We all know that a solid background in industrial fundamentals is essential to a well-trained industrial worker. Work practice, tool use, mathematics, reading and writing are the necessary foundation skills that are, too often, essentially ignored in most training curricula. Of that list, reading, writing and math training are the most often omitted simply because we assume that those skills already exist in our employee population.

We’ve all heard a lot about the lack of basic skills in America’s workforce. But, have we all read about it? Approximately 30 million Americans can’t. They can’t even read this sentence. Estimates range that up to 75 million Americans cannot read at a level that would allow them to function fully in the workplace. The numbers are staggering.

And reading is not the only skill workers are lacking. Millions cannot perform the simple mathematical problems now required in their jobs. For example, many employees can neither use a calculator nor graph numbers.

For American industry, the problem first came to light more than two decades ago when many organizations began the implementation of statistical process control (SPC). Quickly those organizations determined that many employees could not learn the new tasks required of them in order to implement SPC. Management began to ask, “why?”

The reason became rapidly apparent — the workforce lacked the 3 R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic). For the past couple of decades, this issue has been given a lot of press and a great deal of money. In response, many classes were formed and the focus shifted to address this basic skills shortage.

But are we any better off than we were? Not really. Small gains have been made but no dramatic changes. Recently, trainers began sitting back and looking at the methods that are being employed to teach basic skills. They are beginning to reject traditional classroom training as a viable solution to the skills shortage and are turning instead to individualized, interactive multi-sensory media (video-based CD-ROMs and multi-sensory E-Learning) for answers.

Multi-sensory media training makes fundamental skills learning come to life by showing how those skills relate to actual job performance. This application-oriented approach motivates adults because video-based learning is the centerpiece of their own learning culture. Real-life situations present the hows and whys, along with the facts, through job-related examples.

Improving basic skills training is a necessity today. Fully interactive multi-sensory learning is the best answer. Whether you choose digitized CD-ROM or next-generation E-Learning for your solution, the answers are at hand.

More on Tuesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning