From education to employment

Top firms make Skills Pledge amid literacy and numeracy warnings

Nearly 200,000 workers will be able to benefit from training as 11 major businesses, including Phones4u, Network Rail, BUPA and British Gas, make the Skills Pledge.

The Skills Pledge, led by the Learning and Skills Council, is a public commitment by an employer to invest in skills, improving basic literacy and numeracy, and supporting employees to gain relevant qualifications to at least Level 2.

Tom Shorten, Operations Director of Phones4u, said: "It’s without question or hesitation that we consider skills a number one priority and this is why I am making the Skills Pledge on behalf of Phones 4u today. If anything, current market conditions make it even more important for all our staff to be the best they can be. We know from experience that a better skilled workforce drives a more successful business."

The development comes as the Public Accounts Committee publishes a report into adult literacy and numeracy that reveals an "unacceptably" high number of people in England cannot read, write and count sufficiently.

Figures showing 51,000 pupils left school in 2007 without a GCSE of at least D-G in maths, and 39,000 left without a similar grade in English, prompted Committee chairman Edward Leigh to warn of the "dismal picture, both for the many who face diminished prospects in what they can achieve in life and for the competitiveness of our country in the world economy".

Congratulating the employers who have promised a commitment to train their staff, Skills Minister Lord Young said: "We have consistently said that now is not the time to cut back on skills and training, a view supported by the CBI, TUC and increasingly leading employers.

"I want to congratulate the employers who are making the Skills Pledge today; it’s great to see them making a commitment to the skills and training needs of their staff which will help them prepare for the upturn when it comes.

"The Government is investing nearly £4 billion in adult skills and training this year so that businesses and individuals get access to real help now. And we have made Train to Gain more flexible so that many more businesses can benefit from Government investment totalling £1bn by 2010/11."

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