Foundation Skills and the Australian VET system

This is the first of two articles covering foundation skills in the Australian VET system. In this article, I shall provide an overview of foundation skills:

  • What are foundation skills?
  • When were foundation skills introduced?
  • What is the FSK Foundation Skills Training Package?
  • When was the FSK Foundation Skills Training Package introduced?

The second article explains how to incorporate foundation skills when we design and develop competency-based training.

This article has been primarily written for people studying for their TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment qualification. However, qualified VET practitioners may still get something from the content or the way the content has been presented.

What are foundation skills?

The Australian VET system uses ‘foundation skills’ in two ways:

  • Foundations skills from the units of competency
  • FSK Foundation Skills Training Package.

The following illustrates how foundation skills underpin the performance of work tasks and activities.

Foundation Skills from the units of competency

The prime function of Australia’s VET system is to help people learn to perform work tasks and activities. Units of competency describe the work tasks and activities to be performed and specify the standards of performance expected by industry and employers.

And the Australian VET system defines competency as the consistent application of knowledge and skills to the standard of performance required in the workplace. This definition acknowledges that a person needs knowledge and skills to have the ability to perform work tasks and activities.

The following are examples of information from units of competency.

Description of performance

Performance of work tasks and activities are described by elements and performance criteria. The following is an example for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency:

Knowledge required to perform a work task

The essential knowledge required to perform work tasks and activities are described by Knowledge Evidence. The following is an example for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency:

Skills required to perform a work task

And the essential skills required to perform work tasks and activities are described by Foundation Skills. The following is an for example for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency:

Definition of foundation skills

Foundation skills are defined as those language, literacy, numeracy and employment skills that are essential to the performance of a work task or activity but are not explicit in the performance criteria.

Language, literacy, and numeracy (LLN) skills

The Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) is used by Training Packages developers to describe the language, literacy, and numeracy (LLN) skills that underpin the performance of a work task or activity.

The following is an for example for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency. It shows that the underpinning LLN skills are reading, writing, oral communication, and numeracy skills.

In the above table, you can see a clear and concise description beside the LLN skills. This gives us context and helps us understand the scope and application of each LLN skill.

Employment skills

There are two frameworks used by Training Packages developers to describe the employment skills that underpin the performance of a work task or activity:

  • Employability Skills Framework
  • Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework.

The Employability Skills Framework was introduced in 2002. It was replaced by the Core Skills for Work Developmental Framework in 2012. Both frameworks are currently in use.

The following is an for example for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency. It shows that the underpinning employment skills are self-management, planning and organising, and problem solving skills.

Again, in the above table, you can see a clear and concise description beside the employment skills. This gives us context and helps us understand the scope and application of each employment LLN skill.

If you like history …

If you like history, then you may like to know that before foundations skills and before employability skills, the Australian VET system had Key Competencies, also known as the Mayer Key Competencies. They were introduced in 1992.

A significant change came in 2012, when the new Standards for Training Packages were released. Employablity skills were removed from qualifications, and foundation skills were added to the units of competency.

Unfortunately, Training Package developers have implemented foundation skills in different ways. There is a lack of consistency across different training packages. Here are some examples.

The following shows the foundation skills for the TAELLN411 unit. It provide useful information connecting each foundation skill with the relevant performance criteria. And it is using the 2012 Core Skills for Work framework to specify the employment skills required.

The following shows are the foundation skills for the BSBCMM411 unit. It has used the 2002 Employability Skills framework to specify the employment skills required.

The following shows the foundation skills for the SITHCCC003 unit. It is not as easy to read without table lines.

The following shows the foundation skills for the MSTDC2013 unit. It has not used a table format. I think that the information is better when presented in a table (and with table lines).

The following is from the TLID2010 Operate a forklift unit, and it is an example when a Training Package developer has decided not to specify the foundation skills. I do not believe that the foundation skills to operate a forklift have been explicitly described by the performance criteria. I do believe that the Training Package developer did not do the work required to identify the underpinning skills required to perform the task.

There are many units of competency that do not provide information about foundation skills. And in the case of the HLT Health and CHC Community Services Training Packages, there is a Foundation Skills Guide (available from the vetnet.gov.au website). This guide identifies foundation skills for many HLT and CHC units of competency.

The following shows the foundation skills for the CHCADV001 unit.

Are Foundation Skills assessable?

The recently released units of competency in the BSB Business Services, FNS Financial Services, and ICT Information and Communications Technology Training Packages are stating that foundation skills are assessable. The following is an example for the BSBOPS101 Use business resources unit of competency:

FSK Foundation Skills Training Package

The following information was extracted from the Implementation Guide for the FSK Foundation Skills Training Package (Release 2).

Foundation skills have regularly been identified by employers as essential for successful performance in the workplace. The National Foundation Skills Strategy for Adults reports that 40 per cent of employed Australians do not have the foundation skills needed to meet the complex demands of the modern workplace. These individuals may have difficulty participating in workforce development opportunities and may be limited in their ability to build new vocational skills and knowledge.

The FSK Foundation Skills Training Package was first released in 2013. It was designed to support a greater emphasis on building foundation skills within VET programs, enabling individuals to:

  • acquire the foundation skills that will enable them to participate successfully in education and training
  • build the foundation skills that underpin vocational competence.

There are three qualifications in the FSK Foundation Skills Training Package:

  • FSK10119 Certificate I in Access to Vocational Pathways
  • FSK10219 Certificate I in Skills for Vocational Pathways
  • FSK20119 Certificate II in Skills for Work and Vocational Pathways.

These qualifications are prevocational and do not provide specific vocational outcomes. However, RTOs delivering the FSK qualifications are expected to contextualise the units of competency to enable learners to develop the specific skills and knowledge that are relevant to an industry sector or a typical workplace. This contextulaisation will prepare learners for entry into a vocational learning pathway. In other words, enroll into a vocational qualification.

The FSK Foundation Skills Training Package differs from all other training packages in that it is designed to work in combination with other training packages to support learner achievement of vocational outcomes. It can be delivered before starting a vocational qualification or delivered in conjunction with a vocational qualification.

Most groups of learners will be using the FSK Foundation Skills Training Package to develop or enhance foundation skills in one or more of the following areas:

  • learning
  • reading
  • writing
  • oral communication
  • numeracy
  • digital technology.

Many learners who undertake qualifications from the FSK Foundation Skills Training Package will need considerable support from LLN specialists to address and overcome severe barriers to learning.

In conclusion

Foundation skills are important because they underpin the performance of work tasks and activities.

The Australian VET system uses ‘foundation skills’ in two ways:

  • Foundations skills from the units of competency
  • FSK Foundation Skills Training Package.

I have published another article that describe how to incorporate foundation skills in vocational education and training. The 5-step procedure described in that article will become useful as more Training Packages mandate the assessment of foundation skills.

Do you need help with your TAE studies?

Are you doing the TAE40116 or TAE40122 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, and are you struggling with your studies? Do you want help with your TAE40116 or TAE40122 studies?

Ring Alan Maguire on 0493 065 396 to discuss.

Contact now!

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Training trainers since 1986

Author: Alan Maguire

35+ years experience as a trainer, instructional designer, quality manager, project manager, program manager, RTO auditor, RTO manager and VET adviser.

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