Another big focus area for policy in 2024 is likely to be foundation skills. Indeed, improving access to and support for foundation skills forms part of the skills reform agenda. A discussion paper released by Jobs and Skills Australia also looks at this issue. VDC took a look at this paper at the time and the VDC News article can be accessed here.

NCVER also published a piece of ’exploratory research’ that aimed to “learn more about those who undertake nationally recognised foundation skills programs after school and to investigate their training and employment outcomes.” You can access this report and the related VDC News article here.

If you want more on this topic NCVER’s VOCEDPlus site has a pod devoted to foundation skills. A ‘Focus on’ paper can also be found there. This paper was released in October 2023 and draws on the National Foundation Skills Framework 2022 to 2032 which describe foundation skills as:

“the core skills or competencies that underpin workforce participation, productivity, and social inclusion, including (1) English language, literacy, numeracy and digital (LLND) – listening, speaking, reading, writing, numeracy (the use of mathematical ideas) and digital literacy; and (2) employability skills, such as initiative and innovation, planning and organising, problem solving and teamwork.”

The paper also focuses on a number of learner groups: adults, remote and first nations people and non-English speaking migrants and refugees and provides links to useful information and resources on all of them.

Looking specifically at apprentices and remote Australia

While a VDC News article published in late November 2023 and entitled  “Uncovering Adult Literacy and Numeracy Needs in Australia” was more generally focused, another VDC News item released in November 2022 looked more specifically at foundational skills support in relation to apprentices.

In relation to remote Australia, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations released a discussion paper titled the Future delivery of foundation skills training in remote Australia. Responses to that paper are now in and were published in August 2023 here.

This is what the responses from the 37 organisations and stakeholder groups who either responded to the discussion paper or participated in virtual workshops provided as key messages:

Message 1: Government needs to support language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy (LLND) skills programs that are designed in partnership with, and led by, remote local communities. Indeed, while responses were requesting a suite of ‘off the shelf’ models to be developed, or that tested literacy campaigns be used,

“the responses emphasised the need for each project to be designed at the community level. This community led component is critical for remote and First Nations communities, where success of the program can depend largely on word of mouth, and the support of key community members.”

Message 2: Longer funding periods and a commitment to embed resources in the community are needed and critical. “Responses pointed out that in remote communities, in particular First Nations remote communities, projects take time to develop and gain traction.” A longer-term focus, rather than a short term one, is therefore required.

Message 3: Data collection, management and transparency are important to these remote groups and communities. Data collected in terms of LLND needs for First Nations people should be available to community for the development of program design and decision-making.

Message 4: Addressing the foundation skills needs that support employment in remote Australia and thus there is a need for LLND support to better meet and support these employment opportunities.

The responses in the paper on foundation skills in remote Australia also focused on:

  • The strength and needs of remote learners, with issues such as adopting practical learning approaches, broader eligibility criteria and overcoming barriers to participation being raised
  • Program design
  • Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations
  • Better measuring, monitoring, and evaluating of program results, and
  • Better support for foundation skills sector and workforce and more jurisdictional collaboration.