Changing conceptualisations of literacy and numeracy in lean production training: Two case studies of manufacturing companies

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Journal Article
Studies in the Education of Adults, 2014, 46 (1), pp. 58 - 73
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© 2014, © 2014 Taylor and Francis Group, LLC. Within the context of Australian workplace literacy and numeracy programmes, and based on a larger study from an ethnographic perspective, we outline two case studies of manufacturing companies implementing training programmes in ‘lean’ production processes. The role of literacy and numeracy in the training programmes was approached quite differently in the two companies. In one company, a trainer delivered the lean training to a group of workers selected on the basis of their formally assessed literacy and numeracy needs and the training was preceded by some ‘upskilling’ in literacy and numeracy skills. We refer to this training as an orthodox ‘deficit’ model in which literacy and numeracy are seen as pre-requisite skills and potentially ‘problems’ for workers undertaking training programmes. In the other company, literacy and numeracy were not addressed specifically and, in effect, were completely embedded in the lean training and indistinguishable as elements of the training program. We discuss this embedded nature of literacy and numeracy within a conceptualisation of literacy and numeracy as social practices. We use these two case studies to indicate some implications for workplace training programmes of different understandings of the role of literacy and numeracy in workplaces.
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