Build foundation skills into vocational training – Guest post

Build foundation skills into vocational training – Guest post

This post is by Ann Leske, Literacy expert from LLNandVETmeetingplace:

If developing learners’ foundation skills is important to you or your RTO, this post will give you some practical ways to get started.

Before we start, if you are new to foundation skills, background information about the national agenda and the current foundation skills description, is available here.

Focusing on foundation skills within training is a National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults priority.

Building foundation skills through vocational training: fact vs myth

VET ad FS together

Myth: By teaching the vocational task (e.g. hairdressing), all learners build competence in both the vocational task and in the foundation skills needed to perform that task.

Fact: To develop foundation skills, some learners need explicit foundation skill-building strategies merged into vocational programs

So what are explicit foundation skill-building strategies?

The key word here is, ‘explicit’. To be explicit is to be proactive and make foundation skill development in our vocational training both obvious and

highly visible

… i.e. explicit.

We can’t just hope that if we concentrate on teaching the vocational task, foundation skills will come. They may, but with many learners they may not.

How can I get started?

To get started, adopt a dual-delivery focus to your vocational training programs. Focus on:

  1. How to build vocational skill – e.g. ability to cut hair, AND 
  2. How to build the foundation skills needed to perform the skill at work – e.g. speaking and listening skills needed to converse with clients while cutting hair; numeracy skills needed to calculate the bill for the hair treatment.

Devise training strategies that cover both vocational skill and foundation skills.
Here’s a two-step process to consider:

  1. Explore the training content foundation skills 
  2. Explore how you can reveal the foundation skills ‘how to do it’ steps’

1 Explore the training content foundation skillsWhat do the learners need to do?
Look at the task from a different perspective. Instead of focusing on the task only from the perspective of the what you intend to deliver, align your reflection towards the foundation skills and ask, when the learners do this, what will they actually need to do? What skills or knowledge are involved with this task? For example, what is involved with:

  • recording case notes? 
  • developing spreadsheets? 
  • completing this project? 
  • costing electrical installation? 
  • analysing policy documents? 
  • preparing a speech?

Ask, what will the learners actually need to do to complete the tasks? What skills and knowledge are involved to be able to perform that task? If you find examples helpful, here are some resources describing foundation skills within a mix of industry, and government roles.

2 Explore how to reveal the ‘how to do it’ steps
You may think it’s obvious, but for many learners the foundation skill ‘how to do it’ steps are invisible. It may feel odd, or uncomfortable, but finding your voice, or a resource, that reveals the foundation skill ‘how-to-do-it’, can make all the difference to learners really ‘getting it’ and being able to apply, and transfer the foundation skills, or not.

Tasks seem so natural to us, we forget that we have a subset of procedures, strategies, specific skills and knowledge enabling us to do the task so seamlessly. Have the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) and Core Skills for Work (CSfW) easily accessible. The performance descriptions will help to clarify what is involved – the skills and knowledge.

Locate resources that reveal the skills and knowledge involved. For example this Youtube focus shows and explains the fundamentals of writing a paragraph. The Queensland Council of Adult Literacy Tutor Tips provide a range of foundation skill ‘how to do it’ strategies for trainers. For example, if your learners need to develop report writing skills this report writing pdf reveals the structure, features, purposes of this text type.

Want to learn more?

If you would like to know more about building foundation skills through vocational training, then check out our workshop…
Build it in: How to merge foundation skill development with adult education and training
7th August 2015, in Sydney