The training requirements of today’s workplace are intensifying. A recent National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) undertaken by the Department Of Education has reported that, “Growing numbers of individuals are expected to be able to attend to multiple features of information in lengthy and sometimes complex displays, to compare and contrast information, to integrate information from various parts of a text or document, to generate ideas and information based on what they read, and to apply arithmetic operations sequentially to solve a problem. The results from this and other surveys, however, indicate that many adults do not demonstrate these levels of proficiency.”

Although it is difficult to get exact statistics, one very recent study reported that, “seven million Americans are illiterate, twenty-seven million are unable to read well enough to complete a job application and more than thirty million can’t read a simple sentence.”

An even more significant NALS study reports that, “forty-two million adult Americans can’t read and fifty million can recognize so few printed words they are limited to a 4th or 5th grade reading level.”

Obviously, it is no longer enough to simply stand on the assembly line and push one button over and over. Today’s workplaces — and the global economy — have rendered much of this rote activity obsolete. And, where repetitive task labor is still required, the corresponding remuneration allows only for a life bordering on subsistence.

In education, too, there is a real gap in learning and it grows with each passing year. According to the NALS, adults who performed in the lowest two levels of literacy (on a scale of 1 – 5) — or approximately 50 million adults — were “far more likely to report receiving food stamps, to be living in poverty, and to be less likely to have voted in a recent election. Adults in prison were far more likely than those in the population as a whole to perform in the lowest two literacy levels.”

The difference in salary between professionals and lower-level workers has also grown astoundingly. In just 15 years, the gap between professional and clerical workers grew from 47 to 86 percent and between white-collar workers and skilled tradespeople it grew from 2 to 37 percent. The gulf between the haves and the have-nots — with its terrifying social consequences — is growing by leaps and bounds. If this learning gap is not addressed, new social upheaval will be the likely result as the gap between the necessary skills acquisition and income levels continues to grow.

Whether we like it or not, our learning culture has changed.

Where do most of us get the majority of the information we assimilate today? From television and computer screens, of course! And yet, for all of the advances made in linking technology with learning, most organizations today still rely on the old traditional methods of stand-up lecturing and reading. The result is that the learning needs of nearly two-thirds of our citizens are being largely ignored through the nearly exclusive use of these traditional methods.

So, where should we now turn to find an effective learning path to the future?

As we’ve noted in many earlier blogs, video-based interactive instruction (CD-ROM, DVD and multi-media E-Learning) as well as the newer Games/Simulation programming are today’s best answer. And, yes, even reading, writing and math skills can be successfully improved with these technologies!

Like it or not, most of us get more of our information and form more of our own opinions from what we watch on the television screen or see on a computer monitor. It is way past time to adopt these new leaning technologies for better training — and, for better education. They work — and, will successfully link today’s learning culture to the education/training needs of most Americans.

More on Tuesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning
www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Tuesdays & Thursdays)
e-Mail: bwalton@itclearning.com