Literacy and numeracy online tool ‘a key step forward’, says skills chief

The head of the skills commission has hailed a free workplace online tool that assesses the skills and abilities of health workers.

Chris Humphries, chief executive of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), described the literacy and numeracy online assessment service, launched by the Skills for Health sector skills council on Monday, as a “key step forward”.

The tool can be used to assess staff using ‘real-life’ scenarios, such as listening to messages from patients and interpreting instructions, tables and charts.

Staff who use the tool receive an assessment indicating their literacy and numeracy levels, which can be used to support skills development activities and a route into career progression.

Humphries, whose organisation last month published a report that concluded that progress on simplifying the skills system had been good but warned there was still much to be done, told Personnel Today that this was the first online tool he was aware of that had been developed with a specific sector in mind.

“This is one we should all be looking at, because if it works with health, it will generate good signals about the way computer-based, contextualised approaches work in other sectors.”

Humphries said there was evidence that if real-life examples of measurements and numbers are used – for instance, measuring and cutting up wood in construction jobs – take-up, understanding and embedding is ‘dramatically higher.’

“Understanding measurements, being able to interpret them, all of this suddenly comes to life for [people] because they are doing it with bricks and wood – things they like. We’ve know it has been remarkably effective.

“I am convinced contextualising basic skills and employability skills is the right way to do it. We need to be looking at this to learn the lessons.”

Skills for Health recommends that the tools be embedded in existing staff development processes.

Rosemarie Simpon, its divisional manager, said: “Healthcare staff generally have higher literacy and numeracy levels than some other workforce sectors, but many people will not have checked their skills for some time.

“The tools provide an effective way to identify skill levels, show what people are good at and identify what they might need to brush up on.”

UKCES was set up in 2008 in response to the Leitch Review of Skills, which warned the UK would need to improve its workers’ skills base or face increased competition from overseas businesses.

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