An instructor’s perspective
When I first heard about the pilot project to bring Skilling UP’s Workplace Essential Skillsprogram into a manufacturing environment, I was definitely intrigued. I have more than two decades of experience teaching essential skills to adults in a classroom setting, so it was exciting to be part of a program that formalized the training around essential skills, through pre- and post- assessments, which have been identified as fundamental to all jobs, and delivered it within the workplace. The research is clear that regardless of levels of education reached, there are almost always identifiable skill gaps between a worker and their job. This can lead to tremendous stress, lower levels of productivity, high attrition rates and increased risk for injury or accident. This gap exists for many reasons, but what was most exciting as an instructor was the data that was starting to emerge that showed through targeted ES training, this gap could be closed. In a tight economy, it seems on the surface to be counter-intuitive for a manufacturer to part with precious dollars for training. To be able to demonstrate that this was a wise, and ultimately cost-cutting, investment was amazing.
A unique program
There are many training programs being created all the time. What made Skilling UP unique and successful? Spending many hours with the participants allowed me to really understand what made the difference. The targeted curriculum made it easy for the participants to connect with the material, and then make those connections directly to their jobs! The first building block is the Organizational Needs Assessment (ONA) done for each company as part of the program development. While there were consistent needs demonstrated in all the companies, each employer also identified needs or gaps that were unique to their environment. The ONA allows for a truly targeted approach to both the learning needs of the participants and the needs of the company – it is not one-size-fits-all. This made those key connections possible.
Being able to navigate and use documents is of prime importance. Tying reading and writing into this skill made such perfect sense and made the whole process flow intuitively with resounding relevance to the participants. The idea that the material isn’t unnaturally modified or simplified to make it more easily consumed by the lower level participants was a revelation to me given my strong ESL background. This was about building the skills needed to enable people to better manage the demands of their jobs. We could ensure the skill gain by using unfamiliar documents, while increasing confidence and success by using familiar and authentic documents. Using the documents that really exist, but teaching a strategy to tackle them, is critically important to bringing the essential skills into the workplace. Time after time, I had learners tell me that by learning to understand the process by which they could find information that they needed or that they were asked to find, made them more comfortable, more confident and more productive. This is invaluable to the both the participants and the company.
Working on document use, thinking skills and communication skills, and finding those threads that tie these skills together, was incredibly gratifying. I witnessed more “ah ha!” moments in my time delivering the Skilling UP training than in all of my years of teaching. It did not matter what level the participant started out at. Their experience of narrowing that skill gap was often incredibly profound. That the participants could genuinely see their own development, and directly connect it with what they do on a daily basis, was so satisfying to be part of. That we often had such lively and engaged sessions was just a bonus!
What is Skilling UP?
Skilling UP is an essential skills training model that aligns content to workers essential skills levels and the company’s organizational goals within the company. It was funded by the Government of Canada, through the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES).
To learn more about Skilling UP training and how to get results, please contact:
Cindy Messaros, Executive Director, AWES
Skilling UP is the result of a partnership between the Alberta Workforce Essential Skills Society (AWES) and SkillPlan, DataAngel, the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC), and the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC). The project was funded by the Government of Canada, through the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (OLES).