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Workers also need “soft” skills

Your blue-collar workers also need “soft” skills, the basis of which are acquired through adult literacy training and adult numeracy training. Literacy and basic numeracy are also simply referred to as “basic education skills” or workplace literacy. These are the absolute basic skills that blue-collar workers need to perform their jobs at an optimal level. They complement “hard” and technical skills, concrete measurable abilities that are often specific to a job.

While blue-collar workers may be skilled in their work, many struggle to communicate effectively with team members and supervisors. Shortcomings in their communication skills also hinder their ability to manage conflicts; negotiate; and deliver and receive feedback.

The biggest misconception is that only employees who work in a customer setting need basic education skills. Blue-collar workers also need “soft” skills. In some instances, they rely in basic education skills more critically than employees who work on the front lines with customers.

Employees who work for a moving company, for example, must be able to lift heavy objects and plan how to move them from a premises to the truck. However, they also need to be able to communicate with customers and resolve conflict. Workers who cannot do this over-and-above the basic job cannot provide the same level of service to the detriment of their employer.

Employees working for an automotive after-market parts supplier may have been successful in securing the job as a result of their “hard” skills. However, they are unlikely to be promoted if they lack basic education skills, such as communication; interpersonal; leadership; and decision-making.

Basic education or “soft” skills

More importantly, basic education skills or “soft” skills enable your employees to learn more proficiencies. This is so that they can grow and develop in their careers and as individuals, while adding even more value as employees.

Blue-collar workers make up a significant portion of the total South African workforce. They are mainly unskilled or semi-skilled employees who perform work of a manual nature in the mining, construction, transport logistics and security industries. Notably, the literacy levels of these employed South Africans varies from semi-illiterate to completely illiterate. These are the employees at which quality AET training by a specialist adult education training provider is targeted.

Adult education and training are undertaken at your premises and factored around your production schedule. ABET training also accommodates large groups of employees with varying educational levels at a time. There are only a few AET providers that specialise in onsite-based training for employees. This is considering the extensive resources that are required to provide adult education programmes at mines and quarries; construction sites; and farms. Many of these operations are based in outlying areas of the country that are also far removed from the closest urban nodes where learning centres are located. Nevertheless, it is also inconvenient for employees to travel to an ABET provider’s premises to attend English and maths training classes on a weekly basis. This is especially so for companies operating in fast-paced industries where there is already very little time training.

Certainly, conducting adult basic training in work a setting also ensures that it is relevant. The “soft” skills that employees learn during adult literacy training and numeracy training will help them improve their work performance and career prospects. It is not training just for the sake of it or to earn points towards the broad-based economic empowerment scorecard.

“Soft” skills needs of industry


A work-based learning provider has also kept pace with the “soft” skills needs of industry. English and maths training is usually also tailored around the specific needs of clients. Therefore, upskill training for unskilled employees can be measured and justified through improved performance of the workforce.

Basic education skills are becoming increasingly important for employers. This is considering that “soft” skills cannot be replicated by machines which are gradually replacing general and routine work.

In 2017, Deloitte Access Economics and DeakinCo reported that “soft”-skill intensive work would account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030. It also noted that hiring employees with more basic education skills could increase revenue by over US$90 000. Refer to

The need for ABET training as the foundation for reskilling our blue-collar workforce has never been more urgent. Blue-collar workers are increasingly relying less on manual labour to perform their jobs. Many modern blue-collar trades require versatile skills sets, including technical proficiency and “soft” skills, such as digital literacy and adaptability. Blue -collar workers also now need learn how to work with more sophisticated technologies. They also have to adapt to constantly evolving sustainable practices and health and safety protocol. A case in point is the stringent measures implemented during the COVID-19 lockdowns in workplaces.

This was to prevent the spread of the virus and safeguard employees from infection. Companies where illiteracy is high struggled to adapt to the so-called “new normal”. For example, face-to-face meetings would have to be held regularly with workers who were unable to read company notices on new operating procedures. This is instead of merely sending an email and asking employees to respond in writing to confirm that they understood the contents thereof. The fact that most illiterate employees cannot use a computer was also a stumbling block.

Developing employees’ “soft” skills

Evidence shows that developing your employees’ “soft” skills through the provision of quality adult basic education benefits business.

Soft skills training in areas such as communication and problem-solving increases productivity and staff retention by 12%. In turn, this yields a 250% return on investment. This is according to a study undertaken by Boston College; Harvard University; and the University of Michigan. Refer to;; and

Meanwhile, managers who incorporate basic education skills training into their leadership approach can increase their teams’ performance by up to 30%. Refer to HR’s Hard Challenge: When Employees Lack Soft Skills (, a study undertaken by Hay Group [].

You too can benefit from developing your employees’ “soft” skills or basic education skills by consulting a reputable educational-accredited training provider. Such an AET provider will be able to help you to develop upskill training for your employees that makes a large measurable impact.

Your ABET provider will first undertake a placement assessment at your premises and at a time that suits your production schedule. These assessments enable the adult education training provider to first determine the extent of the basic education skills gaps in your company. The company can then determine the most practical way of addressing the proficiency shortages. This also entails placing your employees at the correct adult literacy training and numeracy training level.

Your employees should transition seamlessly from their existing education level into adult basic education and training. In this way, they can cope with training for staff development. They also remain stimulated by the adult basic training course content and motivated to succeed. A work-based learning provider also has experience teaching employees literacy and basic numbers skills. It is, therefore, able to provide the necessary support that they need throughout adult basic education and training.

Employees learn “soft” skills quickly

Motivated to succeed and with continued support from a competent mathematical and literacy and training provider, employees will learn “soft” skills quickly.

Blue-collar workers can start adult education and training at any level, depending on the outcome of their performance in the placement assessment. However, it is important to approach this type of onsite-based training for employees diligently. ABET training cannot be rushed.

There are four adult literacy training and numeracy training levels. Each ABET level imparts more literacy knowledge and basic numeracy skills. Employees who have completed training for staff development have literacy and basic numbers skills at a National Qualifications Framework Level 1.

English and maths training at level 1 is equivalent to Grade 3. ABET training level 2 and AET training level 3 are the same as Grade 5 and Grade 7, respectively. Employees who have completed English and maths training level 3 will be ready for adult education and training level 4. This final adult basic education level is equivalent to a Grade 9. Literacy and numeracy skills at this level are considered sufficient to perform entry-level type or general work.

More importantly, your employees now possess the basic education skills that they need to continue learning. The next logical step in their learning journey is to complete adult matric or National Certificate Vocational courses. These learning pathways will enable your employees to reach NQF Level 4. Refer to,successfully%20completing%20the%20Matric%20exam. This level of qualification signifies sound knowledge of a subject area and the acquisition of “soft” skills. Thus, employees should be encouraged to obtain this qualification after completing English and maths training.

Further develop “soft” skills

Your adult education training provider will advise you on how to further develop your employees’ “soft skills” or basic education skills.

While conducting ABET, your mathematics and literacy training provider will have identified learners who demonstrate significant potential. They may, for example, be prime candidates for future leadership positions to help take your company forward.

To harness their full potential, these employees would need to complete adult matric to obtain a National Senior Certificate or Senior Certificate. This will enable them to be enrolled at a university or Technikon where they can learn advanced leadership skills. Refer to and

However, many employers prefer that their employees learn for a National Certificate (Vocational) after completing adult education and training. This is considering its emphasis on developing “hard” skills required in the workplace. Employees will have to complete three NCV levels to obtain a qualification that is equivalent to a matric. An NCV starts where adult basic training ended. NCV level 2 is equivalent to Grade 10 and, therefore, at a an NQF level 2. NCV level 3 is the same as Grade 11 and, thus, at an NQF level 3. The last step towards obtaining a matric qualification in this manner is to complete NCV level 4.

There are also a host of short courses that your employees can complete after ABET training to further develop their skills. Among others, these include computer; human-resource management; management; marketing; occupational health and safety; and project management courses.

Again, consult with your work-based learning provider to determine the next phase of training for staff development. Working closely with your employees during adult basic training, the adult education training provider knows your employees’ strengths and weaknesses. This is in addition to their individual characteristics and traits that make them better suited to positions.

Many “soft” skills

There are many “soft” skills that your employees need to develop to be productive and adaptable, as well as collaborate in team environments. One of the critical basic education skills that is developed by quality ABET is communication. This is through the provision of adult literacy training, one of areas of focus of adult basic education and training.

The importance of effective communication in the workplace cannot be overstated. According to surveys cited by SHRM, miscommunication costs companies of 100 employees an average of US$420 000 a year. Refer to The Cost of Poor Communication (

According to Expert Market, communication barriers could be costing businesses about US$37-billion a year. It further notes that when employees are offered better communication technology and skills, productivity can increase by up to 30%. Refer to

Blue-collar workers regularly engage in tasks that require clear instructions and information exchange. Therefore, the adult literacy training component of upskill training for unskilled employees will focus on developing all aspects of workplace communication skills. During ABET training, employees learn how to express themselves clearly, concisely and accurately. They are taught the importance of using simple language and avoiding jargon when communicating with colleagues and higher-ups. This is so that they reduce the likelihood of misinterpretation.

The adult literacy training component of basic education for employees also hones active listening skills. Blue-collar workers always need to pay full attention to what other team members and their higher-ups are communicating. In this way, they can better understand instructions and concerns raised by coworkers.

During adult basic training, employees also learn to pay attention to non-verbal cues, such as body language and facial expressions. Understanding these signals enhances their ability to gauge how well their message has been received.

“Soft” skills manage conflict

“Soft” skills are also used to better manage conflict. Conflict between co-workers and their managers lead to lowered morale; more stress; and less job satisfaction. The productivity of workers and teams and larger company performance may suffer due to these factors.

Blue-collar workers often perform in very stressful situations that can lead to conflict. Assembly workers, for example, work to very tight deadlines in environments where there is excessive noise and vibration. Operating in-and-around dangerous machines and hazardous materials can also lead to stress. Furthermore, workers are often expected to stay abreast of latest technical developments that require learning new steps in production.

Adult education and training teach the communication skills that employees need to avoid conflict. As effective communicators, your blue-collar workers understand the importance of addressing concerns proactively. They also make a point of understanding the perspectives of all parties involved in a conflict because they are active listeners. This, in turn, fosters an environment where misunderstandings are resolved before they escalate into conflicts.

Employees with “soft” skills

Employees with these “soft” skills can also better collaborate with coworkers to get jobs done according to time, scope, specification and budget. This while also complying with health and safety, as well as environmental regulations.

Teamwork is facilitated by sound communication skills that are honed during the adult literacy training component of ABET.

As effective communicators, workers can collaborate with diverse team members with different viewpoints and backgrounds to achieve common goals.

According to Expert Market, 86% of corporate executives, educators and employees cite ineffective communication and poor collaboration as reasons for failures at work. Moreover, employees who feel that they are heard are almost five times more likely to feel empowered to deliver their best work.

Employees who have completed adult education and training can also work as a close-knit team to solve problems. The strong literacy and basic numbers skills that they learnt during adult literacy training and numeracy training enables them to collectively analyse issues. They can then brainstorm solutions and decide on the most effective course of action to keep projects on track.

Meanwhile, the numeracy training component of upskill training for unskilled employees develops analytical thinking skills. Using their basic numbers skills, blue-collar workers can break down problems into manageable components and analyse their root causes.

Certainly, adult literacy training and numeracy training also hone your employees’ creative thinking skills. This enables them to propose innovative solutions to improve processes and address challenges.

Equipped with sound basic education skills taught by a competent mathematical and literacy training provider, your employees are also logical and critical thinkers. In turn, this facilitates sound decision-making abilities. Blue-collar workers must be able to balance available information and potential outcomes.

Other important “soft skills”


ABET training also develops other important “soft skills”, or basic education skills, which are highly sought after by employers. This includes emotional intelligence which enables your blue-collar workers to navigate emotionally charged situations. This skill requires self-awareness, which is an ability to recognise and understand one’s own emotions and reactions. Emotional intelligence also involves empathy. This entails understanding the emotions of others to relate to colleagues and respond appropriately. To be emotionally intelligent, employees also need to be able to cope with stress to remain composed, even in high-pressure situations.

Equipped with basic education skills that they learnt during ABET, blue-collar workers can meet deadlines and optimise productivity. This is because they now know how and when to prioritise tasks based on importance and urgency. They can also set achievable goals for themselves and timelines in which they have to meet them. This is so that they complete their tasks by deadline and according to specification.

Importantly, they are also more focused on their work because they have the basic education skills to do their jobs. Learn more about Triple E Training and our quality adult basic education programmes for blue-collar workers.

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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.