"Life begins at the end of your comfort zone."

~Neale Donald Walsch~

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Is there a literacy gap for Gen X and Baby Boomers?

A few weeks ago I said I needed to apply for my job. Well I have and I am still waiting for my interview but hey, I'm not going anywhere so I'm sure it will happen sometime. Anyway after chatting with some colleagues of mine about addressing selection criteria in a job application it got me thinking. Why do so many people stress out about addressing this criteria when they are applying for a job? Much of what I do in my job is to make learning meaningful and the skills set that we give students also needs to be relevant to today's world and I feel that interpretation of 'job jargon' or should I say 'industry jargon' is not explicitly taught. It is something that we all assumed to understand.  However I don't think that this is the case.

When I was in primary school in the 1980s we weren't given marking criteria and guidelines. (If fact we
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spent most of our time trying to record our favorite songs off the radio using our super cool tapes and walkmans.)However there were fairly detailed syllabuses for year 11 and 12 but for junior years in high school it was widely open to creative teaching on a range of topics and ideas. It wasn't until you were in your senior years of school that the whole assessment thing because seriously hectic. So for many people who were taught in schools in the 1980s they were given a task and then asked to interpret and complete it to the best of their ability. Of course the teacher would explain the task clearly but there was never the strict dot point and guidelines like there are today. So you might be wondering why I am rabbiting on about assessment tasks and being able to interpret them however I see that there is a direct link to this and being able to address selection criteria in a job application. Being able to read, interpret and analysis are higher order thinking operations. Not only does the information in the job application need comprehension it also requires much more thought than that in order to address all the requirements of a job. In many instances employers are looking for how you have used these skills and applied them to your current job or situations that you have encountered. Being able to understand and use the jargon to best address the selection criteria is paramount to even getting a look in with an employer.

After many discussions with students and teachers this week many felt that it is something that is time consuming and confusing at times. Many felt inadequate about really understanding what it was that the employer were asking and weren't confident using the jargon that was used in the job advertisement.

It seems that this current generation at school will have an advantage when it comes to applying for jobs
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because they are familiar with reading and understanding how this type of text operates. There has been much debate about increasing the retirement age to 70 and if this happens then we will all be working longer and applying for more jobs when we are older. It becomes much harder to compete with young people for work when they are confident in addressing selection criteria. Many of my students reflected today that having a gap in education and work to have children had greatly decreased their literary abilities in this area because they haven't been reading, writing and thinking this way for many years. If you don't use it you lose it. It is hard for them to compete for work with young people because they don't feel confident addressing selection criteria and using current industry jargon. This is why TAFE is yet again another crucial service for these people because we can help these adult learners understand the jargon and try and address the selection criteria so they at least get a look in for a job.

I don't know how this can be addressed but I do know that it is becoming increasingly harder for older workers to stay employed and be employed and I do hope that governments begin to tackle this problem in a more genuine way than they have off late. There needs to be a change in perception about older workers and their contribution to the work force because they have much experience and wisdom to contribute to the effective and efficient running of the nation's work force.

I'm not usually one to be so political but it is a concern that there appears to be a literacy gap for some adult workers and I do hope that TAFE will still be around long enough to help them.

Enough musings...

Until next week,


p.s. Just an aside, thanks so much for the great feedback from last week's posts. Don't forget to check out all the talks for TED x Sydney 2014!

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