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How literacy and numeracy skills affect job chances
The ability to read and write, and understand information, can affect your job chances. If you have low literacy and numeracy, you can get help and improve your future prospects.
What does literacy and numeracy mean?
- Literacy is the ability to read and write, but also includes skills like critical thinking, listening, speaking, viewing and presenting.
- Numeracy is being at home with numbers, and knowing the smartest way to solve mathematical problems.
How important are literacy and numeracy skills?
- Workforce literacy is one of the key skill shortages facing the New Zealand economy.
- An estimated 43% of New Zealanders have difficulty with the literacy demands of their job. An estimated 51% of adult workers have low numeracy.
- According to a recent survey of New Zealand employers, literacy and numeracy are ranked in the top three skills that employers look for in an employee.
Sources: Education Counts, 'Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey', 2006; and Industry Training Federation, 'Business New Zealand Skills and Training Survey', 2007.
"Poor literacy levels make it difficult for individuals to provide for their families, or to find and keep satisfying work."
Phil O’Reilly, CEO, Business NZ
What literacy and numeracy skills are needed at work?
Though the level of literacy and numeracy skills can vary by workplace, most jobs require some ability in these areas.
Below are examples of how literacy and numeracy skills are used in the workplace:
- Filling out forms.
- Writing emails.
- Taking notes.
- Typing reports.
- Reading labels and instructions.
- Understanding health and safety procedures.
- Viewing web pages.
- Reading contracts.
- Participating in team meetings.
- Addressing a group.
- Answering questions at job interviews.
- Giving presentations.
- Counting quantities for a customer.
- Using percentages and subtraction to give a discount.
- Rounding numbers and estimating when writing a quote .
- Using division when calculating costs per head.
- Measuring an area of warehouse space.
- Calculating fuel consumption .
- Interpreting maps and plans.
- Calculating diameters.
- Understanding tables in reports.
- Interpreting graphs.
- Literacy requirements for different jobs - find more specific information about literacy requirements for some jobs
Literacy and numeracy requirements and NCEA
- To achieve NCEA Level 1, you need 80 credits from Level 1 or higher, with eight being from literacy standard and eight being from the numeracy standard. Literacy skills can be assessed in English or te reo Māori. Numeracy skills can be assessed in maths or pāngarau (Māori immersion maths).
- To enter university, you need eight credits at Level 2 English or te reo Māori (with four credits in reading and four credits in writing). They'll also need at least 14 credits for Level 1 maths or pāngarau. There are additional requirements as well.
Helping your child improve their literacy and numeracy skills
- Make sure your child attends school every day – missing out on lessons can put them further behind.
- Find books and reading material that interest them – use the local library.
- Read them stories.
- Let your children see you reading – it could be a magazine or newspaper.
- Encourage your children to practise speaking in front of a group.
- Discuss the news, TV shows, movies and issues of the day with your children.
- Talk to the maths teacher to help you understand how maths is being taught in schools.
- Get your children to practise their maths doing everyday things like calculating the family budget, measuring amounts in a recipe, and calculating distances and speed when doing a road trip.
- Play games that use counting skills with your family – for example, Monopoly, bingo or cards.
How to improve your literacy or numeracy if you've left school
Bridging or foundation courses
Bridging courses are often held in maths, English and science subjects to help students meet the entry requirements for a degree course.
Many tertiary providers also offer foundation courses so that you can learn essay writing, study and time management skills, or get a feel for a subject area.
Youth training courses
Youth training courses are free and give young people the chance to gain unit standards and work towards a national certificate.
Employers want people with good maths and English skills, so most of the youth training courses can also help students improve in these areas.
Free individual tuition
Literacy Aotearoa provides free tuition to adult learners in reading, writing and maths.
To find out more about their services in your area phone 0800 789 10 or visit their website.
Find out more
Careers New Zealand website
- ESOL Home Tutors website - English language tutoring service for refugees and migrants
- Industry Training Federation (ITF) website - literacy and numeracy in the workplace
- Literacy Aotearoa website - one-to-one free literacy tuition
- New Zealand Reading Association (NZRA) website - encouraging literacy learning
- NZ Maths website - fun online learning activities
- Workbase website - find out more about workplace literacy