Foundation Skills

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Foundation Skills comprise Core Skills that are incorporated within the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) and Employment Skills. It includes language, literacy and numeracy (LLN) skills, and skills used  in the workplace which are summarised in the automotive units of competency as communication, planning and organising, problem solving, teamwork and digital literacy. Foundation Skills may range from very basic skills to specialised and highly developed skills.

To view or download a copy of the brochure 'Foundation Skills for Automotive Explained' click on the link below.

Foundation Skills for Automotive Explained


The Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) provides a rich, detailed picture of real-life performance in adult learning and English language, literacy and numeracy skills. The ACSF can be used for benchmarking an individual’s core skills performance, mapping core skills requirements in education and training, and tailoring approaches to teaching and learning.

It describes levels of performance in five core skills that are essential for individuals to participate effectively in society:

  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Oral Communication
  • Numeracy.

The ACSF has been developed to facilitate a consistent national approach to the identification and development of the core skills in diverse personal, community, work, and education and training contexts. It offers:

  • shared concepts and language for identifying, describing and discussing core skills
  • a systematic approach to benchmarking, monitoring and reporting on core skills performance.

Adult core skills development is lifelong because we are likely to require new or enhanced core skills each time we take on new roles and responsibilities or move into a new situation, or as a result of changes in the environment, including new technologies.

Thus, any focus on improving core skills should not be confined to those with limited skills, but extend ‘to all people trying to understand new forms of communication and information as they take on different roles in life and work’ (Foster & Beddie 2005 p.1).


The ACSF describes each of the five core skills across three interactive dimensions:

1. Five levels of performance ranging from 1 (low level performance) to 5 (high level performance)

2. Four performance variables that may influence a person’s performance at any time:

  • The nature and degree of support available
  • Familiarity with context
  • Text complexity
  • Task complexity.

3. Three Domains of Communication, broad contexts within which the core skill may be used:

  • Personal and community (related to expressing personal identity and achieving personal goals, and understanding and interacting within the wider community)
  • Workplace and employment (refers to activities that an individual may be involved in as a member of an organisation or that may be conducted by someone working alone)
  • Education and training (refers to any form of structured learning).


The levels of performance are described using:

  • Indicators, which are statements that provide an overview of exit performance at each level
  • Focus Areas, which are the strands within each Indicator against which Performance Features are organised
  • Performance Features, which are detailed descriptors of what an individual is able to do at each level
  • Sample Activities, which are specific examples of what a person may be able to do at a particular level of performance within each of the Domains of Communication.


ACSF Performance Variables Grid







Works alongside an expert/mentor where prompting and advice can be provided

Highly familiar contexts

Concrete and immediate

Very restricted range of contexts

Short and simple

Highly explicit purpose

Limited, highly familiar vocabulary

Concrete tasks of 1 or 2 steps

Processes include locating, recognising


May work with an expert/mentor where support is available if requested

Familiar and predictable contexts

Limited range of contexts

Simple familiar texts with clear purpose

Familiar vocabulary

Explicit tasks involving a limited number of familiar steps

Processes include identifying, simple interpreting, simple sequencing


Works independently and uses own familiar support resources

Range of familiar contexts

Some less familiar contexts

Some specialisation in familiar/known contexts

Routine texts

May include some unfamiliar elements, embedded information and abstraction

Includes some specialised vocabulary

Tasks involving a number of steps

Processes include sequencing, integrating, interpreting, simple extrapolating, simple inferencing, simple abstracting


Works independently and initiates and uses support from a range of established resources

Range of contexts, including some that are unfamiliar and/or unpredictable

Some specialisation in less familiar/known contexts

Complex texts

Embedded information

Includes specialised vocabulary

Includes abstraction and symbolism

Complex task organisation and analysis involving application of a number of steps

Processes include extracting, extrapolating, inferencing, reflecting, abstracting


Autonomous learner who accesses and evaluates support from a broad range of sources

Broad range of contexts

Adaptability within and across contexts

Specialisation in one or more contexts

Highly complex texts

Highly embedded information

Includes highly specialized language and symbolism

Sophisticated task conceptualisation, organisation and analysis

Processes include synthesising, critically reflecting, evaluating, recommending



An individual’s level of performance in any core skill is determined by whether they can demonstrate performance in each of the Indicators at that level. Performance in an Indicator is determined using the Performance Features. In a single assessment task it is highly unlikely that all or most of the Performance Features can be covered or demonstrated. Consistent with good practice, performance of an Indicator should be determined over time and across a number of different assessment tasks.

When using the ACSF to determine performance levels, specialist LLN practitioners will need to use their professional judgement, taking context and purpose into account and recognising that certain Performance Features will be more important than others in specific contexts. Also, while Performance Features are represented as developing progressively, in reality an individual’s performance may fluctuate depending on a range of factors.

When using the ACSF for assessment, an assessor should also be confident that there is sufficient evidence to support the assessment decision. This is particularly important for summative assessment where performance should be demonstrated on a number of occasions in a range of text types and/or contexts.

In an initial assessment it is often not possible to generate this range, so decisions will be made on less evidence and may need to be confirmed in the early weeks of training.

Spiky profiles
The ACSF recognises that an individual may be operating across different levels within a core skill, demonstrating some Performance Features across two or more levels, or performing more strongly in one Domain of Communication than in another. It is also likely that an individual will not perform at the same ACSF level across all five core skills. This can be captured visually in what is called a ‘spiky profile’ (Bateson 2001).

Using the ACSF, an individual’s performance across the five core skills can be benchmarked and a spiky profile constructed. This provides valuable information about an individual’s areas of strength and specifically identifies any areas where further training could be beneficial.

Scenario 1: Helping meet the core skill requirements of a new job
Dean has been offered the opportunity to undertake training to prepare for a lead technician position in an automotive manufacturing plant. He has enrolled in Certificate IV in Automotive Manufacturing. An LLN specialist used the ACSF to compare the core skills required for this Certificate with Dean’s current skills.

In the assessment, the teacher/trainer chose texts and tasks from Dean’s workplace context. However, when he introduced some unfamiliar texts and tasks relevant to the training, which involved using technical language for report writing, it was clear that Dean was not confident and requested additional support. This was particularly marked in the Writing assessment.

The spiky profile shows that Dean would benefit from developing his Reading, Writing and Oral Communication skills, and the LLN specialist will work with the workplace trainer to integrate targeted core skill development with the Certificate IV training.

Put  specific spiky profile example here!

Scenario 2: Pinpointing strengths and learning needs
Greg has enrolled in AUM30213 Certificate III in Automotive Manufacturing Technical Operations - Bus, Truck and Trailer, from the Automotive Manufacturing Training Package. He attends a pre assessment interview at the local TAFE institute and an LLN specialist assesses his skills as shown in Figures 2 and 3. Greg’s overall spiky profile shows that his ACSF levels of performance vary across the five core skills.

The assessor knows that the numeracy requirements of the Certificate III are moderate, with a number of units at level 3 and 4 of the ACSF. Although his overall Numeracy level is assessed at ACSF level 3, further analysis of Greg’s Numeracy skills against the three Numeracy Indicators identifies that he would benefit from some pre training and support in Numeracy and mathematics, particularly in relation to Indicators 4.09 and 4.11. This would help him to better identify the mathematics required within a task, and improve his skills in representing mathematical outcomes and communicating them to others.

Put specific spiky profile example here!

Scenario 3: Helping a person meet the core skills requirements of a training program
Change the following example to reflect an automotive specific VCAL (Victorian Certificate in Applied Learning) or VETiS (VET in Schools) example!!!  Robert is 17 and is currently doing year 12 VCAL. As part of his year 12 he is doing the two core units from Certificate II Printing and Graphic Arts (General). These are ICPSU206C Maintain a safe work environment and BSBSUS201A Participate in environmentally sustainable work practices.

Robert’s teacher assessed Robert’s LLN skills against the ACSF. In the assessment she used some material that Robert was familiar with (e.g. correctly sequenced instructions for uploading photos on a social networking site). She also included some reading texts from the vocational education and training (VET) units that Robert will study. Some of these (e.g. some standard operating procedures) provided challenges to Robert, as he had not worked with them before. The context of the assessment material included both familiar and unfamiliar texts at ACSF level 2. Robert was also asked to sequence a set of dot points from some environment/sustainability legislation.

He struggled with the complexity of this task. Overall Robert coped well with reading texts and tasks with which he was familiar in his personal life. However when the Domain of Communication changed to the workplace and employment arena, he struggled due to his lack of prior knowledge and experience.

The assessment also included a discussion about a letter to the editor, focusing on graffiti. Robert clearly disagreed with the writer and found it difficult to acknowledge the writer’s point of view.

The teacher also mapped the LLN requirements of the two units to the ACSF (see Table 4). In Oral Communication, there was a mixture of level 1 and level 2 requirements which alerted the teacher to the fact that Robert would be unlikely to be able to work independently. Based on the assessment and the ACSF mapping, Robert’s teacher identified that he will require additional support in the core skills of Oral Communication and Numeracy as well as in some areas of Writing if he is to successfully meet the requirements for both units.