Adult basic training for employees - Triple e Training

Adult basic training for employees

Providing adult basic training for your unskilled and semi-skilled employees improves business performance. It is never a tick-box exercise!

International research shows that, annually, small, medium and large companies needlessly lose customers due to mistakes. These are usually simple errors that employees with basic education skills would not make when performing their duties.

Basic education skills include literacy and numeracy. These proficiencies are used extensively in the workplace, no matter how mundane or general the work involved. However, more importantly, they are also skills that we need to continue learning. This is the reason that so many unskilled and low-skilled workers struggle to learn how to use and operate new tools and machines. To work comfortably with the latest technology, especially the digital type, employees need reading, writing and verbal communication skills. Just as importantly, they require basic numeracy skills.

Adult basic education and training teaches these skills to your employees. There are four adult literacy training and numeracy training levels. Higher levels provide more basic education skills and follow the General Education and Training (GET) curriculum that is taught at school. GET is based on Grade R and Grade 9.

Refer to Adult Basic Education and Training Act: General Education and Training Certificate (GETC) – Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) Level 4, qualification at Level 1 on National Qualifications Framework: Amendment | South African Government ( English and maths training Level 1 is equivalent to Grade 3. Level 2 is the same as Grade 5 and Level 3 is similar to Grade 7. Adult education and training Level 4 teaches literacy and basic numbers skills that are equivalent to those learnt in Grade 9. These are at a National Qualifications Framework Level 1. Refer to National Qualifications Framework Act 67 of 2008 | South African Government (

Adult basic training teaches skills

Adult basic training teaches basic education skills that employees need to perform at their peak quickly and efficiently.

For example, modern factory workers rely on strong basic numeracy skills. The work at hand often involves more than an ability to add and subtract. Workers on the factory floor also need a good understanding of fractions, decimals and basic trigonometry.

In a woodworking and steelwork factory, or tooling or “machine shop”, for example, employees will be expected to work with computer-numerical controlled machines. These machines may be automated, but they require precise inputs that involve many accurate manual calculations. An incorrect calculation – even by a small fraction – can result in a “crash”. This is an expensive mistake considering the high costs involved in repairing the machine and extensive downtime when this happens.

Farm workers also need strong basic numeracy skills. They use these on a daily basis to calculate values, areas and volumes, among other functions.

Warehouse workers also use maths as a basic education skill regularly. When using hand-held radio frequency scanners to scan merchandise bar codes, they perform basic maths computations. This may be done with or without a calculator but requires basic numeracy skills. When handling packages, they interpret basic mathematical measurements and effectively use a tape measure. Basic maths skills are also deployed when moving full pallets from racking into pick bins.

To operate mining equipment, mine workers need basic numeracy skills. However, these will have to be at much higher level for mechanised mining to be implemented widely in the country. This is key to the sustainability of the industry over the long term.

Even your cleaners – no matter how mundane their job may seem – will benefit from sound basic numbers skills. These can deployed to measure cleaning solutions and calculate supplies required.

Adult basic training teaches employees

Adult basic training teaches employees how to communicate effectively, a critical basic education skill.

Employees need to be able to understand specialised vocabulary and jargon to avoid misunderstandings, as well as possess interpersonal skills. The latter proficiency facilitates teamwork and cohesion, essential for high productivity.

Communication is vital in industries such as construction where more than 70% of the workforce consists of unskilled and low-skilled employees.

Poor communication can significantly increase the number of accidents and incidents on worksites. This directly impacts productivity, turnover, morale and reputation and can lead to legal and compensations costs and reputation.

Ineffective communication streams also hamper the speed at which information is transferred within a project and causes information blocks. This results in delays and impedes productivity.

A global survey by PlanGrid and FMI found that miscommunication causes 52% of rework projects in the construction industry. It also results in US$31,3-billion in costs in rework materials and labour. Refer to Construction_Disconnected.pdf (

Truck drivers also rely heavily on good communication skills. This ensures the smooth flow of information between truckers and dispatchers. Drivers must be able to efficiently communicate their location, route and any issues they may encounter on the road. This enables dispatchers to make informed decisions and provide timely assistance if necessary. Without good communication skills, they may struggle to navigate their routes, leading to delays and inefficiencies.

Moreover, drivers use their communication skills to interact with customers and receivers. For example, truck drivers need to communicate delivery schedules, confirm addresses and handle any customer inquiries or complaints.

Moreover, effective communication skills help truckers perform their jobs safely. For instance, they need to effectively communicate with law enforcement officers or emergency services if they encounter accidents or incidents on the road. Clear and accurate communication is also crucial in ensuring that the appropriate assistance is provided promptly.

A need for adult basic training


An adult education training provider will help you to determine if there is a real need for adult basic training for your employees. This includes both adult literacy training and numeracy training as part of a comprehensive ABET training solution.

It is important to note that employees with gaps in basic education skills will not struggle with all aspects of reading, writing and verbal communication. Some employees may be able to communicate in the spoken word but are challenged by reading comprehension. They may, for example, also already have the basis upon which to develop their basic numeracy skills. However, their verbal communication skills may not be up to standard. It is normal to be very good at one aspect of your job, but struggle with another.

For this reason, you need to determine the extent of your employees’ literacy and numeracy skills before implementing an adult basic training programme. This is undertaken by an experienced adult education training provider at your premises and at a time that suits your production schedule.

These placement assessments determine at which level of adult basic education and training your employees need to start their learning journey. For example, employees without any prior education will have to first complete pre-adult basic training. This is to prepare them for AET training level 1 and the subsequent levels.

Other workers, for example, may just have to focus on the maths component of basic education for employees. Some may just have to complete the fourth level of AET training.

You may have to prioritise some workers before others simply because they need ABET training urgently.

A competent adult educational training provider will be able to correctly advise you on the shortest route to upskilling your staff. The approach needs to be practical and feasible, especially for smaller companies.

Preparing adult basic education programmes

Preparing adult basic education programmes for your employees starts with appointing a suitable workplace training provider.

It is very important to only partner an experienced work-based learning provider that is accredited by Umalusi. For further information on the Quality Council for Further Education and Training, refer to Home – Umalusi. Such an ABET provider has knowledge working with companies to address their very unique workplace literacy and numeracy needs. This ensures that basic education for employees is relevant to the workplace. When your employees have completed adult education programs, they posses skills that will benefit your company. The impact of the training can be measured by a reduction in basic errors and employees’ ability to learn new skills quickly. This is in addition to marked improvements in productivity and quality of workmanship, to name a few.

An accredited mathematical and literacy training provider will also take pride in ensuring a high progression rate through its ABET training programmes. This attests to the high quality of English and maths training provided.

Importantly, ensure that your training provider is accredited. Providers of education and training must apply for accreditation with an Education and Training Quality Assurance (ETQA) body under the South Africans Qualifications Authority. Refer to Home – SAQA. They must also offer relevant unit standards and/or qualifications. These fall within the primary focus area of the ETQA body of the relevant Sector Education and Training Authority or professional body. Refer to SETAs of South Africa (

Refer to It provides more reading on the extensive accreditation processes that an adult education training provider has to undergo. Only once the ABET provider has demonstrated that it meets these onerous requirements is it permitted to offer adult education and training.

Four adult basic training levels

The four adult basic training levels impart basic education skills incrementally.

Pre-adult literacy training teaches your employees how to read brief texts on familiar topics and to locate a single piece of information. Once they have completed this ABET level, employees will have very basic vocabulary knowledge. However, this is still insufficient knowledge to understand sentence and paragraph structure.

The first level of adult literacy training teaches your employees how to read relatively short digital or print texts. They also learn how to locate a single piece of information that is identical or synonymous with that provided in a question. Moreover, it teaches how to recognise basic vocabulary and determine the meaning of sentences.

The second level of education development of employees entails teaching how to make matches between text, either digital or print, and information. Employees also learn how to paraphrase or make low-level inferences.

Employees who have completed Level 3 of ABET training can be expected to read dense, lengthy or complex texts for meaning.

After completing adult literacy training level 4, employees can integrate, interpret or synthesise information from complex or lengthy texts. They will also be able to understand one or more specific, non-central idea in a text. This enables them to interpret or evaluate subtle evidence claim or persuasive discourse relationships.

Employees who have completed all four numeracy training levels possess basic numbers skills. This means that they can manage a situation or solve problems that they encounter in their daily duties. This by being able to respond to mathematical ideas or concepts that are represented in various ways. They may be denoted by objects and pictures; numbers and symbols; formulae; diagrams and maps; graphs; tables; and texts. Mathematical ideas include quantity and number; dimension and shape; pattern and relationships; data and chance; and change.

Adult basic training teaches maths

Adult basic training teaches maths to your employees. It hones a range of knowledge, behaviours and processes. This includes mathematical knowledge and understanding; mathematical problem-solving and literacy skills; and beliefs and attitudes.

Level 1 of adult basic education and training imparts knowledge of information provided by numbers and symbols. This is presented in graphic, numerical and written forms. Employees who have completed this level of AET training can recognise and select coins and order and compare numbers up to 10.

Level 2 numeracy training teaches an understanding of information represented in a variety of ways. This includes numbers, symbols, simple diagrams and charts in graphic, numerical and written form. Once they have passed this level, employees can calculate costs and change, as well as add and subtract two-digit numbers.

Level 3 ABET teaches employees how to understand information provided by numbers, symbols, diagrams and charts for various purposes. These may be expressed in graphic, numerical and written forms in various ways. Employees who have completed this level can, therefore, divide two digits by one and understand remainder. They are also able to compare weights and use standard units.

Level 4 ABET training teaches an understanding of straightforward mathematical information used for different purposes. This is in addition to an ability to independently select relevant information that is expressed in graphic, numerical and written forms.

Adult basic training develops careers

Importantly, adult basic training develops the careers of your non- and semi-skilled employees. English and maths training does not only benefit your company.

Literacy and numeracy skills deficiencies prevent people from achieving their full potential. This is both a loss to your team members and talent to you.

A recent paper by Harvard Business School highlights how low-skilled workers are often an untapped resource. Too frequently, they left stagnating in  low-paying jobs. It motivates the need to improve the skills of existing employees as opposed to recruiting externally. Refer to Building From The Bottom Up.pdf (

The authors of the report argue that most employers are not engaged in their workers’ lives. They provide minimal support for skill-building; give infrequent or unclear feedback; and offer very little guidance on career pathways. In doing so, employers have ignored the high price that their organisations pay. These costs are as a result of unfilled positions that reduce output and increase overtime. Direct and indirect costs are also incurred due to constant churn. “Soft” costs include eroding staff morale.

The potential for people in low-skilled roles to progress was explored in recent research undertaken by the Auckland University of Technology. It shows that we may have significantly overestimated the ease with which we can develop our careers. Refer to When There is No Way Up: Reconsidering Low‐paid Jobs as Stepping‐stones – Plum – 2021 – Economic Record – Wiley Online Library.

An adult basic training programme

You will know when it is time to consider appointing an AET provider to develop a robust adult basic training programme on your behalf.

Assess for yourself how often different basic education skills are used by your employees.

Think about the various jobs and then break them down into tasks. Thereafter, determine what basic education skills they need to undertake the tasks at hand to specification and on time.

Also give thought to your employees. Identify their strengths and weaknesses when performing their jobs. Determine which problems are due to a lack of basic education skills.

Triple E Training looks forward to helping you provide basic education training for your employees. Learn more about Triple E Training and our quality adult basic training.

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Unlock the Full Potential of Your Employees. Leave your details & our team get back to you.

Note: Please be assured that all personal data submitted is handled with the utmost confidentiality & will only be used for the purpose of addressing your inquiries.