Job Specific Skills

Employees take part in more job-specific training and gain better results once they improve their foundation of basic skills:

  • More Employees Participating in Job-Specific Training

  • Improved Results in Job-Specific Training

  • Quicker Results in Job-Specific Training

Job-Specific Skills
Percentage of Employers Reporting Benefits

Percentage of Employers Reporting Benefits

More Employees Participating In Job-Specific Training

Nearly 75 per cent of employers found that more of their employees participated in job-specific training after completing WEPs. Employees were significantly more willing and interested in acquiring new knowledge and in improving themselves. Employers’ estimates of the extent of the improvement were typically in the 25-50 per cent range.

These returns are highly attractive to employers. In fact, some of them got involved in WEP programs in the first place to achieve greater success with their higher level job-specific training and cross-training. They knew that impressive gains in job-specific training results can come when employees develop their workplace basic skills.

The impact can be considerable: one employer calculates that there has been an eight-fold increase in employees taking part in job-specific training. Before, when he offered training only one or two participants, usually supervisors, would sign-up. Now many more employees from the shop floor are taking training. This improved willingness to train was especially important with respect to successfully completing ISO certification courses.

"I don’t know that we could have become ISO certified if we hadn’t opened the training door."Over our 60+ year history, no more than 1 or 2 individuals would take classes, now there are 6 to 8 per semester."

- Operations Manager,
Small Central-U.S. Metal Fabrication Company

With WEPs, training moves down the hierarchy; employees take greater ownership. They are more eager to learn and seek more information about job-specific training opportunities. Partly, this is because they become aware that the more job-specific training they get the higher their chances are to be promoted. The result in some companies is that there are waiting lists for training classes.

"Workplace education has provided a different class of employees now. They seek education now rather than have it forced on them. We went from 15 per cent to 60 per cent of our workforce seeking education."

- Vice-President,
Large Mid-Western Hi-Tech Company

WEP graduates are often more interested in cross-training than they had been before. In one workplace, employees who took the basic math course became willing to cross-train as cashiers. In another workplace, two women working in the kitchen took the food service management course by correspondence on their own initiative. In another, a hospital where management strongly encourages cross-training to other jobs, the WEP courses prompted employees to see cross-training as a career opportunity.

Participation in WEPs may also increase employees’ interest in taking other training, such as team building and problem solving, to address specific workplace issues that they face.

ESL is often crucial to increasing participation in job-specific training. ESL training raises employees’ comfort level and makes them more willing to take the risk, because they feel empowered. Afterward, staff with previously limited English skills are more active in meetings and planning sessions. Companies profit from that.

"It wasn’t that they didn’t want to learn, but they didn’t want to be embarrassed."

- Director of Human Resources,
Large Northwestern Hotel

Sometimes, WEPs offer employees tailored literacy development that is linked to job-specific training. For example, one electronics company is able to prepare employees for blueprint reading classes through initial WEP basic training and so avoids having to exclude employees from training because they do not understand course content. The same company’s strategy of integrating ESL and basic skills into other regular job-specific training has paid major dividends. It met its goal of 75 per cent of ESL graduates enrolling in at least one six-week module of job-specific training.

WEP-trained employees are less reluctant to speak out so they are more likely to take job-specific training. They are noticeably more excited about learning; they want to be introduced to new things because they are more confident they will understand. This is important for companies that actively use cross-training as a strategy for meeting their skills needs in the workplace.

"When we would have training on a new process or cross-training into another area, people wouldn’t want to take it. They would be afraid they couldn’t do it. We noticed a big difference after WEPs. They had more confidence. They wanted to go out and get training. As a result, the company now gets more applicants to training for quality assurance, engineering support, inspector positions, etc."

- Assembly Department Manager,
Large Northwestern Electronics Manufacturing Company

Improved Results in Job-Specific Training

More than half of the employers identified improved job-specific training results among employees who completed WEPs, ranging from 25 - 50 plus per cent. After training, WEP graduates get much more out of job-specific training because they are more literate and their understanding is greatly enhanced. They can retain information presented in subsequent job-specific training much better than previously. Their capacity was so improved in one company that employers were able to move people from fourth grade to eighth grade educational level. Afterwards, 25 per cent of the employees felt much more comfortable inputting data.

WEP training leads to a wide range of job-specific training gains. Job-specific training is more successful when employees are able to ask more questions and make more comments during training because they have a more complete understanding of the training.

Improved English language skills are often crucial in WEP learning gains because they increase students’ ability to understand subsequent job-specific training conducted in English. With improved language skills in their WEP and an ESL-conscious curriculum, employees get more out of job-specific training. Graduates of WEPs are more likely to gain an overall picture of what they are learning and put it in the broader context of organizational goals - why they are learning. Their improved literacy and communications skills tend to make them noticeably more vocal in workshops and training sessions and more willing to work together in teams. Their self-confidence makes them less embarrassed and self-conscious and more likely to speak up in training sessions. Coupled with clear improvements in their ability to read, write and communicate, employees who complete WEPs gain much more from job-specific training than other employees with unresolved basic skills problems.

The impact on corporate performance can be very significant. One company felt that it was not getting value for money being spent on ISO training because its employees did not properly understand the documents and technical specifications they were using in the certification process. The tables were turned once employees took a WEP; afterwards many more passed their ISO 9000 and other certification tests. In another, spectacular instance of the impact of WEPs on job-specific training outcomes, another employer found that the passing rate in a technical course went from 1 out of 25 to 28 out of 29. At a third company, where before the WEP only one person had completed the computerized blueprint reading course, afterwards 27 more completed it.

"Improved basic skills set the stage for more successful participation in subsequent job-specific training."

- Co-ordinator, Skills Enhancement Program,
Large Eastern Hospital

The skills upgrading and the resulting higher self-esteem enabled many employees to participate in further training, including emergency medical technician training, basic computer operations courses, health information technology college programs, and even GED and high school diploma programs.

Quicker Results in Job-Specific Training

Over half of employers reported that their employees obtained quicker results in job-specific training after completing a WEP. In some instances the impact is striking: one employer reported a 70% improvement in the rapidity and the accuracy of employee learning. At another company, two new production lines have been created since WEP training; the employees who took the new positions were those who had been training through WEP and showed faster job-specific learning abilities. Those completing more than one course were 15 per cent quicker in applying new knowledge about coding and medical terminology.

One reason for quicker results is that WEP graduates are more willing and open to taking on other skills and so put more concentration and energy into subsequent job-specific training. This is important to employers who cannot afford unnecessary down time.

The benefits for employers extend beyond formal job-specific training. WEP graduates understand instructions more quickly; usually the first time. Before, many of them would try to learn by imitating others because they did not understand the training. Afterwards, they spend less time translating documents and information and more time absorbing it. As a result, supervisors need less time to explain job tasks and departmental information.

One employer noted almost 50 per cent improvement in the rapidity of learning abilities of the employees on the line. Another employer observed that her employees understand things the first time, rather than having to go over the same information many times. So great has the progress been that now some training offered almost seems too basic.

"The amount of time we need to spend on training has decreased, because the employees are catching on quicker."

- Training Specialist,
Large Food Preparation Company

"Their learning curve is much shorter."

- Production Manager,
Large Scientific Instruments Manufacturing Company

Ultimately, quicker results in job-specific training mean speedier changes in workplace performance, which in turn leads to bottom-line benefits.

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Last updated: February 18, 2001 .