Towards a Knowledge Economy or 'Bottom of the Barrel Syndrome'? Perceptions of the Relationship between Employment and Literacy in Wanganui, New Zealand

Dr Suzann Clair Olsson,
Margie Comrie
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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
Stream: Teaching and Learning
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Towards a Knowledge Economy or 'Bottom of the Barrel Syndrome'?

Dr Suzann Clair Olsson

Senior lecturer, Department of Communication and Journalism College of Business, Massy University, Palmerston North
New Zealand

Su Olsson's research interests include literacy and employment, managerial and political discourse, corporate citizenship and corporate social responsibility, women in management and women on boards. She is executive director of the New Zealand Centre for Women and Leadership at Massey University, and with Judy McGregor of the Human Rights commission produced the first New Zealand Census of Women's Participation in Governance and Professional Life (2004). She is an Associate member of the Centre for Diversity and Work Psychology, Manchester School of Management, UMIST, Manchester and is co-book review editor for Women in Management Review.

Margie Comrie

Associate Professor, The Department of Communication and Journalism College of Business, Massey University, Palmerston North
New Zealand

Ref: H05P0530