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Foundation Skills


This page provides information and data on the Foundation Skills Training Package, which is one component of the Education industry.

The Foundation Skills Training Package contains three qualifications which aim to provide learners with the skills required to enter the workforce or access further training, such as language, literacy and numeracy skills:

  • Certificate I in Access to Vocational Pathways
  • Certificate I in Skills for Vocational Pathways
  • Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways.

Feedback from industry and providers indicated that currently the Foundation Skills Training Package is failing to provide those skills and the training package is being reviewed in an attempt to address this. Reasons for this failure include:

  • the foundation skills of Australian adults still need improvement
  • there has been poor uptake of the training package
  • issues with training package content and structure.

Information sourced from the Education IRC's 2017 Skills Forecast and the Education IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast (forthcoming).

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Foundation Skills qualifications have increased in recent years, from 17,696 in 2014 to 29,826 in 2016 and with a sharp rise in enrolments in 2017 to 57,036. Program completions have tripled in this period to 12,911 in 2017.

There has also been strong growth in subject-only enrolments, from 2,508 in 2014 to 17,863 in 2017.

Program enrolments were either at certificate I (21,797) or certificate II (35,239) level.

Over 60% of program enrolments are in the Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways, with the remaining enrolments in the certificate I programs (Access to Vocational Pathways and Skills for Vocational Pathways).

TAFE institutes, private providers and schools provide the majority of foundation skills training, with TAFE institutes providing 40% of training, private providers 26% of training and schools 20% of training. Over 80% of all subjects for the training are funded by government.

The majority of training is undertaken by students in Queensland (53%), followed by New South Wales (17%) and Victoria (13%).     

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Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

Looking at the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), and comparing OECD countries, Australia ranks fifth out of 29 countries for literacy, but lags behind in numeracy (14th) and problem-solving and using technology (6th).

The most recent PIAAC Survey of Adult Skills shows the literacy proficiency of around 44% of adult Australians is below level 3, which is considered to be the minimum requirement to operate effectively in workplaces and society.

Numeracy proficiency is even lower. In this area around 54% of adult Australians had skills below level 3.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults is a 10-year framework which brings a national focus to improving education and employment outcomes for working age Australians with low levels of foundation skills (language, literacy, numeracy and employability skills).

Through the strategy, all Australian governments have committed to a target that by 2022, two thirds of working age Australians will have literacy and numeracy skills at Level 3 or above.

Industry identifies low levels of literacy and numeracy as having a negative effect on the business and the workforce. The Australian Industry Group report Tackling Foundation Skills in the Workplace found that 93% of surveyed employers reported that low levels of literacy and numeracy were having an impact on their business. Particular areas reported by employers as a concern are:

  • poor completion of workplace documents and reports (almost 42%)
  • material wastage and errors (almost 32%)
  • teamwork and communication problems (over 28%)
  • time wasting (over 27%). 

The Australian Industry Group have long supported improvements to the foundation skills of the Australian workforce, and their research in the report Investing in Workforce Literacy Pays demonstrates that employer investment in foundation skills training produces returns for employers.

Analysis of all 2017 IRC Skills Forecasts shows that the following industries rank language, literacy and numeracy and foundation skills as one of their top three priority skills:

  • Manufacturing
  • Construction and Plumbing
  • Automotive
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers
  • Beauty Services
  • Technicians Support Services
  • Food, Beverage and Pharmaceutical Product Manufacturing
  • Property Services
  • Tourism
  • Education
  • Floristry
  • Enrolled Nursing
  • Civil Infrastructure.

As discussed in the Education IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast, there are concerns that the Foundation Skills Training Package is not well understood or being delivered effectively and is not adequately supporting learners to develop their foundation skills. Some of the reasons include:

  • Anecdotal evidence from IRC members suggest that the Foundation Skills (FSK) Training Package and associated material is not fully understood by training providers leading to a lack of use and poor interpretations.
  • The FSK Training Package does not necessarily cater for the specific needs of cohorts requiring these qualifications or their potential employers.
  • There is little evidence of useable skill-sets that are adopted by industry or used in conjunction with entry level employment.
  • The FSK Training Package should closely align to the Australian Core Skills Framework and where practicable, give trainers guidance on how to use the package to improve the core skills of learners.
  • Units are overwhelmingly used as part of FSK qualifications and there is an appetite to encourage the use of units in qualifications in other training packages.
  • Some skills gaps exist in the areas of digital literacy and employability skills, but the extent to which these should be met in the FSK Training Package depend on the progress of future cross-sector work.
  • There were a range of other considerations that fall outside of the scope of this review that are relevant for discussion, these include but are not limited to funding and modes of delivery.

Given these concerns, the Foundation Skills Training Package is currently being reviewed and is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.

A pilot program of three foundation skills from the Foundation Skills Training Package as individual units of competency as a skill-set were delivered in 2016. This pilot was effectively incorporated within three participating workplaces in a flexible way. Each company was able to select the units of competency most relevant to them.

The program demonstrated benefits for both the company and the individual employees with an increase of core skills and increased confidence and self-esteem, communication skills and participation in workplace activities. Employers benefited by having better communication among staff, improved workplace documentations, improved understanding of workplace safety and increased leadership and communication skills for supervisors. This pilot showed great benefits of using just a few relevant units of competency from the Foundation Skills Training Package.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • Foundation Skills Training Package
    • FSK10113 - Certificate I in Access to Vocational Pathways
    • FSK10213 - Certificate I in Skills for Vocational Pathways
    • FSK20113 - Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 program enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 subject enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document. 

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

Information has also been sourced from the Education IRC's 2018 Skills Forecast.

Updated: 12 Nov 2018
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