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Foundation Skills

Overview

This page provides information and data on the the FSK – Foundation Skills Training Package, which is a critical element of Australia's vocational education and training system.

This Training Package specialises in supporting and preparing learners to access education and work opportunities, allowing for pathways into vocational training that would not otherwise be available. It is designed to provide learners with some of the key skills required to enter or succeed in the workforce or in vocational training, such as core language, literacy and numeracy skills. The Training Package allows flexible and targeted learning support to be implemented when and where needed. It also allows foundation skills support whilst undertaking vocational or on-the-job training.

Nationally recognised training for foundation skills is delivered under the FSK – Foundation Skills Training Package.

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

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Foundation Skills-related qualifications rose year on year between 2016 and 2019, with a sharp rise in enrolments between 2016 and 2017. Enrolments peaked in 2019 at approximately 66,020, before falling in 2020 to around 62,300. Program completions have increased each year between 2016 and 2020, peaking at approximately 18,400 in 2020.

Between 2016 and 2020 the majority of Foundation Skills-related subjects were delivered as part of a nationally recognised program. In 2020, 5% of Foundation Skills-related subjects were not delivered as part of a nationally recognised program.

In 2020, all program enrolments were at either the certificate I or certificate II level. More than three-quarters of program enrolments were in the Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways (76%), with the remaining enrolments in the certificate I programs (Access to Vocational Pathways and Skills for Vocational Pathways).

The majority of training was provided by schools (38%), private training providers (29%) and TAFE institutes (26%). The majority of subjects were Commonwealth and state funded (83%).

Queensland had the single highest proportion of students enrolled in Foundation Skills-related qualifications in 2020, with 62%, followed by New South Wales with 14% and Victoria with 8%.

Two-thirds of all training was delivered in Queensland (66%), followed by New South Wales (13%) and Victoria (8%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the Education IRC's 2019 Skills Forecast, the FSK Foundation Skills Training Package is essential in ensuring that as many people as possible have access to educational and work opportunities. The Skills Forecast highlights that 44% of adult Australians have literacy skills lower than what is considered to be required to operate effectively in workplaces and 55% have numeracy skills lower than that level. The learner cohort that FSK training is targeted at may have complex needs beyond requiring core skills; these learners may also face economic and social barriers to access training or employment.

Government insights

In November 2020, Australian, state and territory Skills Ministers requested a scoping study of the current environment for the delivery of foundation skills to adult learners in Australia. The findings of the study will help governments to better support access to training to improve language, literacy, numeracy and digital literacy skills for those who need it most. The report has been provided to Skills Ministers for consideration.

Following a referral from the Minister for Education and Youth, the Hon Alan Tudge MP, the House Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training is conducting an Inquiry into Adult Literacy and its Importance. The Committee will inquire into and report on adult literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills in Australia, including but not limited to:

  • The relationship between adult literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills and socio-demographic characteristics, particularly migrant status, First Nations status and individuals living in households that have experienced intergenerational unemployment.
  • The effect that literacy and numeracy skills have on an individual's labour force participation and wages.
  • Links between literacy and social outcomes such as health, poverty, ability to care for other family members and participation in civic life.
  • The relationship between parents' literacy skills and their children's education and literacy skill development from birth to post-secondary education.
  • The availability, impact and effectiveness of adult literacy and numeracy educational programs in Australia and internationally.
  • International comparisons of government policies and programs that may be adapted to the Australian experience.

The Committee called for submissions in February 2021. There are 110 written submissions publicly available on the Inquiry website, which provide a range of detailed perspectives on the above terms of reference. There is currently no release date for the Committee's report.

The Skills for Victoria's Growing Economy: Issues Paper was released in March 2020. It highlights that around 650,000 Victorians are at the lowest levels of literacy and 970,000 are functionally innumerate. Those with low literacy are 1.7 times more likely to be long-term unemployed and those who have jobs are limited in their ability to pursue productive careers. Students with better literacy and numeracy are more likely to finish their post-secondary course, and literacy and numeracy can make up to a 40% difference to the transition between education and employment. Improvements to literacy and numeracy for individuals also have wider benefits for communities in which they live. The Issues Paper states that foundation skills courses are the cornerstone of adult literacy and numeracy support in Victoria.

Future Skills for Victoria: Driving Collaboration and Innovation in Post-Secondary Education and Training, the final report of the Skills for Victoria's Growing Economy Review by Jenny Macklin, makes 30 recommendations for improving the state's training and skills system so it can deliver the skills Victoria needs now and into the future. Two of relevance for foundation skills are:

  • Recommendation 3.1 – Develop a new model for financing the VET system: FutureSkills Victoria should support the development of a new VET funding model that ensures that fully funded and free foundation skills courses are accessible to all Victorians who need them at any time in their career.
  • Recommendation 3.3 – Ease eligibility restrictions: The Victorian Government should remove eligibility restrictions that apply to foundation skills courses and provide access to these courses based on learner needs, with appropriate protections for quality.

The Review heard that some foundation skills courses are not adequately funded, and that discrepancies exist between subsidy rates for courses targeting similarly vulnerable groups. Funding constraints have further limited access to foundational learning, since many TAFE institutes no longer deliver stand-alone courses in essential language, literacy and numeracy skills. The final report also noted that digital literacy is a foundation skill that all Victorians need for economic and social participation. Digital literacy is not only required for entry into the workforce, but may be a priority for existing workers who need to upgrade their skills to remain employable.

Tasmania leads Australia with its long-term approach to improving the functional levels of literacy and numeracy in its adult population. Findings presented in 26TEN Strategy: The Socio-Economic Impact of Tasmania's Investment in Adult Literacy and Numeracy: July 2018 – June 2019 indicate a positive multiplied return on government and wider-community investment in improving adult literacy and numeracy as a result of the 26TEN Strategy. The socio-economic value created by the 26TEN Strategy in 2018–19 is estimated to be at least $27.2 million. With a combined investment of $5.3 million in 2018–19, this means that for every dollar invested by government, industry, community groups and individuals in the 26TEN Strategy, at least $5.20 in benefits were returned to the Tasmanian community.

The Tasmanian Department of State Growth's Adult Learning Strategy: Skills for Work and Life, 2020–2023 supports lifelong learning for all Tasmanians, to improve the work and life skills of individuals and to help them find fulfilling careers. The Strategy will help ensure that all Tasmanians are better supported to engage or re-engage in learning to improve their employment opportunities and build their personal confidence and mental health and wellbeing. Priority one is literacy and numeracy, with a focus on expanding existing literacy and numeracy programs to assist Tasmanians to learn the skills and build the competence they need. Four key actions are described:

  • Expand the 26TEN program. An additional $3 million will be provided to build on the strong foundations put in place by 26TEN. This will expand 26TEN's model to deliver additional local services to help lift literacy and numeracy levels for more Tasmanians in seven communities by 2023–24. Each community will receive $145,000 annually.
  • Support additional places in the literacy and numeracy volunteers training program. Funding of $300,000 will be provided over three years from 2021–22 to enable year-long rolling enrolments and to open access to the program to participants from the business and community sector.
  • Continue the Digital Ready for Daily Life program to provide new, easy to use resources for people who are unfamiliar with digital platforms and service delivery methods.
  • In 2021 TasTAFE will deliver the Certificate II in General Education for Adults. This is a flagship literacy and numeracy qualification that will provide learners with the opportunity to build their confidence and skills to a high level and move on to employment or higher education and training.

The Australian Government's Digital Economy Strategy 2030 states that increasing the digital capabilities of all Australians will be key to ensuring everyone can actively participate in the digital economy. All jobs are increasingly requiring some level of digital skills. Australians should feel well-equipped to use digital technology confidently, safely and securely. Digital literacy and ability are being considered as part of an Indigenous Digital Inclusion Plan currently being developed. The Plan will consider Government investments to date to improve Indigenous digital inclusion and identify priorities for further work. It will also have a focus on access and affordability.

The Learning Country: Digital Transformation Skills Strategy acknowledges that in order to have an adequately and appropriately skilled workforce, there first must be a strong foundational skills base upon which to build. This is particularly true of digital skills. Without widespread levels of basic digital literacy, citizens are increasingly unable to access government services or job opportunities. At the same time, workplaces need workers with the requisite digital skills to take advantage of the potential productivity increases offered by digital technology, while more advanced digital skills are needed for the growing numbers of ICT-related occupations inherent in a digital economy.

Training provider-related insights

Digital Skills Analysis: Training Packages, Industry Skills Forecasts and Occupational Trends presents key findings from an analysis of training package content to identify the existing coverage of digital skills and how this relates to supply and demand in the economy. An analysis of the 2019 Industry Skills Forecasts to identify future trends and priorities for digital skills and how they propose to meet this need is also presented.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) has produced a number of relevant publications including:

  • Workforce-Ready: Challenges and Opportunities for VET which notes that while foundation skills training is embedded in training packages, individuals can also undertake VET courses specifically designed to develop employability skills. These courses may be useful for those individuals who do not want or need technical skill training but who need to improve their employability skills in order to improve their work-readiness.
  • Provision of Foundation Skills Training by Community Education Providers in Regional Australia investigates the contribution community education providers make to foundation skills training in regional Australia, the models of delivery which seemed to work best, and whether the undertaking of foundation skills training helps build social and human capital of the individual and broader community. Completions among students at regional community education providers are high but little is known about education or employment pathways following training due to difficulties in tracking students.
  • Teaching Digital Skills: Implications for VET Educators – Good Practice Guide highlights the implications for VET educators of the increasing need to include digital skills in VET delivery. It is critical that VET educators have the capacity to: use technology effectively in their teaching practice; use technology that is relevant to their industry; and help learners to develop their own digital skills.
  • Incorporating Digital Skills Into VET Delivery: Good Practice Guide provides advice on incorporating digital skills into VET delivery for VET providers and policy-makers. Key messages include:
    • By adding digital skills to the suite of foundation skills, their prominence would be increased and their growing importance as fundamental to many occupations recognised.
    • Units of competency, or short courses, that address specific digital skills could prepare the current workforce to adapt to and manage changing roles at work.
    • Partnering with employers to develop digital skills training will ensure its relevance and transferability to industry.

The article Shame: An Avoidable Barrier to Adult Literacy Learning, outlines how shame can be a debilitating impediment to learning for anyone, and especially when it comes to literacy learning for adults. The author focuses first on shame in general, describing the basics of shame, how it can affect the body and brain, and its implications for learning. The article concludes with research-based, practical suggestions to help adult literacy learners identify and navigate their shame, and thus better manage their own learning.

COVID-19 impact

In the 2020–21 Budget, the Federal Government announced that it would ensure continued support for students and job seekers through amendments to the delivery of existing skills and training programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

The Federal Government acknowledges that foundational skills are fundamental to getting a job and is committed to providing increased support for foundational skills training. In the 2021–22 Budget, the Federal Government announced that it will:

  • Invest $23.6 million over four years to expand access to foundation skills training, outreach and research for Australians with low levels of language, literacy, numeracy and digital skills. This includes an additional:
    • $20.6 million to assist more job seekers to access the Skills for Education and Employment (SEE) program. Changes to the SEE program will include expanding eligibility to all registered job seekers, uncapping allowable hours, support for participants to complete certificate level III qualifications, the accelerated inclusion of digital literacy skills as part of the program, and funding to develop more flexible and effective delivery approaches including for job seekers in remote Australia.
    • $3 million to support national Reading Writing Hotline services and research to improve foundation skills delivery nationally.
  • Continue to negotiate a new National Skills Agreement with the states and territories to replace the National Agreement on Skills and Workforce Development. The key priorities for the Government for a new National Skills Agreement include improving access to and support for foundation skills.

In the Future of Work in the Digital Economy: Developing Skills for Industry 4.0 report, industry leaders and international academics examine the impact of COVID-19 on the digital economy and analyse the critical skills required to drive this accelerated digital transformation.

The Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance (ADIA) argues A National Digital Inclusion Roadmap is needed because Australia is digitising and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the pace of every-day activities moving online. It is becoming increasingly critical that all Australians are digitally included so they can participate in all aspects of society. Being digitally included means: (1) A person has affordable access to high-quality internet, and owns appropriate devices to utilise the internet; (2) A person can use the internet in an accessible way, whether they are living with disability, from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds, or with other needs; and (3) A person has the ability, skills and confidence to complete tasks on and benefit from the internet. In order for Australians to engage in basic online services such as MyGov, Centrelink and Medicare – as well as banking and telehealth – it is essential they have affordable and reliable internet and devices, can use the internet in a way that works for them and have the skills to complete tasks confidently and safely.

Digital inclusion is not just necessary for Australians' personal life. Increasingly, a person must have internet access and skills to join the workforce. Finding job opportunities, applying for positions and having the necessary basic digital skills all hinge upon being digitally included, with digital exclusion being a driver for unemployment. Before the pandemic, Australians were being left behind because they did not have the affordable access or the skills necessary to participate in a digital world. Now, with more of life moving online, increasing digital inclusion in Australia must be a priority. Currently, the approach to increasing digital inclusion is decentralised and inconsistent across government, business and community groups. Each entity is setting its own goals and creating its own programs to address the problem, lessening the impact of each program. Providing a central strategy to address digital inclusion would allow all stakeholders to work together to amplify the efforts, ensuring the most vulnerable Australians are not left behind.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

 

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Foundation Skills IRC

 

Relevant research

26TEN Strategy: The Socio-Economic Impact of Tasmania's Investment in Adult Literacy and Numeracy: July 2018 – June 2019 – 26TEN

A National Digital Inclusion Roadmap – Australian Digital Inclusion Alliance (ADIA)

A Scan of Approaches Taken by Australia to Build the Digital Skills of the Existing Workforce in Response to Digital Transformation of Industry – Australian Industry Standards

Adult Learning Strategy: Skills for Work and Life, 2020–2023 – Tasmanian Department of State Growth

Budget Measures: Budget Paper No. 2, 2020–21 – Australian Government

Digital Economy Strategy 2030 – Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Digital Skills Analysis: Training Packages, Industry Skills Forecasts and Occupational Trends – Digital Transformation Expert Panel

Foundation Skills for Your Future Program: Digital Literacy Skills Framework, April 2020 – Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE)

Future of Work in the Digital Economy: Developing Skills for Industry 4.0 – RMIT University

Future Skills for Victoria: Driving Collaboration and Innovation in Post-Secondary Education and Training [the final report of the Skills for Victoria's Growing Economy Review] – Jenny Macklin

'I Can Speak On This Here': Empowerment Within an Aboriginal Adult Literacy Campaign – The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, Volume 50, Issue 1, August 2021 – Frances Williamson and Bob Boughton

Improving Access to and Support for Foundation Skills – Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE)

Incorporating Digital Skills Into VET Delivery: Good Practice Guide – National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)

Inquiry into Adult Literacy and its Importance – Australia. Parliament. House of Representatives. Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training

Portfolio Budget Statements 2021–22: Budget Related Paper no. 1.4: Education, Skills and Employment Portfolio – Australian Government

Preparing for the Digital Workforce of Tomorrow – ING and YouGov

Provision of Foundation Skills Training by Community Education Providers in Regional Australia – National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)

Report on the Review of Skills, Training and Workforce Development – Western Australian Department of Training and Workforce Development

Response to the Skills for Victoria Issues Paper – Neighbourhood Houses Victoria (NHVic)

Shame: An Avoidable Barrier to Adult Literacy Learning – Fine Print, Volume 44, Number 2, 2021 – Holly Armstrong

Skills for Victoria's Growing Economy: Issues Paper – Skills for Victoria Independent Review

Teaching Digital Skills: Implications for VET Educators – Good Practice Guide – National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)

The Learning Country: Digital Transformation Skills Strategy – Digital Transformation Expert Panel

Workforce-Ready: Challenges and Opportunities for VET – National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER)

 

Government bodies

Australian Core Skills Framework

Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment

National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Adult Learning Australia (ALA)

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI)

Australian Council for Adult Literacy (ACAL)

Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)

Australian Industry Group (Ai Group)

Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (ALEA)

Business Council of Australia (BCA)

Community Colleges Australia (CCA)

Enterprise Registered Training Organisation Association (ERTOA)

Literacy for Life Foundation (LFLF)

TAFE Directors Australia (TDA)

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:

  • FSK Foundation Skills Training Package
    • FSK10113 - Certificate I in Access to Vocational Pathways
    • FSK10119 - Certificate I in Access to Vocational Pathways
    • FSK10213 - Certificate I in Skills for Vocational Pathways
    • FSK10219 - Certificate I in Skills for Vocational Pathways
    • FSK20113 - Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways
    • FSK20119 - 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:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 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%.

Updated: 16 Dec 2021
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