The Australian Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program (LLNP)

Country Profile: Australia

Population

23,343,000 (2013)

Official language

English (Creole English widely used in Tasmania)

Youth literacy rate (15 – 24 years)

99% (1995-2004)

Adult literacy rate (15+ years, 2011 – 2012, Australian Bureau of Statistics)

Female: 96%
Male: 96%
Both sexes: 96%

Statistical sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleLanguage, Literacy and Numeracy Program (LLNP)
Implementing OrganizationThe Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education

Overview

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Australia has a well-developed education and training system with high participation rates, secondary school completion and efforts to ensure that the sector responds to changing social and economic needs. However Australia faces the ongoing pressure of an ageing population combined with the increasing demand for highly skilled workers - especially in skilled trade, engineering and health occupations.

Responsibility for the policy, administration and funding of the education sectors is shared between the Australian Government and the state and territory Governments. The states and territories hold a key responsibility for the management and administration of compulsory and post-compulsory education and training. Each state and territory government have its own laws and related policies which govern such matters as the organisation of schooling, curriculum, course accreditation, student assessment and awards.

Despite high levels of adult literacy there remain significant populations who have lower skill levels. The 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills survey found almost half of Australia´s adult population has low levels of prose and document literacy and 7.9 million Australians were assessed as having the lowest level numeracy skills, negatively affecting their ability to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work results. It has been estimated by the Australian Productivity Commission that improved literacy and numeracy could increase total labour productivity by 1.2%.

The Australian Government´s 2011 budget announced it would invest an additional $182.8 million USD over four years to lift the foundation skills of adult Australians under an initiative entitled ‘Building Australia’s Future Workforce’.

The Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program (LLNP)

The program is aimed at job seekers and provides language, literacy and numeracy training to help find sustainable employment, or undertake further education and training if necessary. It has operated since January 2002, and is managed by The Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

Objective

The LLN program provides language, literacy and numeracy assistance to job seekers who, due to low levels of these skills, may experience significant disadvantage in finding and sustaining employment. Through improving these skills they can participate more effectively in the labour workforce, providing greater gains for society in the long term.

Program Implementation: approaches and methodologies

The program is delivered through contracted Registered Training Organisations including community organisations, private providers and universities. Training delivered as part of the program includes English Language, literacy and numeracy.

The potential participants are referred to an LLNP provider by Centrelink or Employment Service providers such as Job Services Australia or Disability Employment providers, and may attend training part or full-time.

Following a Pre-Training Assessment (PTA) which determines the job seekers LLN competences levels, learners are placed in the appropriate stream of learning which can be either:

Training is normally delivered face to face though a small proportion of training is delivered through distance learning or a mixture of both.

Participants attend training on a part-time (10–19 hours a week), or a full-time basis (20 hours per week). Learners can receive up to 800 hours of free training.

To ensure geographic coverage, LLNP delivery for each state/area is divided into business regions which are further sub-divided into Business Service Areas (BSAs). The LLNP is delivered to 134 BSAs, of which 22 are defined as remote.

Target Groups

The program focuses on job seekers that have been identified as having LLN needs. The Australian Government is keen to improve engagement in the program by the more disadvantaged job seekers such as young people, indigenous and mature age. There is an effort to engage more indigenous people, and in May 2009, the Australian Government allocated an additional $3 million AUD to help the delivery of LLNP to indigenous people needing assistance.

All participants in LLNP must be of working age (generally 15 to 64 years), be registered as job seekers with Centrelink and not a full-time student. Participants must also satisfy eligibility criteria relating to benefit and visa status.

Key Features of the Language, Literacy and Numeracy Programme

Strong community and industry linkages

Providers of training are expected to build strong connections within their communities to local business/industry in order to develop awareness of local workforce development needs in particular the growing industries – like green skills and industry. Providers are also encouraged to facilitate innovative delivery of LLNP training through work experience and workplace observation and training delivered in settings such as community volunteer organisations. Through this approach the programme is directly related to improving the learners’ job prospects.

Types of Training

Training can be implemented through three approaches:

  1. Complementary training supports the most disadvantaged learners to achieve learning outcomes in an environment they find conducive to learning. An example could be where a number of mature learners are preparing to return to the workforce and a course is specifically developed to their circumstances. Complementary training allows flexibility and innovation.
  2. Advanced Vocationally Oriented Courses (AVOC) assist more advanced participants in vocational-oriented training, including workplace experience and observation.
  3. Small group training which gives participants who are struggling in a larger class the opportunity to build their confidence in a smaller one, before returning to a large class.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The program is flexible, yet achieves measurable outcomes and improvement. In ensuring this LLNP is supported through a performance and quality assurance framework.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are to be met by providers which relate to learner participation, attainment and quality. The quality assurance is undertaken by departmental contract managers located at the local level that is in each state/territory. State contract managers undertake desktop and site-monitoring to ensure appropriate procedures are followed and suitable resources available to participants.

In addition to Contract Management, the department contracts an Independent Verifier (IV) to undertake quality assessments of providers. The IV provider conducts reviews of the quality of assessments undertaken by the provider. The IV compares evidence of assessments undertaken to actual LLN improvements against the Australian Core Skills Framework (ASCF). The IV samples learner assessments that include Pre-Training Assessments, Individual Training Plans (ITP) and some portfolio work. Learners that undertake work experience will be part of the quality verification process that will compare work experience undertaken to the learning outcomes in the clients ITP.

The IV also provides professional development workshops annually (or as required by the department) and those workshops usually focus on the assessment tools used and applied by the providers.

The IV process gives the government confidence that assessments undertaken by providers are comparable nationally.

Contracted providers use an online database to record training activities, this database also provides payment to providers for services delivered. Data on provider performance is extracted from this system.

Challenges and Solutions

In 2008–09, LLNP expenditure was $67.7 million AUD. The total number of LLNP participants in 2008–09 was 15,710. This figure is well below the 24,000 target, and reflects the necessity to improve and increase the program strategy for outreach.

The 2011-12 annual reports revealed a number of challenges highlighted by the training providers. These include difficulties with encouraging attendance and retaining learners (particularly with young and indigenous learners); attracting and retaining suitably qualified staff (particularly in rural areas), and managing contractual and reporting requirements. Just over 40% of providers also reported low rates of referrals and high levels of ‘no shows’. Providers attributed this to a number of issues, including a lack of understanding of the referral process and the programme´s outcomes by referring agencies.

Another challenge reported by about 30% of providers related to mental health issues or trauma, affecting learners’ ability to attend and progress in the program. While some providers offered counselling and support workers to help learners overcome these issues, many reported that their staff were not qualified to deal with these issues. One provider requested a ‘Mental Health First Aid’ training course be offered to staff.

One of the most significant problems is the availability of high quality, well‐trained adult LLN practitioners who can operate in a diverse range of environments to support diverse learners. The existing LLN workforce is experiencing a shortage of qualified practitioners and faces significant losses in the next 5-10 years due to retirement.

Solutions

Despite the rates of no-shows, providers used a number of methods to retain and encourage attendance. These included working on extended training hours, providing childcare, offering morning tea and lunch, and introducing a morning pick up run for learners. These efforts could be formally implemented as an option when required.

Furthermore a number of providers sought innovative training delivery, through use of Skype for example, and complementary training courses. Specialty vocation courses and workshops offered to learners included:

Participant engagement is a key focus for improvement. Possible barriers to learners’ participation are negative connotations associated with the program’s title, particularly for Australians that have been born or schooled in the Australian system. Many adults tend to overestimate their literacy and numeracy skills. Therefore, for the 2013-16 contractual period, the department is renaming the LLNP to Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program.

The administration of the program has become more streamlined over recent years, while still meeting government accountability. The department is also seeking to make payments for learner ‘milestones’ only when the records explicitly show that the milestone has been achieved. Learner attendance is critical to learning outcomes, and transparent recording ensures government financial accountability.

There is an overall effort to:

Sustainability

In the 2011 Budget the Australian Government announced it would invest an additional $182.8 million AUD over four years to lift the foundation skills of adult Australians, under an initiative entitled Building Australia’s Future Workforce. This brings total government investment in foundation skills training and strategic initiatives over the next four years to $760 million AUD. Of the additional investment, $143.1 million AUD over four years has been allocated for improved access to the LLNP.

The funding means that an additional 30,000 job seekers will have access to this program over the next four years.

References

Contact

Director
Language, Literacy and Numeracy Program
PO Box 9839
Canberra ACT 2601
Australia
Email: borka.buseka (at) innovation.gov.au