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Basic education skills for work

AET training teaches basic education skills that your unskilled and low-skilled employees need for work. These literacy and numeracy skills are also simply referred to as “soft” skills or workplace literacy by human resource practitioners.

All industries have a common need for workers who can communicate verbally and in writing. They also rely on employees who show initiative and can work independently and part of a team in support roles. Moreover, members of high-performance teams also need to be able to problem solve by thinking critically and logically.

When there are gaps in these basic education skills, workplaces become dysfunctional and unproductive and lack synergy. This is despite employees possessing the hard or technical skills needed to fulfil their respective tasks.

In these instances, it is time to consider training for staff development. This includes professional adult literacy training and numeracy training offered by a competent work-based learning provider.

A capable ABET training provider will help you to determine the extent of literacy and numeracy gaps in your company. Once this has been ascertained, the mathematical and literacy training provider will be able to determine the most practical way of addressing them. Basic education for employees will be factored around your production schedule. A seasoned accredited training provider will also be able to provide onsite-based training for employees. This makes it easier for your blue-collar workers to participate in English and maths training and commit to completing adult education and training. In this way, they can acquire essential literacy and basic numbers skills to perform at an optimal level within a reasonable timeframe. Make sure that before appointing a work-based learning provider you ask to see its progression rate. A competent reading and writing training provider will boast a high pass rate, considering the quality of its AET training.

Teaching basic education skills

Therefore, teaching basic education skills to your employees should be approached diligently.

Training for staff development starts by placing your employees at the correct ABET training level. This will ensure that they cope with the course content and progress through the adult basic training programme quickly and efficiently. You want to ensure that your adult education programmes are well attended and that your employees derive maximum benefit from every training session. This is considering the time and costs involved in training for staff development. Basic education for employees is an investment that must yield a return.

A competent adult education training provider will insist on undertaking a placement assessment before commencing adult education programmes. Again, this will be done in the working environment and around your training schedule. These assessments of basic numeracy skills and reading, writing, oral and listening proficiencies are usually about two hours in duration.

An ABET training placement assessment will ensure that your staff seamlessly transfer from previous education attainment into the English and maths training.

For example, for employees to start training for staff development, their English and numeracy skills need to be at least at a Grade 2 level.

Once they have completed the first adult basic education and training level, they will be able to write five sentences related to one topic. They will also be able to comprehend a factual and persuasive short piece of writing. Generally, the text will be a maximum of 320 words in length and include new vocabulary. Having completed this level of ABET training, staff will have elementary functional literacy skills. Therefore, they will be able to read simple notices, lists, invitations and messages for meaning.

Improving basic education skills

As these employees progress from one adult basic training to the next, they keep improving their basic education skills.

After completing adult basic training level 2, for example, your staff will be able to write a letter consisting of at least three paragraphs. Moreover, they will be able to read a factual and persuasive 320-word text containing new vocabulary for meaning. They will, thus, possess more complex functional literacy skills. This enables them to, for example, to understand written instructions and timetables that are commonly used in the workplace.

Note the substantial increase in basic education skills from one AET training level to the next. By the time employees have completed adult literacy training Level 2, their English communication skills are equivalent to those taught in Grade 5. This is two school grades higher than the literacy and numeracy skills taught in adult basic training Level 1. ABET Level 4 is on the same level as Grade 9. This is at a National Qualifications Framework Level 1. Refer to National Qualifications Framework (NQF) qualifications and unit standards | Western Cape Government.

Acquisition of basic education skills

However, only a serious mathematical and literacy training provider can accelerate the acquisition of basic education skills. This is achieved through clear learning criteria and time-efficient learning sessions. Small ABET classes and the ability to provide personal attention to learners also contribute to a successful outcome.

Certainly, a mature learner attitude also helps to accelerate the acquisition of “soft” skills. A seasoned adult education training provider knows exactly how to motivate adults to want to succeed in English and maths training. Before embarking on training for staff development, a mathematical and literacy training provider will conduct an awareness campaign. During these sessions, employees are explained the importance and relevance of adult education and training. In this way, a clear link is established between adult education programmes and workplace outcomes right from the outset of training for staff development.

Employees are more likely to value adult education and training if they realise its importance. They need to understand how the soft skills that they will learn during adult basic training can be put to use immediately and benefit their circumstances.

During these sessions, employees are also reassured that they will receive the necessary support from training facilitators and their employers.

Many individuals continue to complete vocational employee training in South Africa. This indicates that unskilled and low-skilled workers are motivated to learn. They also strive to develop meaningful employment by integrating interests or key values, such as family, into their working lives.

It is also important to remember that people who perform mundane and low-paying jobs are often not unskilled or low-skilled. They can learn. Many have obtained informal skills equivalent to those of a qualification by simply performing their daily jobs. Their lack of basic education skills is usually due to various circumstances over which they have had no control.

Essential basic education skills

AET training provides these individuals with a second chance to learn essential basic education skills. Therefore, English and maths training is also viewed as an important means of redress. Refer to

Vocational employee training in South Africa is also important to address basic education skills shortages.

In South Africa, learning outcomes are low, not only by international standards but also compared to neighbouring economies. This is despite the expansion of the educational system in the country since the advent of democracy. However, clearly, the focus is on quantity as opposed to quality.

A report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development highlights the extent of the problem. It shows that more than two-thirds of South African students lack basic education skills. This is well below all other upper-middle income countries surveyed. Instead of supporting social mobility, South Africa’s education system has reinforced inequalities. There has been a widening performance gap between rich and poor students and high levels of drop out. This is especially among black South Africans. The situation is due to a severe shortage of qualified teachers; inadequate infrastructure; and limited access to early childhood education and care. Refer to Also review

As a result, most South African employees are low or medium skilled. Among the employed, 12,2% have a degree; 10,8% have a diploma or certificate; and 34,4% have completed secondary schooling. Over two-fifths of the employed have not completed secondary schooling. This amounts to 6,2-million individuals who do not have basic education skills. Refer to

Addressing basic education skills crises

Therefore, addressing our basic education skills crises through the provision of quality basic education for employees has never been more urgent.

Outcomes of basic education for employees are the results of learning processes. These include knowledge, skills and attitudes that employees can apply after completing an AET training level. Outcomes of adult literacy training and numeracy training are important. This is considering that they provide the criteria for examination and promotion to higher levels of learning. They also emphasise active and critical learning. Active learning engages learners in the material through problem-solving activities. This is in addition to writing assignments; group discussion; reflection activities and other tasks.

Adult basic education and training unit standards have been drafted by stakeholder groupings and registered by the South African Qualifications Authority. Refer to

A unit standard is a document detailing the required competence that must be met for each adult education and training level. In turn, competence of each unit standard of English and maths training level is made up of smaller outcomes.

These unit standards are the building blocks for qualifications. They serve as credits in the pursuit of an AET training Level 4 certificate.

Speaking and listening are a unit standard in adult literacy training Level 1. Employees learn how to communicate orally with others at a simple level. These abilities are assessed at the end of ABET training level 1. Employees will be asked to initiate and maintain a conversation. They will also be required to request and provide simple information, explanations, instructions and directions. Moreover, their ability to make and respond to requests and to others will be assessed. Employees will also be expected to express opinions and feelings, as well as listen and respond to oral or written text. Refer to

Essential basic education skills

Essential basic education skills also include the ability to do simple mathematics in a workplace setting. Employees who have completed numeracy training will possess basic numbers skills that are required in modern workplaces.

ABET training level 1 covers computations relating to addition and subtraction at a third-grade level. AET training level 2 introduces concepts of multiplication and division, as well as builds on those covered during adult basic training level 1. Adult education and training level 4 teaches percentages, ratios, averages and volume. This while further developing basic numeracy skills learnt in previous levels of adult education programmes.

Notably, an experienced adult education training provider treats mathematics as a language and integrates it with adult literacy training. This is opposed to viewing adult literacy training and numeracy training as two completely different learning areas. Employees use maths as a language in the workplace when they predict and hypothesise and interpret and analyse. They also use basic numeracy skills to interpret and analyse; describe and clarify; reason and explain; and solve problems. Basic numeracy skills are also required to read and develop oral and critical thinking skills. Therefore, English and maths training requires learners to think deeply about reading, writing and numerical ideas via the process of critical thinking.

Thus, adult basic training also addresses the divide between the maths taught at school and the basic numbers skills required in the workplace. Many employees who have completed matric but with below-standard maths skills are, therefore, also enrolled by employers for ABET. These employees will just complete adult numeracy training. Usually, they can start their training at higher adult basic training levels. This is considering that they already have higher basic education skills.

Employees with basic education skills

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Employees with basic education skills that were acquired through adult basic training are good communicators. They use their verbal communication skills to express ideas and messages to others in a clear, concise and effective manner. These soft skills also include the ability to explain and justify actions convincingly.

Completing adult basic training, employees learn how to effectively convey written information and messages in a manner that is understandable.

Considering ABET’s focus on teaching active listening and reading skills, employees have the ability to follow written and verbal instructions. Moreover, they can adhere to established business practices and policies and procedures, including health and safety protocol. Importantly, they use the soft skills that they learnt during AET training to observe, listen and read to gather relevant information.

Using the basic numeracy skills that they were taught during AET, staff can also compile data and use numbers in various formats. Moreover, they can perform numbers-based problem-solving.

Equipped with literacy and numeracy skills, employees can also use digital technologies, such as computers. These soft skills are also simply referred to as “digital literacy”. It is vitally important that employees possess these skills considering the increased digitisation of workplaces.

According to the OECD, adults with lower basic education skills are likely to be most affected by these changes. The demand for their proficiencies is decreasing as many low-skilled jobs can be automated or off-shored. OECD research shows that those occupations which require no basic education skills have the highest risk of being automated. Examples of such jobs include food preparation assistants; labourers; and assemblers. Refer to

Teaching education skills

However, there are many more benefits to teaching your employees basic education skills. These can also be measured to assess the impact of your onsite-based training for employees. In this way, you can continue motivating adult basic education and training in your company. It also a way of ensuring that your mathematical and literacy training provider is performing according to expectation.

Employees who hold an adult education and training level 4 certificate possess many other traits that employees consider desirable.

They can cooperate, contribute and collaborate as part of a team to reach agreement and achieve a collective outcome.

Moreover, they have the ability to guide, support, mentor, encourage and influence weaker members of your team, passing on knowledge and expertise. They can also assess interpersonal situations and implement steps to avoid, resolve or mediate conflict. Employees who possess these soft skills are potential leaders. Therefore, they should be encouraged to develop their skills further after they have completed adult basic education. Consult your mathematical and literacy training provider to determine the way forward for these employees.

The basic education skills imparted by adult education programmes also enable your employees to respond quickly to the needs of customers.

Equipped with the basic education skills required to perform at their best, employees who have completed AET also have a good work ethic. They are punctual, dependable, reliable and responsible members of staff. Moreover, they conduct themselves in a professional and appropriate manner and speak politely.

Equipped with basic education skills

Equipped with basic education skills, employees are also honest and trustworthy. This is considering that they have the ability to choose the ethical course of action. They can also comply with all applicable rules, laws and regulations. This is critically important in highly regulated industries.

Onsite based training for employees also imparts the soft skills needed to work more precisely. Employees who have completed adult literacy training and numeracy training can, thus, review with a critical eye the fine, detailed aspects of work processes.

Moreover, they can organise their work. This is because they know how to impose order and rank to materials, concepts and tasks to efficiently manage and balance workplace situations. They can also prioritise tasks; follow schedules; and tend to goal-relevant activities in a time-efficient manner. This optimises efficiency, productivity and quality.

Therefore, employees who have completed adult basic training can work under pressure and cope with deadlines. This reduces workplace stress. When employees are overly stressed, they cannot concentrate; meet deadlines; and be creative. Notably, stress triggers other mental health concerns that impact productivity. This includes burnout, anxiety, depression and conflict.

Because they know how to prioritise and manage workflows under varying deadlines, employees can multi-task.

In turn, this also facilitates endurance. By completing AET training, employees have the soft skills needed to follow-through and an ability to complete tasks. This includes proposing, negotiating and implementing alternative approaches that will improve productivity, efficiency, accuracy and safety.

Using their basic education skills, they can improve work; continuously monitor progress; and persist in successfully achieving results and goals. This is regardless of obstacles encountered.

They also possess the ability to take personal ownership of the amount and quality of individual performance; team assignments; and other duties undertaken. By taking pride in their work, they are aligned and motivated.

AET imparts basic education skills

Furthermore, AET training imparts the basic education skills that are needed to identify, leverage and distribute company resources effectively and efficiently.

By learning soft skills, employees will be able to evaluate systems and operations; identify causes; problems; and trends or issues. They will also know how to explore workable solutions to improve situations.

Basic education for employees also teaches the soft skills that are needed to ask questions; consider options; and rewards and risks. Literacy and numeracy skills are also used to set limits; plan goals; and apply information to a process by selecting the best alternative.

Certainly, the basic education skills taught by ABET training also facilitate thoughtful reflection. This encompasses logical reasoning, as well as the ability to conceptualise abstract ideas and organise symbols and graphs. Thoughtful reflection also entails the ability to identify systemic issues and evaluate data or outcomes.

Employees who have completed adult basic training can also use their own initiative. They demonstrate self-motivation in getting work done or take the lead in a unique way.

Participating in both adult literacy training and numeracy training also hones your employees’ creativity. This enables them to conceive and contribute new ideas; alternative pathways; or unique responses to a variety of situations.

Basic education skills to learn

Employees also need basic education skills to learn more competencies. This is so that they can continue adding value to your business, while constantly improving their career prospects.

Quality adult education programmes instil a passion for learning and thirst for knowledge among participants. Employees who have completed adult basic education and training realise the importance of lifelong learning. This includes learning quickly and thoroughly, while also continuously applying new knowledge. Refer to

Basic education skills are the foundations for further learning. This enables your employees to quickly adjust to changing expectations. They are also flexible when confronted with new or ambiguous circumstances, improving adaptability and resilience of their companies.

Learn more about Triple E Training, a leading mathematical and literacy training provider.

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Book a Call

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.