State must give priority to those with lowest educational achievement

18 Nov 2009


 According to details announced today by the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), workers with only a Junior Certificate are four times less likely to benefit from State training and education programmes than workers with a third level qualification. NALA is asking that State investment in the labour market should prioritise these people as they are most at risk of becoming unemployed. Currently 30% of the workforce has only a Junior Certificate or less. The announcement was made at a conference organised by NALA for policy makers working in education, labour and skills development.

According to details announced today by the National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA), workers with only a Junior Certificate are four times less likely to benefit from State training and education programmes than workers with a third level qualification. NALA is asking that State investment in the labour market should prioritise these people as they are most at risk of becoming unemployed. Currently 30% of the workforce has only a Junior Certificate or less. The announcement was made at a conference organised by NALA for policy makers working in education, labour and skills development.

“In the good times those with the lowest educational attainment benefited least from State education and training programmes. As low skilled jobs become less available, these people are now at the greatest risk of unemployment and already form the greatest group who are unemployed. If Ireland is serious about building its skills capability it needs to rethink how it is going to support more adults improve their basic education as 70% of the current workforce will still be in the labour market in 2020,” said Inez Bailey, Director, NALA.

In the context of the current economic downturn and public sector reform NALA is seeking a refreshed strategy to support low skilled adults. Speakers at the conference included John Landeryou, who is a UK policy maker with responsibilities for the UK Skills for Life strategy and Professor John Monaghan, National Vice-President of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“FÁS, or whatever agency is dealing with retraining, must prioritise literacy and basic skills and this must be assessed as part of the initial interview of the trainee. We have evidence that efforts made to improve literacy and basic skills among adults not only helps their employability, but even more significantly it has a huge positive impact on their children and thereby helps to break the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage,” said John Monaghan, National Vice President, Society for St Vincent de Paul.

“In Ireland the more education you have, the more education you get. The earlier you left school, the less you get. There is a myth out there that somehow these people will eventually move out of the labour market and if we just keep educating the most educated people in Ireland all our problems will be solved. However independent research shows that with no intervention other than improving the outcomes at school level, Ireland is still going to have 45% of its labour force with low basic skills by international comparison. If Ireland’s greatest asset is its people, now more than ever the State needs a refreshed strategy to support those with the least qualifications,” said Inez Bailey.

NALA’s essential elements of a refreshed strategy
1.Continued development of workplace basic education (WBE)
2.Integration of literacy into publicly funded education / training programmes
3.Distance learning at Levels 1 – 3
4.Numeracy strategy implemented
5.Family literacy implementation plan
6.ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) budget separated
7.Intensive literacy learning opportunities
8.Health literacy awareness and response
9.Initiatives to promote literacy opportunities to increase participation
10.Monitoring and evaluation of all interventions

Further information contact:
Clare McNally, PRO, NALA - 01 8509109 / 087 6486292

National Adult Literacy Agency
The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) is an independent membership organisation, concerned with developing policy, advocacy, research and offering advisory services in adult literacy work in Ireland. Its mission is to ensure all people with literacy and numeracy difficulties can fully take part in society and have access to learning opportunities that meet their needs.

Conference details:
Raising Adult Literacy Levels, 10am – 12.30, Wednesday 18th November, Newman House, 85-86 St Stephens Green