Foundational Skills in the Service Sector: Understanding and addressing the impact of limited math, reading, and technology proficiency on workers and employers

Report Author: 
Amanda Bergson-Shilcock
Original Date of Publication: 
2017 Feb

Foundational Skills in the Service Sector: Understanding and addressing the impact of limited math, reading, and technology proficiency on workers and employers

"Foundational Skills in the Service Sector" reviews a recent assessment of the literacy, numeracy and digital problem-solving skills of workers in the service sector and proposes policy responses at the local, state and national level. The service sector encompasses workers in retail; health and social assistance; and leisure and hospitality - 25 percent of whom are immigrants. Drawing on data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) (conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), the author highlights the fact that while there are 20 million American workers employed in the service sector with limited foundational skills, these workers are called upon to use their literacy and numeracy skills on a daily basis.  Gaps in foundational skills create potentially dangerous conditions (such as when a worker using chemicals cannot read directions correctly) and reduce productivity. The paper gives examples of creative ways that workers deal with their difficulties, but also notes the limitations to these strategies. Data suggest that workers who do not address issues with their foundational skills have limited occupational mobility and are likely to remain in poorly paid positions. To address the problem, the author suggests tailoring education and workforce training to meet the needs of these workers, increased partnerships between companies in a given sector and efforts that bring together employers and community colleges/education providers. The author also calls for the integration of adult education and workforce training and increased funding for such projects. Underlying all of the suggestions is the idea that supporting the upskilling of workers is the responsibility of workers themselves, companies and local and federal government. (Erik Jacobson, Montclair State University)

View or download the report.

Get more information from the National Skills Coalition. 

Citation: 

Bergson-Shilcock, A. (2017). Foundational Skills in the Service Sector: Understanding and addressing the impact of limited math, reading, and technology proficiency on workers and employers. National Skills Coalition. Available here: 

http://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/publications/file/NSC-f...

 

Source Organization: 
Other