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The Need for Basic Skills Training

Considerable evidence in recent years points to the need and importance of investing in basic skills training. In the 1990's many organizations, large and small, trained workers in basic skills such as reading/writing, mathematics, and English as a second language. The need for this training is rooted in the fact that basic workforce competence is changing. Many factors affect this change. For example, technological changes have led to near constant retraining of employees at virtually all levels. The extensive use and availability of technology has led to technological competence as almost a basic skill for all employees in virtually all industries. Also, changing work processes, such as self-directed work teams, have required workers to rely on interpersonal and problem-solving skills once reserved for supervisors. Global competition, fueled heavily through technology, has led to a "raising of the bar" for employee basic competence. The competent worker of yesterday looks very little like the competent worker of today. And the competent worker of the future will look even more different.

The bulk of the employee training and development focuses on affective and cognitive competence. Teams, technology, interpersonal relationships, problem-solving, and other cognitive/affective learning lead to employee growth and development, which leads to the ability of an organization to grow, compete, and prosper. The importance of affective/cognitive development was evident in a National Institute for Literacy study for the Conference Board. This study identified the benefits to an organization from basic skills programming. The majority of the benefits identified in the study related to affective and cognitive development. For example, 87% of employers reported "improved employee morale/self-esteem" as the top benefit gained from basic skills training. Improved capacity to solve problems (82%) and better team performance (82%) were two additional highly rated benefits (Bloom and Lafleur, 1999).


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