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Results from the International Adult Literacy Surveys (external link) have shown the nature and magnitude of the literacy and numeracy gaps faced by countries in Europe. In every country surveyed, from one quarter to over one-half of the adult population failed to reach the threshold level of performance considered as a suitable minimum level for coping with the demands of modern life and work. The extent of the problem has since been confirmed by other surveys.

Low levels of literacy and numeracy skills pose major challenges to both individuals and governments. Rapid changes in economic, social and political life and the introduction of new technologies require ever higher levels of these skills for personal achievement and fulfilment, social inclusion, and for economic competitiveness and prosperity. Research evidence (external link) from Canada and the United States suggests that effective literacy and numeracy skills lie at the heart of job performance and satisfaction, and organisational development. Improvements in literacy and numeracy, support accident reduction, customer satisfaction, staff retention, take up and achievement in vocational training, internal communications, reduction of absenteeism, and reduction of wastage.

However, within Europe there is very limited systematic evidence of how basic skills training improves the ability of individuals to perform at work, or how this learning impacts on organisational performance as a whole. Organisations tend to leave the evaluation of training to those delivering the training, whether this is providers or trade unions. Historically the evaluation that has been carried out by these groups has generally focused on the learning process and the value to the learner rather than on the benefits to individual and organisational performance. Case study evidence (external link) also suggests that where there have been attempts to evaluate the impact of basic skills training on individual and /or organisational performance, these have lacked grounding in models or theories of workplace learning evaluation.

A weak evaluation system restricts the data available to build a strong business case for basic skills development. It also limits the ability of employers to make accurate judgements about the levels of basic skills improvement needed in their organisations, and therefore to target investment and resources in basic skills development appropriately.

In addition, the absence of appropriate evaluation methodology means that training providers lack the information they need to identify how far basic skills programmes deliver organisational objectives. This in turn limits their ability to develop and refine suitable programme content and delivery methods which respond to employers' skills training needs.

The WoLLNET project will address these issues by developing a web-based, user-friendly, theoretically grounded Toolkit to enable employers, providers and unions in participating countries to systematically evaluate the impact of workplace basic skills training programmes on learning, individual and organisational performance.