Towards a Knowledge Economy or 'Bottom of the Barrel Syndrome'? Perceptions of the Relationship between Employment and Literacy in Wanganui, New Zealand
The New Zealand Government is committed to building a knowledge economy. This commitment includes the funding of research into the relationship between employment and adult literacy. This paper reports on one such community-based research project in Wanganui. In initial discussions with concerned community agencies and members, the links between adult literacy and employment opportunities were a constantly reiterated factor. Employers, however, also spoke of a 'bottom of the barrel syndrome' with no selection of those with relevant skills to pick from. A telephone survey of 300 members of the wider community on what they saw as employment-related skills revealed some differences from those of community agencies and employers. This paper juxtaposes the perceptions of the three groups. The findings suggest both local community and government agencies may need to engage in public discussion and consciousness-raising about adult literacy as a basic step in moving towards a knowledge economy.
Keywords: Knowledge economy, Adult literacy, Workplace literacies, Employment-related skills, Employers, Community agencies
Dr Suzann Clair Olsson
Senior lecturer, Department of Communication and Journalism College of Business, Massy University, Palmerston North
Associate Professor, The Department of Communication and Journalism College of Business, Massey University, Palmerston North