From education to employment

New research highlights disturbing skills level

Approximately a fifth of all non-graduates in the UK have literacy and numeracy problems, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has revealed, adding further debate to the UK’s troubled basic skills base.

Commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), the CBI report describes how one in three employers is having to send staff for remedial training to teach them basic English and Maths skills they should have learned while at school.

The report, which comes at a crucial time for the nations school leavers as GCSE results are due near the end of the week, calls for “urgent action to tackle these shortcomings”.

Richard Lambert, Director-General for the CBI, said: “We must raise our game on basic skills in this country. The UK simply can”t match the low labour costs of China and India. We have to compete on the basis of quality, and that means improving our skills base, starting with the very basics”.

Research highlights that in last years GCSE results, just 54% of teenagers achieved a grade “C” or above in Maths, while 60% achieved the same for English. Furthermore, only 45% of students achieved both, as Lord Leitch’s interim report highlights that opportunities for unskilled workers will shrink from 3.4 million at present, to just 600,000 by 2020.

“The fact that one in three employers ran remedial courses for their staff in the last year is a sad indictment of how the education system has let young people down”, Mr Lambert said, in a statement released this morning. “Acknowledging the problem and commissioning this report are first steps but the Government must show a far greater sense of urgency and purpose if it is to deliver on its promise to sort this out”.

And the views from industry are uniform. A construction firm’s personnel manager told the CBI: “The standard of literacy shown by people filling in the double-sided application form for a trainee position is often very poor. Many applicants cant construct a sentence and their grammar, handwriting and spelling are awful”.

In another blow to the UK’s education standards, one of the country’s largest food retailers commented: “We dont feel that the current GCSEs, especially in maths, equip young adults with day-to-day skills in using numbers and problem-solving”.

Mr Lambert added: “Employers views on numeracy and literacy are crystal clear: people need to be able to read and write fluently and to carry out basic mental arithmetic. Far too many school-leavers struggle with these essential life skills”.

Vijay Pattni.

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