Local organization says improving workplace literacy and numeracy skills will help with labor shortages

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CLEVELAND – The key to solving the labor shortage may be literacy and numeracy.

The Literacy Co-op believes that if more employers provide training in these areas as part of the job, it will increase the number of applicants and provide more opportunities for job seekers to upgrade their skills.

“We’re always looking at data and best practices,” said Laureen Atkins, vice president of strategic initiatives for the Literacy Cooperative. “So in Cuyahoga County, and that’s very comparable to the national average, 54 percent of adults are low on literacy and 64 percent are low on numeracy.”

These numbers are especially important now that industries nationwide continue to face labor shortages.

According to a multi-part analysis by the Fund for Our Economic Future titled “Where are the workers? » 93.6% of employers facing shortages said the pool of qualified candidates did not meet their needs. And 85% cited recruiting when asked the biggest workplace challenges and more than half cited a lack of qualified candidates.

Atkins believes the right candidates are out there even if they fall into this category, and employers can alleviate the problem by providing on-the-job development opportunities.

“If we could take literacy and numeracy and integrate it into everything we do to prepare workers for a new job or to progress in a job in their company, we would give them a better chance of succeeding. So one of the best ways adults learn is through contextualized learning that takes literacy and numeracy and equates it to the type of job they’re preparing for in the industry they’re working in,” Atkins said. .

“So, for example, in manufacturing, you know, you give them lessons that really help them understand shop math, micrometers, reading a ruler, instead of you know, just saying, Oh, you need help with math, and so we’re going to send you to some kind of, you know, night school to help you with that.

One solution is what are called access ramps.

“An on-ramp is really a countdown map of industry needs, let’s say, and is a program designed to support people who want to connect to a specific profession in specific industries where employers are organized and summoned who lead to career paths and into these industries. And usually these are mostly front-line positions,” said Bishara Addison, director of employment readiness for the FFEF.

Addison said On-Ramps offers a mix of literacy and numeracy in its curriculum so job seekers get academic upgrades as well as the training they need for future job duties.

“They may have to prepare for those front-line positions or those technical training programs, say, at our community college. And they also develop skills and build relationships with employers, and employers then have a better prepared talent pool,” Addison said.

But it’s different from just a basic job readiness course – the training is designed by industry leaders themselves.

“What’s different about this type of program is that the math and skill development you get through an on-ramp has been informed by the employers themselves. They were the ones who shouted, “Here’s the math you need to know.” These are the skills you need to have for these front-line positions,” Addison said.

Currently, these on-ramps exist through industry partnerships between different organizations, such as the manufacturing industry partnership between MAGNET and Towards Employment.

“They sort of co-designed a program that combines these kinds of contextualized literacy and numeracy programs, skills building and development, and connections with employers that basically give people who have been involved to this program somewhat as an advantage in the hiring process where they are specifically recruiting. And we know that almost everyone who completes this program ends up finding employment with these employers,” Addison said.

Now the challenge is to get employers to jump on the bandwagon.

“I think there are a lot of employers doing great things. So I think the openness is there. I don’t think they think about literacy and numeracy because if you’re wondering why someone doesn’t want to be promoted to another job you really don’t think well, maybe that’s a problem literacy and numeracy or maybe it’s a trust issue,” Atkins said. “So I think we just need to get the word out that it’s something that we need to incorporate more, and we should make it more inclusive and not make it something that someone has to test to determine that it’s requires.”

“That should be part of it, because you know, we’re already seeing more than half of the literacy and almost two-thirds of the numbers that aren’t proficient, so why not just put that into everything we do and give people this opportunity to build their skills and not try to, you know, separate them into something else,” Atkins said.

The Literacy Co-op’s full report on employers advancing literacy can be found here.

The homepage of the “Where are the workers? of the FFEF. a multi-part analysis can be found here.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter for News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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