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Work-based ABET training

Work-based ABET training is geared towards your blue-collar workers who have not attained a basic education. 

Their functional illiteracy negatively impacts business in many ways. This is as a result of having to correct orders or processing refunds due to miscommunication. Poor communication skills also cost businesses clients because they are frustrated by misunderstandings. Moreover, miscommunication also leads to unwanted conflict between team members.  

Many illiterate employees also struggle to manage their finances. This costs businesses in time wasted on employee money concerns, such as having to process advances on paycheques for “emergencies”. Employees also take off work regularly. This is to sort out their money problems or because of poor health due to financial-related stress at home. There is also high levels of workplace theft and violence when employees lack the basis of financial literacy. 

Without robust basic education skills, technological literacy is also difficult to achieve. Individuals who possess strong functional literacy and basic numeracy skills are valuable human capital to their companies. Without such expertise, it is impossible to compete effectively in the global marketplace. Refer to 2 Defining Technological Literacy | Tech Tally: Approaches to Assessing Technological Literacy | The National Academies Press.

Moreover, employees with poor literacy skills are more likely to have work-related accidents. This is because they cannot read written health and safety regulations and warnings or instructions for meaning. This puts both themselves and their co-workers at risk. It also increases the need and cost of medical services, in turn, resulting in higher absenteeism. This hinders long-term productivity.

It is estimated that high illiteracy costs South Africa’s gross-domestic product more than USD550-billion. This is also as a result of various social ills. These include the population’s poor health and high unemployment and crime rates. This is in addition to inter-generational illiteracy [].

ABET training for employees

Over the years, many industrious corporate citizens have invested extensive time and resources into ABET training for employees. This includes adult literacy training and numeracy training as part of a comprehensive adult basic training programme. 

Notably, these are onsite-based training programmes. These adult education and training programmes differ from general AET training that is facilitated in a classroom offsite. A case in point are those adult basic education and training programmes that are provided by government or non-government organisations. These adult basic training initiatives have not kept pace with the literacy and numeracy requirements of industry. They focus on providing the bare minimum in terms of employment skills. This is opposed to equipping learners with basic education skills that enable them to adapt to constantly changing workplaces. The definition of literacy has traditionally been limited to the ability to read, write and calculate numbers. In particular, the definition of reading mainly referred to the ability to peruse and analyse printed texts for meaning.

These include books and newspapers. However, today’s employees are expected to create, edit and read numerous documents on a computer. This skill also referred to as digital literacy []. Literate individuals are more likely they are to perform jobs that require the use of computers. Yet most school curricula do not integrate technology literacy into a broader definition of literacy. This is despite the fact that many young people today experience literacy outside of school almost entirely on computer screens. 

Advanced levels of Work-based ABET training

Therefore, more advanced levels of ABET training are also used to better prepare matriculants for entry-level positions. In this way, companies address the widening divide between workplace literacy and the proficiencies learnt at school. For example, employees who passed matric with maths literacy as a subject will complete adult numeracy training. This is considering that maths literacy as a subject provides the bear minimum in terms of basic numbers skills.

In the modern workplaces, all employees are expected to think logically, critically and creatively to find solutions to challenges. Traditional mathematics taught by an accredited training provider equips employees with adequate basic numeracy skills for the workplace.

Location of ABET training programmes

The location of these quality ABET training programmes is determined by top-level management; personnel officers; union representatives; or line workers. Therefore, an ABET provider that specialises in this type of training has the capacity to undertake training in even the remotest areas. In this way, such an AET provider can also adequately service the needs of the mining and agricultural industries. Both are significant employers of unskilled and low-skilled workers. Many of these employees have already completed adult education and training or in the throes of doing so. Certainly, adult basic training can also be provided to employees working on infrastructure construction projects in outlying areas.

Sourced from communities within the operational footprint, many individuals employed to work on these projects are functionally illiterate. They are, therefore, also in dire need of quality English and maths training. Adult education programmes are sometimes provided as part of the socio-economic requirements of construction contracts. This is in addition to training provided in traditional construction skills.

Enterprising companies prioritise Work-based ABET training

Enterprising companies prioritize Work-based ABET training for their blue-collar workers. 

They know that basic education skills are essential, irrespective of how repetitive or mundane the job at hand. Employees who perform these functions still need to understand written or verbal instructions. They also use their reading skills to comprehend standard operating procedures. This is in addition to other important information that must be communicated in writing. A case in point is safety, health, environment and quality policy. 

As another example, machine operators are expected to have read the operator’s instruction book or “the manual”. Whether many have actually done so is an altogether different topic. Once operators have read it, the book should always be near to hand for reference. This is so that it can gleaned for additional information on settings and adjustments as and when required. 

Operators who have not read “the manual” probably will not understand all the hazards associated with a piece of equipment. Many managers are usually surprised to learn that their operators do not fully understand what the decals on equipment signify. This is because they have not read the “the manual”. If they have done so, they do not understand it. These are prime candidates for AET training.

Operators who do not understand “the manual” also risk damaging company property. They will not have the knowledge to undertake daily checks correctly. To avoid costly breakdowns, oil levels need to be inspected before the machine is started. The radiator and its coolant, as well as air filters also need to be checked. Then, there are the many machine points that need to be greased daily. These requirements will be listed in “the manual” with images and drawings showing the exact location of the check points. So, there is no excuse for not finding them. 

High expectations from ABET training

Work-based ABET training Construction team setting up scaffolding

Managers have high expectations from ABET training as do the employees who participate in them. If done correctly, training for staff development will have a large positive impact on business performance. The benefits of literacy training and numeracy training can and should be measured. How else will you know if your basic education for employees have had the intended impact? Keeping tabs on your adult basic training also enables you to monitor the performance of your AET provider.

Equipped with basic education skills, employees can work more accurately and efficiently. In turn, this leads to better quality output and productivity gains. 

Equipped with basic numeracy skills, machinists, for example, will be able to do their jobs well. For instance, they will be able to easily convert fractions to decimals. This is a calculation that they perform constantly as part of their daily jobs. Some are easy to do and others more challenging. However, managers are reassured that they will always be done to the best of their team’s ability. Equipped with basic numeracy skills, machinists can also perform other important tasks with the required precision.


They can now calculate speeds and feeds on the fly. This is because they understand surface metres and revs per minute. They also know how to calculate chip loads per tooth or the feed rate in centimetres per minute. During Work-based ABET training, employees are not just taught basic education skills. They are also explained how they relate to their jobs. A competent accredited training provider will always ensure that onsite-based training is relevant. In this way, employees remain motivated to want to succeed in adult education programmes. 

Moreover, employees who have completed AET training can better understand instructions, warning labels and procedures. Cost savings are, thus, realised from fewer accidents and less waste. 

Employees benefit from ABET training

Meanwhile, employees benefit from ABET training by learning basic education skills that will help them grow and develop in their careers. For many blue-collar workers, this is a way of escaping the poverty trap. Far too many low- and unskilled workers are stuck in jobs that pay minimum wage. 

After completing adult education programmes, employees are more confident in their abilities. They have the basis upon which to keep developing “hard” or technical skills. Basic education skills are also the foundations for essential “soft” skills. Among others, these include adaptability, communication and problem solving. These “soft” skills provide employees with the confidence that they need to expand their knowledge. This while complying with the newest workplace standards and regulations. Managers are always pleased to learn that the entire risk assessment process improves once employees complete Work-based ABET training. 

Employees who have completed adult literacy training and numeracy training are usually also more fulfilled at work. This is because they have a clear understanding of their workplace responsibilities. Their basic education skills also enable them to work better as a team. Moreover, they enjoy improved labour-management relations and know how they are contributing to the success of the company. This improves employee engagement levels. Certainly, this is a benefit of basic education for employees that is so often overlooked.

It should also be considered when measuring the impact of adult basic training. This is considering that engaged employees ensure that everything that they do is infused with purpose, energy and enthusiasm.

Proper Work-based ABET training 

A proper ABET training programme considers the dynamics of the workplace. This is in addition to the individual literacy and basic numbers skills needs of companies. 

In this way, English and maths training becomes a powerful way of promoting learning among adults. This is especially important in a country where about 4-million adult, many of whom are of working age, are illiterate. Refer to Fact Sheet – Adult Illiteracy in South Africa – March 2023.pdf ( Many adults who participate in onsite-based training would never have attended evening AET classes to improve themselves. 

A work-based learning provider brings education to employees. It also tailors basic education programmes to the unique needs of employers and employees. Education development for employees is also a starting point for addressing literacy and numeracy needs beyond the workplace. This is considering that basic education skills are used in all aspects of life outside the place of work.

A successful ABET programme

A successful Work-based ABET training programme is underpinned by many important factors.

The first entails a systematic analysis of the literacy and basic numeracy skills required by your blue-collar workers.

A work-based learning provider will be able to assist you with this needs analysis. Such an ABET provider will, in all likelihood, encourage an ethnographic approach. It is the most effective way of learning about the total ecology of the worksite from multiple perspectives. As part of the process, your mathematical and literacy training provider will undertake extended visits to the workplace. It will spend time at production lines; office spaces; and other work faces; and break and eating areas.

This enables direct observation of activities to augment and clarify information provided by managers and workers in meetings. In doing so, the AET provider can also gain intimate knowledge of your systems and processes. This enables the accredited training provider to develop an ABET training solution to meet you specific needs. This is opposed to generic adult literacy training and numeracy training that has very little relevance to learners.

It will want to know what jobs are performed and what skills are required to perform them according to standard. The AET provider will also be interested in the skills employees already possess and what proficiencies are still required. Moreover, the adult education training provider will want to know what problems workers experience when performing their jobs. Do employees also struggle moving to new positions? It will also want to know who holds the positions of power and who are subordinates. In addition, who makes decisions about hiring; job allocation; training; and other company policies?

Determining the need for ABET

In determining the need for Work-based ABET training, your mathematical and literacy training provider will need additional information. For example, it will be interested in why management is considering upskill training for unskilled employees. Where did the idea to introduce adult basic education for employees originate? What was the route that the idea followed through the organisational hierarchy to reach this important milestone? The accredited training provider will also want to know who determined that there were literacy and numeracy skills gaps. Importantly, with whom is this problem presumed to lie? The adult education training provider will also want to know how learners will be recruited for adult basic training.

Will adult education programmes be optional or compulsory for employees? What are the consequences for not completing upskill training for unskilled employees? Your adult education training provider will also consider your employees’ educational aspirations. This is in addition to the language, literacy and cultural issues that must be addressed. The company will also want to know who will measure the impact of education development for employees. How will this be done? What is at stake if a certain literacy and numeracy level is not attained at the end of ABET training?

Quality ABET training materials


The quality of ABET training materials, as well as skills and experience of facilitators also underpin successful ABET training.

Reputable ABET providers do not view literacy training and numeracy training as a way of addressing employees’ weaknesses. Rather, adult basic training emphasises and builds on the skills and strengths that workers already possess. A work-based learning provider also collaborates with employees as equal partners. The environment in which adult education programmes are facilitated have a significant influence on the learning experience.

An accredited training provider also considers the diverse educational experiences of learners. At the same time, it strives to undo the years of working in a very directed, repetitive situation. This has reinforced employees’ low self-esteem and sense of powerlessness.

English and maths training has also transcended merely equipping learners with skills to perform specific jobs. An enterprising work-based training provider believes that workers must also develop critical understanding needed to adapt to changing environments. Education development for employees should provide the skills necessary to cope in evolving situations. These basic education skills include the ability to think, reason, question and to search out facts. This is in line with the initial intended outcomes-based approach of adult basic education and training. Employees who complete adult education and training have been prepared for the rest of their working lives. This is through the acquisition of basic education skills via adult basic training. Refer to Policy on Adult Basic Education and Training (

The correct AET Level

To place your employees at the correct AET Level, a mathematical and literacy training provider will undertake a placement assessment. This assesses your employees current literacy and numeracy skills levels to determine where they will start English and maths training.

There are four adult basic training levels, with each imparting literacy and numeracy skills incrementally. 

Employees who pass AET Level 4 earn a General Education and Training Certificate []. This qualification consists of the first band of the National Qualifications Framework [IEB – Independent Examinations Board]. It includes adult literacy training and numeracy training as fundamentals.

In order for your employees to progress through adult education programmes, they need to cope with the content. A placement assessment ensures that they seamlessly transition from their previous education attainment level into adult education and training. Employees may have to start at ABET Level 1. This is equivalent to Grades 1 to 3 which teaches learners how to read and write and basic numbers skills. Equivalent to Grades 4 and 5, AET Level 2 develops these basic education skills further. During adult basic training level 3, employees improve their reading, writing and basic numeracy skills. This is in the same way in which Grade 6 and 7 learners do. Once they have obtained baseline knowledge of GETC learning areas, employees progress to adult basic training Level 4.

ABET awareness campaigns

An accredited training provider also undertakes ABET training awareness campaigns ahead of upskill training for unskilled employees. 

During these sessions, the AET provider will explain the benefits of adult basic training to employees. It will also clarify the processes involved in reaching a GETC-ABET Level 4 certificate. 

The mathematical and literacy training provider will also reassure employees of the support that they will receive throughout ABET. 
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.