Functional Skills: Literacy, Numeracy & ICT
Functional skills are fundamental literacy, numeracy and ICT (information and communication technology) skills that provide learners with the capability, confidence and drive necessary for them to thrive in their specific vocational field, in the workplace and/or in life in general. Before we go deep into how we embed these functional skills into our lessons it is important to first understand what each of the functional skills entails.
Literacy means that students should be able to effectively read, write, listen to and speak (usually in English in the UK) as a mode of communication. Students should be, for example, encouraged to use correct vocabulary and punctuation when writing essays and delivering presentations. Teachers should arrange their resources in such a way that the tasks should allow students to communicate with each other and interact with their peers as well. This will enhance their reading, speaking and writing skills. For example, in the beauty industry, it is essential for students to be able to understand basic English language so they are able to understand their clients specifications, be able to read ingredients in the beauty products they use and keep up to date with emerging technology and innovations in the industry by reading new articles on the web. All of this will require basic literacy skills and hence beauty courses should promote these skills by encouraging their students to read, write, speak and listen.
Numeracy is essential for everyone as it helps individuals develop reasoning and logical thinking skills in their everyday activities. We need numeracy to make sense of numbers, solve problems, tell time, identify patterns and shapes and show trends. For example, in the culinary industry, students can be encouraged to calculate weights and costs of ingredients, measure amounts of various ingredients, estimate calories, cooking times and temperatures. These are essential skills that students in the culinary industry will be practicing and hence these are naturally embedded in the lesson plans. Teachers who may struggle with numeracy may get students to translate numerical data into graphs and tables, or perhaps they could get students to calculate percentages or number of lessons and assessments remaining?
Information & Communications Technology (ICT)
ICT or information and communications technology is an ever-emerging field of science that every person should be familiar with and have at least some basic knowledge of how to use it to enhance productivity. ICT provides students with an understanding of the emerging technologies and what is happening in the modern world. For example, in the plumbing industry, students are required to procure materials and reach out to suppliers over the internet, use word-processed or digital invoices, use spreadsheets to record product specifications and prices and/or take digital photos before, during and after the job. If teachers feel ICT skills do not naturally play into their specific subject area, they could encourage students to make presentations, access the internet and research new topics, look for pictures and communicate through email. This will encourage them to develop basic ICT skills that will not only help them in their daily life but will also enhance their employability.
When embedding skills, teachers need to ensure that they have realistic expectations from their learners. Learners should not be expected to master complex mathematical formulae or be able to write academic articles or create websites but they should enable learners to engage in real- life situations in their specific subject area.
Literacy, numeracy and ICT skills are crucial because they are used in many aspects of our lives. Workplace numeracy, literacy, ICT and employability skills are often used in conjunction with one another. These required skills often overlap and are necessary for any task and any industry.