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UK LAGGING BEHIND: LEARNING AND SKILLS CAN TACKLE POVERTY AND PRODUCTIVITY

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Urgent action needed to support millions of adults improve their English and Maths

A report released today by Learning & Work Institute (L&W), funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) shows how tackling skills gaps can help to reduce poverty and improve life chances.

OECD data shows that out of 34 countries, the UK ranks:

  • 19th for low skills, equivalent to five GCSEs at grades A*-C;
  • 24th for intermediate skills, equivalent to A Levels; and
  • 11th for high skills, degree level.

Shockingly, some 9 million adults have low literacy, numeracy or both. This limits their chances to find work and build a career, and also to get the best deal online and manage the household finances.

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute commented:

“We’re calling for a new national effort to help adults improve their skills. We need this to boost our economy and make sure everyone gets the best chance in life.

“A weak skills base holds back our future prosperity, but also contributes to poverty – while having skills is not a guarantee of avoiding poverty, lack of skills is almost a guaranteed passport to poverty.

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“The UK’s learning and skills system delivers opportunities and second chances every day. But we need to do more so that people get a hand up when they need it. Poverty is not inevitable and improving skills can help to tackle it.”

Today’s Learning and Work Institute report outlines three key measures that can tackle these inequalities:

  1. A new Citizens’ Skills Entitlement. By 2030 all adults should have access to the literacy, numeracy, digital, health and financial capability skills they need. This should be funded by refocusing existing budgets and investing an additional £200m per year investment, doubling current investment.
  2. Shared responsibility. Personal Learning Accounts for individuals and incentives for employers to invest in those with least skills. The aim is for a system that better aligns public and private investment, puts individuals and employers in the driving seat, and better targets public resources on those with the lowest incomes.
  3. A Career Springboard. A Career Advancement Service to help Britain’s 5 million low paid workers to progress, including by working with employers to boost productivity. And an Apprentice Charter to underpin Apprenticeship quality.

Stephen Evans added: “These are practical and affordable changes, building on what already works and changing what works less well. Taken together, these changes would provide a framework for increasing our overall national prosperity, cutting poverty and increasing opportunity.”

The full report can be found here: Skills and poverty: Building an anti-poverty learning and skills system September 2016

This research was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is an independent organisation working to inspire social change through research, policy and practice.

Learning and Work Institute is an independent policy and research organisation dedicated to lifelong learning, full employment and inclusion. We bring together over 90 years of combined history and heritage from the ‘National Institute of Adult Continuing Education’ and the ‘Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion’.

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