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Business groups highlight skills concerns

Simon Quicke

The reaction to the prospect of the UK falling behind international competitors because of a skills gap resulting from inadequate numeracy and literacy knowledge picked up at school has been swift from business groups keen to get the government to do more to alleviate the problem.

According to an OECD report on adult skills the UK was well down the league tables when it came to numeracy skills, although it did fare better with technology and literacy, raising the prospect that in the future there would not be enough workers with the right level of expertise to help drive the economy forward.

"Our economic future depends on raising skill levels so businesses are equipped with the talent they need to succeed and grow," said Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills.

"We need an education system that gives people the literacy and numeracy they need to get jobs. And we should build a renewed vocational system, working alongside the UK's world-class universities, to ensure many more young people have a route to higher skills," he added.

That call for action was echoed by John Allan, national chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, commenting that the OECD report confirmed anecdotal evidence from its own members that those joining the workforce did not have good enough basic skills.

“What we need now is action to improve these crucial basic skills from an early age. While the Government is doing good work to improve the rigour of the curriculum, it must also learn lessons from those countries that perform well, on how to improve and retain these vital skills, to ensure the country doesn’t find itself with an unskilled workforce," he said.


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