We can teach basic skills of reading, writing, speaking, listening, arithmetic and thinking following a functional context approach. There is now convincing evidence that the basic academic skills of reading, writing, and mathematics can be taught within the context of teaching job skills. Workplace literacy programs in the military and in many businesses and industries have conclusively demonstrated that the teaching of job skills and basic skills can be integrated and both can be learned at the same time. However, activities such as youth and adult job training programs and literacy programs for welfare parents generally produce separate funding for basic academic skills education and job training programs based on the outmoded idea that one must first acquire the "basics" before one can benefit from job training. But by integrating academic and jobs skills training, we can reduce the amount of time needed to both educate and train youth and adults in a job field, they can more quickly enter into employment and more rapidly return the investment in their training through tax revenues.
For those in welfare basic skills programs, this is also a way to get "double duty dollars." We can teach those on welfare job skills and parenting skills by integrating these content areas with basic skills instruction rather than thinking that one has to first get the basic skills and then use them to learn job or parenting skills. Making such learning sequential adds to education and training time and costs, and keeps adults out of the productive workforce longer. Greater returns to education and training dollars can be obtained by changing existing programs to require the integration of basic skills, job training, and parenting education.
Extensive studies in the U. S. military indicated that personnel with literacy skills above the 9th grade level who actually used their literacy skills while performing job tasks such as automobile repair or supply clerks' jobs, showed productivity increases of as much as ten to fifteen percent over adults with less than 7th grade reading skills who did not use the available support materials.15 (p. 54) These increases in productivity from both having better literacy skills and using them far exceed what is typically obtained by capital stock increases.16
In recent years, due primarily to the National Workplace Literacy Program
(NWLP) of the U. S. Department of Education, now replaced by the Workforce
Investment Act of 1998, a body of research has emerged on workplace literacy
programs in which functional context methods have been used to teach English,
reading and mathematics skills integrated with job knowledge. The general results
of this body of research is that such programs may contribute not only to improving
adult's job-related literacy and numeracy skills, but also to improved productivity
on the job, increased reading to children at home, thereby better preparing
them for and helping them in school, increased use of language and literacy
skills in the community, and the decision to pursue further education.
15 Sticht, T. (Ed.) (1975). Reading for Working: A Functional Literacy Anthology. Alexandria, VA: Human Resources Research Organization.
16 National Center on the Educational Quality of the Workforce. (1995). The Other Shoe: Education's Contribution to the Productivity of Establishments. A Second Round of Findings from the EQW National Employer Survey. Philadelphia, PA: The University of Pennsylvania.