  • Interesting points
  • Why consider this?
  • Key ‘take-aways’
  • Useful to/for?
  • Used in your workplace?
  • Do differently/action?
A more considered response

  • Explain/justify/predict
  • Discuss/develop an opinion
  • Presentation/role play
  • Solve problems/find solutions
  • Analyse/similarities/differences

A closing thought—don’t box them in!

Although research into millennials can give us useful insights as to how educators can support them throughout their training, we must be careful not to over-generalise and assume that all millennials have similar characteristics and needs.

We hope you find the research and instructional strategies we have shared in this post to be a useful starting point when teaching many learners, rather than not a means of restricting or categorising millennials.

The magnificent thing about we human beings is our capacity to be unique in thought, character and deed.  Isn’t that what we celebrate as we build relationships with our learners?



Writing – an essential skill

We don’t just write for the love of it

We—writers of this post—love writing!  We appreciate the beauty of a well-crafted piece of writing, from the elegance of clear and concise instruction, to the power of a story whose descriptions wrap you in the moment, the space and the emotions of the event.  Good writing is good for the soul!  But it’s more than that… good writing is good for work.

Now, more than ever, we use writing (and the reading that goes with it) at work to collaborate, negotiate, clarify, inform, solve problems and more.  Consider these comments from Professor Lesley Farrell, Professor of Education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education:

The digital revolution, known as Industry 4.0, is fundamentally challenging our understanding of working literacies.

and this:

The work of writing is no longer confined to people who like to do it … writing, not just routine writing like job cards and problem-solving templates, but exhaustive, collaborative writing with people you don’t know and can’t see is becoming the fundamental work practice.

Professor Lesley Farrell,  Workforce literacy and factories of the future, 2016

So what does this mean for vocational trainers?

Vocational trainers must help adult learners build the writing (and other) skills needed to perform in the workplace. This means doing three things:

  1. Keep up with latest trends and practices in your industry and constantly re-assess the foundation skills—writing in particular—that your learners will need to successfully engage in workplace activities.
  2. Throughout all stages of your training, expose, assess and teach the writing skills your learners will need to engage in workplace conversations and activities.
  3. Promote and practice writing skill development.

More detail about each point follows.

1. Keep up with latest trends in your industry

The Standards for RTOs require trainers and assessors to stay in touch with latest industry trends and practices.  We’re confident that you already have some good ideas about how to do this in your industry.  Here are some suggestions we can offer:

  • Keep working in your industry (don’t just teach)
  • Attend industry conferences and other special events
  • Communicate regularly with members of your industry, including clients and colleagues
  • Subscribe to relevant industry newsletters, social media and other online forums
  • Enrol in training programs or qualifications that will progress your industry expertise.

2. Expose, assess and teach writing skills throughout all stages of vocational training

First, identify the writing activities your learners will complete, at work




An example: a self-employed plumber must be able to confirm details of a job with a client.



In terms of writing, this may require the ability to communicate with the client, manufacturers and suppliers using email, text, web-based information, a brochure, or other forms to:

  • correspond with the client to confirm the client needs and budget
  • confirm availability of relevant materials and equipment
  • clearly explain the features, benefits, options of a product or service
  • respond to questions (sometimes difficult ones), negotiate prices or disputes.

It may also require the ability to:

  • use software and other related technology to write and collaborate online
  • manipulate pencils/pens to sketch an idea for a client.

Next, expose the writing skills needed

The Australian Core Skills Framework can help you to do this. What to do:

  1. Go to the chapter that covers the writing core skill
  2. (our suggestion) Read the sample activities at each level that match the writing activities needed for work.

Using the example of the plumber above, we found the following examples of sample activities for ACSF writing level 3 (ACSF, p.86):

  • Completes workplace records and forms accurately and legibly using correct technical and enterprise specific vocabulary
  • Enters routine data into a computer based management system
  • Uses email for routine workplace communication
  • Writes a factual text, e.g. a job history as part of a job application letter, following organisational guidelines
  • Takes notes in a short discussion in order to inform work colleagues who were not present
  • Records comments from a customer regarding the quality of service provided.

Based on our findings above, we can estimate that the plumber will need writing skills at ACSF level 3 to be able to confirm a job with the client and other relevant stakeholders.

Then… identify which writing skills to focus on

To help us identify which writing skills to focus on, we can now have a look at the ACSF Level 3 focus areas. Each focus area provides insight into the foundation or underpinning skills to cover in instruction and assessment.

Some focus areas for writing are listed below.  We’ve also given an example of what grammar at ACSF Level 3 requires, and what must be demonstrated:

  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
    To continue our plumber example:  The ACSF states that people working at Level 3 grammar, “…use introductory phrases to indicate an opinion or a fact … using some complex and compound sentences … uses grammatical forms and vocabulary to to give instructions, explanations, ask questions and express viewpoint.” (ACSF p.85).
  • Punctuation
  • Spelling
  • Legibility.

Assess your learners’ writing skills

Assess your learners’ writing skills as soon as possible before, and/or at the start of training.  Use assessment results to identify which aspects of writing your learners need further development in.

And finally, plan and deliver training that actively builds writing skills in a vocational context

To build writing skills, give learners frequent and diverse opportunities to ‘interact’ with the core skills and concepts throughout training. Use:

  • demonstrations and examples
  • explanations
  • discussions
  • practice and feedback
  • reflection
  • (where possible and safe) workplace application.

When teaching, expose—and explicitly teach—the core skills (in this case, the writing skills) in a work activity.

3. Promote and practice writing skill development

Learning to write is a lifelong pursuit. We may become ‘rusty’ with the rules of writing, or we may never have learned them in the first place. Furthermore, the English language and accepted rules for writing in English:

  • vary from one culture to the next, and
  • continuously change and evolve.

So the first thing we should do is forgive ourselves if we realise that we—the teachers—are unsure about rules and accepted practice when writing for work.  That said, we owe it to ourselves and to our learners to put a diligent effort into staying up-to-date with accepted English writing practice in general, and in our industries.

Here are some places you could direct your learners to build writing skills, or where you could go to refresh your own skills:

  • Visit the Plain English Foundation’s website to self-assess your knowledge of modern accepted writing practice, and to learn more
  • The Khan Academy offers a range of self-paced online activities that will build your (or your learners’) grammar skills—this is a fabulous resource!
  • Download Grammarly to your PC or mobile phone. “Grammarly makes sure everything you type is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free” (from the site).

These blog posts contain fabulous reminders of DOs and DON’Ts in sentence structure, grammar and word use:

In summary…

This article has encouraged you to reflect on your current vocational training delivery and consider the extent to which your vocational training prepares your learners for Industry 4.0—the digital revolution, and the increasing demand on writing that Industry 4.0 brings.

We hope that the information, examples, and links will give you a useful starting point as you constantly refresh and evolve your own writing skills and those of your learners.

Please use the comment box to give us your feedback, and to name other sources of information that you think we and our readers would find useful to build writing skills.