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Workplace Education: Employer Needs for Basic Skills Programming

Source: OLRC Research Team

Purpose: To determine the extent of concern about workplace literacy among employers in a three-county region; to determine the level of involvement organizations (profit and non- profit) have with public educational institutions regarding basic skills (literacy) education.

Participants: Members of the Akron Regional Development Board (ARDB), which represents profit and non-profit organizations in a three-county area surrounding greater Akron and Canton in Northeast Ohio. ARDB members include manufacturing, service and professional organizations of all sizes.

Methods: There were two components of this study. First, a seven-item survey instrument, developed by the OLRC Research Team, was mailed to 750 ARDB members. Mail responses were analyzed, and areas for exploration were identified. The second component consisted of on-site interviews with 28 ARDB members representing small, medium, and large service and manufacturing organizations.

Survey Results: A total of 144 responses from the surveys were received, an 18% return. The results indicated that:

Sizes of these organizations varied:

Of the 144 total respondents:

The greatest need for basic skills education was indicated in the medium-sized companies (50-99 employees), yet this group reported having the least amount of training available.

On-Site Interview
Results: Twenty-eight organizations were interviewed by the OLRC Research Team. The results indicated that:

The majority of those interviewed:

Medium-sized companies tended to have the greatest need for basic literacy education; they also stated that they lacked the resources to: a) invest in this type of education, and b) replace employees while they were in classes.

Conclusions: Employers in the Akron/Canton area do not recognize a need for basic skills education within their organizations. Further study needs to be conducted to determine why this is so.

Employers see low literacy levels as an isolated problem occurring mainly in low-skill occupations.

Math and communication skills are most frequently taught by those employers involved with basic skills education.

The term literacy needs to be defined in more specific terms; similarly, a distinction needs to be made between basic literacy education (workplace literacy) and workforce training.

With a rather large pool of unemployed workers from which to select, employers in the Akron/Canton area are able to closely screen potential employees and draw from the top. Thus, literacy education is not a recognized need (nor is it an economic need) because the workers are able to perform the tasks for which they have been hired.

Condensed by: Sarah Nixon-Ponder

For more information about this study, please contact Pat O'Connor or Nancy Padak. Both can be reached by calling the OLRC.

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