Foundation skills in the workplace

Posted on Mar 16, 2020

Foundation skills play an essential role in the workplace, and RTOs can equip learners with the knowledge and abilities to perform a range of tasks in varying businesses and organisations.

Going back to basics

Foundation skills play an essential role in the workplace, and RTOs can equip learners with the knowledge and abilities to perform a range of tasks in varying businesses and organisations. The Australian Government supports this development through the VET sector with courses in literacy, language, numeracy and employability skills. These give people the confidence to participate in the workplace and communicate effectively with their colleagues.

Foundation skills have recently been under the spotlight as ASQA have approved an extended transition period for the FSK Foundation Skills Training Package Release 1.1. This means you have until 26 November 2021 to make the transition, and you are eligible for this extension if your RTO has the qualification(s) on your scope of registration.

Three qualifications are included:

  • FSK20113 Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways

  • FSK10113 Certificate I in Access to Vocational Pathways

  • FSK10213 Certificate I in Skills for Vocational Pathways

Now is an excellent time to explore what exactly makes foundation skills such a critical element in Australia’s VET system, readying you for the changes to implement during the transition period. 

What is the FSK Training Package?

This particular package specialises in helping, supporting and preparing learners to access community, work and education opportunities. It creates a pathway into vocational training that would not be available otherwise. It centres on a combination of core language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills and employability skills (these develop skills required in modern workplaces and contemporary life). 

LLN skills include:

  • Listening 

  • Speaking 

  • Reading 

  • Writing 

  • Digital literacy 

  • Use of mathematical ideas.

Employability skills include:

  • Collaboration

  • Problem-solving

  • Self-management

  • Learning

  • Information and communication technology.

The FSK Training Package will allow you to implement flexible and targeted learning support where and when it is needed. It even provides support for foundation skills during vocational or on-the-job training. 

In 2012, the National Foundation Skills Strategy was launched. This is a ten-year framework that aims to equip at least two-thirds of working-age Australians with foundational literacy and numeracy skills (level three or above). 

Four key priority areas for action are identified in the strategy:

  • Raise awareness of foundation skills across the country

  • Provide adult learners with high-quality learning opportunities and outcomes

  • Strengthen foundations skills across a range of workplaces

  • Build the capacity of education and training workforces so that they can deliver foundation skills.

How has the strategy affected units of competency? 

One of the significant outcomes to arise from the strategy is the explicit inclusion of foundation skills into units of competency. Now, it is a mandatory requirement that units of competency describe LLN and employment skills that are deemed essential to the performance section of a unit. 

Foundation skills in units of competency include:

  • LLN skills:

  • learning

  • reading

  • writing

  • oral communication

  • numeracy

  • Employability skills:

  • navigate the world of work

  • interact with others

  • get the work done.

Competency is a broad concept that covers different industries and the ability to perform particular tasks and duties to an expected standard in the workplace. 

It covers all aspects of performance and involves:

  • Performing a range of individual tasks

  • Managing various tasks

  • Responding to contingencies or breakdowns

  • Dealing with general responsibilities of a workplace, including working with others.  

Preparing for 2021

Foundation skills are always going to be essential for the Australian workforce. However, even with this strategy in place, The Australian Industry Group's 2018 Workforce Development Needs Survey indicated that critical skill issues face Australian businesses. This was shown by 99% of employers stating they have been impacted in some way by low levels of literacy and numeracy within their workforce. This is troublesome in itself. However, team it with the business requirement of digital literacy and advanced soft skills, and it clearly shows a major potential issue.

It is not just employment but also social engagement and being part of a community. A lack of foundation skills will limit the quality of life and employment opportunities for a large number of Australians. In turn, it could also make them vulnerable during future changes to work. 

As with sustainability and looking ahead, growing a robust 21st-century economy means ensuring every adult Australian is given a fair opportunity to participate fully in that economy. This brings an increased level of social cohesion and allows everyone the chance to succeed. 

The 2021 FSK Training Package will help improve literacy and numeracy levels required to work effectively in the workplace. It is also being boosted by $62.4 million from the Australian Government (until 30 June 2023), to help eligible adults to develop their skills. This could be up-skilling or re-skilling for new roles, obtaining and retaining secure employment, and undertaking further training and education. 

What’s next for RTOs?

Supporting your RTOs foundation skill obligations includes important considerations around its provision and compliance audits. Transition periods give educational institutions the chance to get ahead on planning and implementation requirements.

Can your RTO confidently agree with all of these statements?

  • We can demonstrate compliance against current regulatory standards concerning the provision of LLN and employability skills support

  • We have LLN and employability resources available to support the development of language, literacy and numeracy skills for a range of learners

  • Our trainers are skilled in the development and provision of learners’ language, literacy and numeracy skills (to the level required by competency standards)

  • We provide ongoing Professional Development (PD) opportunities that increase a trainer’s expertise in embedding LLN support in both delivery and assessment of units. 

RTO resources should be:

  • Cost-effective

  • Contextualised

  • Time-effective

  • Student-centred

  • Easy to navigate

  • Ready to go.

Brush up on your terminology and ensure you have a reliable system to share the new information across the RTO. Preparation, understanding, and a team all on the same page will help ensure a smooth transition while helping learners to make the most of their FSK training and qualification. As we start to look to the future, it’s clear that we need to work on the basics, create a better sense of community and increase equality in opportunities. In turn, this will build a stronger economy and nation, with deepening trust and a sense of belonging. RTOs that can offer this service will stand out in 2021.