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Functional skills are described as the core competency skills elements of English, Mathematics, and ICT (Information and Communication Technology). Functional skills provide the knowledge, skills, abilities, and enhance the competency of a person to work effectively and independently in life. Functional skills enhance the capability of a person to work effectively in their specializing domain, life and at work.
Command over functional skills enhances the confidence of a person that provide significant benefits in daily life activities related to professional competencies (White 2010, 31). Functional skills enable the person to apply understanding and knowledge in everyday life, communicate effectively, and confidently with others, solve complex problems through their intellectual capacity that are enhanced through functional skills development.
Contemporary functional skills aim at enhancing the problem solving capacity of an individual. It also enhances their capacity to process complex information knowledge in fields of English, Math, and ICT (Harrison 2008, 91). Role of functional knowledge in Information Technology specialty is very essential. In IT field, people face challenging situations; requiring concentrated information processing related to a particular problem, and assessing the appropriate solutions needed (White 2010, 63).
Difference between Functional Skills and Other Skills
Basic skills are limited to the formation of basic building blocks of literacy, numeracy, and language qualifications. In contrast to that, key skills are a subjective approach towards enhancing the communication and information processing capacity specifically related to application of number. Key skills are referred as integrated learning having vocational context in different learning methods. This leads to basis of functional skills, which are related to functional area expertise in English, math, and ICT. Skills for Life assess the basic skills of speaking, listening, reading, writing, ICT and Mathematics (Harrison 2008, 94). They are concerned with improving the literacy, language, and numeracy skills of adults through innovative teaching and learning.
Embedding Functional Skills in Information Technology Specialty
Functional skills can be embedded discretely, partially embedded, mostly embedded, and fully embedded. In IT specialty, mostly embedded mechanism is suitable for functional skills development in learners. This will be taught by functional skills specialists with reinforcement and application through a range of purposeful contexts developed and applied across the programs (Harrison 2008, 118).
Overlapping skills model is most appropriate to embed functional skills development in IT specialty area. In IT area, it is necessary to encourage effective listening and communication for enhancing the collaboration in meetings and discussions. Functional skills play a subliminal role in improving the decision making as a person would be able to analyze the range of contexts related to problem identification, doing calculation to process the information, and producing written evidences of the portfolio decisions (White 2010, 106). It is necessary to emphasize on participative learning in a class room for embedding the functional skills in learners. This result in sharing of information and expertise from one channel to other that will enable other participants in the group to improvise on the experiences of people having a high level of skills (Harrison 2008, 131).
In IT field, content is related to the software, programming, technical management, troubleshooting management, addressing software complexities, and managing software development issues. This is linked with proper presentation of analysis, which is only possible if a person has good command over English and Mathematics subject to present technical analysis for effectively communicating the purpose and results with other members. ICT relates to the medium chosen by the person/student to present the results.
Process of Skills Embedding
Inefficiency arises when a person does not know how to apply knowledge in the practical context. To enhance functional skills development in IT area, following approaches will be used:
During first stage, class will be divided in groups to work on IT projects. Group members will be required to record, analyze, and interpret information such as scores, times and problem occurred in the project.
Next phase include enabling learners to assess the information they have gathered during the first phase. Students will be taught about different software programs and importance of each in critical analysis. For example, spreadsheet software is used to analyze numeric information by converting qualitative information into a metric/non-metric form. After that, student will be introduced with presentation software packages and analysis they need to present the information they gathered in the form of graphs and bar charts. For example, students will be required to analyze the time duration taken by all groups for multiple tasks in the activity.
Literacy and English skills will be developed by conducting tutorials sessions. Content will be related to writing grammatically correct reports, and forms of research writing for multiple sectors. This will include introducing them with different reporting procedures and what things they need to insert in the report they gathered and acquired through result analysis. For example, if a person is giving software solution to a manufacturing company, in case of problem reporting, he is not required to present the technical formula about the problem; except just the impact of the problem on performance. This includes applying necessary mathematical formulas and language to be used.
Balance for Skills Development
Balance will be achieved by allocating specific duration for the development of English, Math, and ICT skills. For example, session one will be allocated for English skills development in IT specialty learners. This includes introducing them with terms they can use in reports, and which sort of language style they should use in reporting. Following that, IT students will be introduced with multiple mathematical analysis techniques that are used in analyzing the data. Next session will be conducted for introducing students with numerous IT analysis techniques that are currently being used, and are appropriate in a situation. These include presentation of results, communication with a partner using web based mechanisms, ways to conduct IT researches through web etc.