Numeracy, Youth and Employment

A study of numeracy demands in contemporary workplaces

This project was a partnership between the Chief Investigator (Prof Robyn Jorgensen) and The Gold Coast City Council; Centrelink; Gold Coast TAFE; Queensland Studies Authority and SCISCO Inc. The project was initially developed out of a concern of the consortium regarding access to and retention of young people in work within the Gold Coast region. It was recognized that numeracy was an important element of how young people were selected for work as well as their on-going retention in work. Within such a context, it was also recognized that little was known about the contemporary demands of workplace numeracy such that if recommendations were to be developed they needed to be aligned with contemporary practice. As such, the project sought to identify contemporary demands of workplace numeracy through a range of methods.

The study was conducted over a period of three years from 2002-2004 with 2005 being a phase for final analysis of data. An iterative approach was used where the outcomes from one phase were built upon in following phases. The Industry Partners were involved throughout the development of research protocols and on-going analysis, thus providing valuable insights into various aspects of education, training, selection and retention of young people. The approach used a mixed method approach and involved a large scale survey with almost 1000 responses in the first phase. This was followed by 19 case studies of young people in work across a range of industries and skill levels. Arising from the first two phases came a realization that young people approached numeracy in ways that were quite different from those anticipated at the commencement of the project. The final phase, thus, involved two distinct process: first community consultation where focus groups were held to discuss outcomes and reaction from stakeholders; the second was the development of recommendations arising from the outcomes of these three distinct actions.

The outcome of the project was substantially different from the assumptions that underpinned the initial project.