CATALYST v23n2 - Workplace Literacy: Community College Involvement

Volume XXIII, Number 2
Spring 1993

Workplace Literacy: Community College Involvement

David Deckelbaum
User Services Coordinator

News reports frequently inform us that, as a nation, we are part of a global economy. We are constantly reminded that to remain an economic power we must have a more competitive work force. This imperative translates into efforts to increase workplace skills and enhance job performance at a local level. Community colleges have responded by cooperating with local businesses and governments to design workplace literacy programs and projects to raise the competency levels of America's work force.

The following citations reflect the current literature on workplace literacy and community college involvement. ERIC documents can be viewed on microfiche at approximately 900 libraries worldwide. In addition, most may be ordered on microfiche or in paper copy from the ERIC Document Reproduction Service by calling 800/ 443-ERIC. All citations preceded by an asterisk (*) refer to journal articles, which are not available from EDRS. Most journal articles may be acquired through regular library channels, or purchased from the UMI Articles Clearinghouse at 800/521-0600, ext. 533. For an EDRS order form, or for more information on our products and services, please contact the ERIC Clearinghouse for Junior Colleges at 310/825-3931, or via the Internet at

Bamett, Lynn, Ed. Rural Workplace Literacy: Community College Partnerships. Washington, DC: American Association of Community and Junior Colleges, Commission on Small/Rural Community Colleges, 1991. 22 pp. (ED 338 300)

In 1990, the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges developed a national workplace literacy demonstration project to raise awareness of the link between local economic development and basic workplace skill performance, and to stimulate a local leadership initiative around a community-wide effort to raise worker performance levels. Ten grants were awarded to the following rural colleges (I) Columbia College (California), where students from the college and community were recruited to become literacy tutors; (2) Crowder College (Missouri), where work site adult literacy classes were implemented; (3) Enterprise State Junior College (Alabama), which coordinated an adult basic education (ABE) program with six local companies; (4) Genesee Community College (New York), which conducted seminars and workshops for more than 100 farm owners/managers and agribusiness employees; (5) Mount Wachusett Community College (Massachusetts), which developed a flexible, cost-effective tutor training program directed towards unemployed and dislocated workers; (6) New River Community College (Virginia), which provided on-site reading and math classes for workers in the local textile industry who were weak in basic skills; (7) Northeast Texas Community College, which planned and implemented a business/education partnership to enhance workplace literacy in targeted agricultural industries and occupations; (8) Roane State Community College (Tennessee), where a workplace literacy program geared toward unemployed adults and low-skilled workers was developed; (9) Salish Kootenai College (Montana), which expanded its ABE program, developed workplace-related classes, and provided transportation and child care for students on the Flathead Indian Reservation; and (10) Southwestern Oregon Community College, which conducted a workplace literacy project focused on towboat workers, fishermen, apprentices, and underemployed and unemployed adults.

Carnes, John. Northeast Texas Agricultural Literacy Net-work: A -Lit-NeT:A Rural College PartnershipProject. Final Report. Mount Pleasant, TX: Northeast Texas Community College, 1991. 21 pp. (ED 333 917)

ln northeast Texas, 47% of the adults over the age of 25 have not graduated from high school. Area agricultural businesses are rapidly implementing new technologies and quality control measures, both of which require literate and highly trainable workers. To meet these needs, a partnership project was undertaken between Northeast Texas Community College (NTCD) and the Northeast Texas Quality Work Force Planning Committee) ("Vision-NeT") aimed at enhancing workplace literacy in targeted agricultural industries and occupations. The four goals of the project were to identify industries and occupations with high employment demands, conduct a literacy audit of employees at selected businesses to determine the relationship between workplace literacy and productivity, integrate the results of the literacy audit into the existing Agriculture 2 + 2 (Tech-Prep) and literacy programs, and disseminate the findings of the literacy audit at a Vision-NeT quarterly symposium. Using a labor market information system, three key industries with high projected employment demand were identified (i.e., food and kindred products, agricultural production-livestock, and forestry) and a prioritized list of target occupations was developed. A literacy audit of area poultry businesses led to the development of a literacy and occupational skills matrix for use in determining the training needs of specific on-site occupations, as well as to evaluate and improve occupational education curricula. Finally, as a result of attending the Vision-NeT symposium, Lonestar Steel, together with a local union, entered into a training partnership with NTCC that is currently providing workplace literacy classes to 35 employees/members. Recommendations included: (1) enhance communications between business and education by avoiding "educationese"; (2) business and education must reach consensus on the definition of basic skills; (3) a more workable taxonomy of basic workplace skills should be developed; (4) where possible inventories of job duties and tasks should be used to focus literacy audits; (5) community andjunior colleges should use a team approach to literacy audits; and (6) in-service training should be provided to community and junior college staff on conducting literacy audits.

Carnes, John. Northeast Texas Agricultural Literacy Net -work (A -Lit-Ne T. A Rural College Partnership Project). Handbook for Customizing Workplace Literacy to Employer TrainingNeeds. MountPleasant, TX: North-east Texas Community College, 1991. 61 pp. (ED 333 916)

Problems associated with the poor academic and technical preparation of many workers can be addressed through the use of occupational analysis techniques coupled with the development of curricula based on the results of such analyses. This workplace literacy handbook describes five stages in analyzing business literacy needs and developing relevant curricula. Following a brief introduction, the first section, "Getting Organized," describes the creation of a technical advisory committee made up of workplace supervisors, senior-level workers, workplace training directors, a representative from organized labor, and postsecondary instructors, administrators, and career counselors. The next section, "Targeting Industries and Occupations," discusses the collection and analysis of labormarket information. Next, "Occupational Analysis" describes the Developing a Curriculum (DACUM) process in which expert workers from a business serve on special panels to assist in identifying job tasks and skills. The fourth section, "Task Analysis (Literacy Audit)," reviews the application of special matrices that list job tasks on the vertical axis, and various mathematical, reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills along the horizontal axis. The final section, "Curriculum Development," discusses the creation and sequencing of course objectives and the evaluation of student progress. Detailed appendixes provide a sample completed job inventory for poultry production and processing, a sample task analysis matrix, and a sample basic skills taxonomy that reviews and defines the academic skills listed on the task analysis matrix.

Designing and Implementing Workforce Literacy: Programs in Partnership with Business and Industry. Handhook for Community Colleges and Technical Institutes in Texas. First Edition. Developed by the Dallas County Community College District, El Paso Community College District, and North Harris Montgomery Community College District, 1991. 265 pp. (ED 344 006)

This handbook presents research findings from recent work force literacy programs, practical applications for workplace literacy programs, and resources for community colleges and technical institute personnel to use in forming partnerships with business and industry. Following a list of project staff, an acknowledgements section, and a brief preface concerning the consortium that developed the handbook and the reasons why it is needed, the handbook consists of five main sections. The first of these introduces the idea of work force literacy and presents a research review on the nature of the adult learner; 22 references are cited. The next section presents an overview of the development and management of a work force literacy program partnership. Appendixes to this section include materials that can be used in setting up a program/partnership. A literature review and 44 references are also included. This is followed by a section concerning assessment and evaluation. The section includes an overview, appended assessment materials, a literature review, and 52 references . Next, an overview of curriculum and instruction for work force literacy programs is presented; an appendix includes curriculum material samples, a review of literature, and 36 references. The final section includes a glossary, publishers' addresses, newsletter listings, suggested readings and resources, and a list of the consortium's advisory committee members.

Grimes, Jan, and Renner, Robert. Toward a More Literate Workforce. The Emergence of Workplace Literacy Programs in Illinois. Springfield, IL: Illinois State Library,1988. 29 pp. (ED 313 530)

This report presents eight examples of approaches used by local providers, employers, and unions in Illinois to make basic skills programs available to workers. The programs profiled are the following: Rockford Area Literacy. Council--Project READ '86-'89; Highland Community College--Literacy Outreach Program for Northwest Illinois; Waukegan Public Library--Libraries for Literacy in Lake County; Regional Office of Education--Project U.P.W.A.R.D. (United Peoria Working on Adult Reading Development); Rolling Prairie Library System--Project READ, Decatur; Lake Land Community College--Project PAL (Partners in Adult Literacy), Mattoon; Lawrence Adult Center--VIA (Volunteers in Action)/Literacy, Springfield; and CEFS Economic Opportunity Corporation--CEFS Literacy Program, Effingham. Each profile provides a narrative summary of the scope and methods of the program, with such information as number served, businesses involved, funding, successful techniques for recruiting businesses and students, and a name and telephone number for the project coordinator. A discussion of the issues involved in workplace literacy programs is included in the report.

Leslie, Bruce. Skill Standards and Certification Issues; Testimony delivered to the Department of Labor, Department of Education, and National Advisory Commission on Work-Based Learning on behalf of the American Association of Community and Junior Colleges, 1992. 12 pp. (ED 343 640)

America's more than 1,200 community, technical, and junior colleges constitute the largest branch of higher education in the country. Two-year colleges are subjected to rigorous institutional accreditation standards and procedures by regional accrediting bodies. At least 80% of their students are already in the workforce, and two-year colleges serve the majority of women and persons of color pursuing higher education today. The employer community increasingly requests broadly educated new employees adaptable to the rapid changes of the workplace. In 1988, the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) identified the fundamental educational standards necessary for the U.S. workforce to be competitive. These standards would require that American workers have the following skills: (1) knowing how to learn; (2) competence in reading, writing, and computation; (3) listening and oral communication skills; (4) creative thinking and problem solving; (5) self-esteem, goal-setting, and career development; (6) interpersonal skills; and (7) organizational effectiveness and leadership. These skills should underpin a broad based, flexible, and voluntary system of standards, perhaps modeled on the Defense Department-sponsored Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges, that would permit greater transferability of credits for an increasingly mobile workforce. Today, many industries already require the associate degree as the basis for employment. To make community colleges the presumptive deliverer of workforce development would simply affirm what is already happening in most states.

Roane State Community College Workplace Literacy Program Report. AACJC Rural College Partnership. Harriman, TN: Roane State Community College, l 991. 24 pp. (ED 336 149)

The Roane State Community College (Tennessee) Workplace Literacy Program (RSWLP), administered by the Roane County Adult Learning Center, coordinates instructional programs for increasing the competency of area businesses with employees lacking in basic skills. A group of 13 community volunteers completed six two-hour training sessions to act as tutors for a computer-assisted literacy instructional (CALI) software package to be used in the program. To identify specific workplace literacy needs, surveys were sent to 70 major employers and industries in the county. Fourteen surveys were returned for a 20% response rate. Of the surveys returned, two employers indicated an interest in establishing a workplace literacy program and four requested additional information about literacy. Classes were established at two worksites that had requested literacy instruction. Recruitment materials were also placed in local businesses advertising additional classes to be held in five locations in the county. Thirty-eight students received adult basic education (ABE) instruction at their work sites and five students passed the General Educational Development (GED) Test, while the community classes enrolled 160 employed students. Employer incentives for participation in the program included released time and a cash bonus for GED completion. To assure continuation of the program, a literacy lab utilizing the CALI program and community volunteers has been established at the Adult Learning Center. In addition, area high school computer labs will make CALI available to each local community in Roane County. The survey, cover letter, summary responses, project receipts, and correspondence are included.

Skills Enhancement Program. Performance Report, Evaluation Report, and Administration Manual. Developed by Great Lakes Steel, Industrial Technology Institute and Wayne County Community College. 1991. 109 pp. (ED 341 833)

This document contains three products of Skills Enhancement Program, a cooperative venture between Industrial Technology Institute (ITI), Wayne County (Michigan) Community College (WCCC), and Great Lakes Steel (GLS). The performance report describes the project's objective of designing a job-related literacy curriculum for hourly workers and project activities, i.e., worker recruitment; literacy audit; development of self-instructional booklets, a job skills database, and an administration manual; implementation through tutoring at WCCC and GLS; and evaluation. The evaluation report contains nine sections covering approach, administration needs assessment, presentation of findings, use of materials, use by students, use during one-to-one tutoring, use as course materials, and overall findings. The administration manual includes the following sections: foreword, introduction, demographics of GLS, job analysis and training at GLS, set-up of a workplace literacy program, program administration and implementation, project administration and implementation, specialized materials/Tech Prep workbook, evaluation, and three appendices. The appendices include a historical overview of training electrical craft personnel, work breakdown task list by ITI staff, and evaluation forms.

Taylor, Maurice C. Workplace Literacy Demands. Paper presented at the 8th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education. Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 1989. 6 pp. (ED 330 886).

A study was conducted to identify the literacy requirements of 10 college vocational training programs and their corresponding occupations. Following a review of five years of student records at an eastern Ontario community college, the 10 major vocational programs studied were categorized as follows: motor vehicle mechanic, engineering technician, baker, computer operator, cabinet maker, welder, cook, business equipment service technician, electronics assembler, and refrigeration and air conditioning technician. Reading and writing requirements needed for these programs were identified and compared to those on the job sites for each of the corresponding occupations. Instructors, coordinators, and students were interviewed for each of the vocational preparation programs. Three job sites corresponding to the occupational training program were identified and employees and supervisors were interviewed. Samples of materials used in the training programs and on the job were analyzed and subjected to readability formulas. The study found that reading was a requirement of both trainees in the vocational programs and of employees on the job sites; however, employees spent much less time reading than trainees. Readability scores for all training program materials and occupational site materials ranged form grade 9 to grade 12 levels. Writing skills needed were higher for trainees than for workers. Suggestions were made to improve training by focusing on job-related materials and vocabulary.

Van-Ast, John. Workplace Basics: The Skills Employers Want...Can We Change the Way We Operate? Paper presented at the American Vocational Association Convention, Orlando, FL, December 2, 1989. 57 pp. (ED 315606)

This document considers whether postsecondary education can change the way it operates. The introduction identifies six challenges of the 1990s, including heterogeneous student populations; quality of working life competence, basic competence, employability competence, learning-to-learn competence, common core competencies, and threats and science/vocational and technical gap; a mature faculty; teacher effectiveness; the significance of associate degree and certificate technical education; and curriculum alignment and accountability. Two areas that will be affected by these challenges are identified: instructor's competence in dealing with curriculum and instruction and the necessity for community college administrators to develop the skills of faculty. The four subsets of basics that employers want, such as conventional basic skills and group process skills, are summarized. The paper describes three research studies designed to determine Iowa's vocational technical educators' perceived needs in two areas: (1) their need for curriculum resource materials in basics, quality of working life, and employability; and (2) their perceived need for in-service seminars on how to implement those materials. The document concludes with 11 references and a set of 34 transparency masters.