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The recent News article about increasing productivity rates in manufacturing businesses was right on target. It is interesting to note how equipment enhances productivity, which in turn enhances the bottom line. This made me think about the value of increasing the productivity of employees.

In a current study, 90 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies expressed concern that low literacy skills limited their productivity and profitability. Even more troubling, U.S. companies lose nearly $40 billion annually because of illiteracy.

National studies indicate that raising the educational level of employees in a firm by one year improves productivity levels by 8 to 13 percent. Visionary entrepreneur Henry Ford recognized this and became one of the first industrialists to incorporate language training for his work force of immigrants and functionally illiterate Americans.

Literacy Volunteers works with other service providers, like Erie I BOCES and the Workforce Connection, to increase literacy levels of our area's work force, therefore greatly enhancing productivity levels. In fact, for every $1 spent by Literacy Volunteers to tutor adults, $33 in economic benefit is returned to the economy, according to a recent economic impact analysis.

With total costs related to illiteracy estimated to exceed $225 billion each year, and including welfare payments, crime, job incompetence, lost taxes and remedial education, the economic impact to a region can be substantial. When will our region realize that literacy is the key?



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