School Leavers Must Have Better Job Skills
Small businesses are being held back by a lack of basic skills amongst employees, according to new research by the Institute of Directors (IoD) which shows employers want improved literacy and numeracy standards in education.
In an IoD survey of 1,300 directors, more than a third (33 per cent) reported that staff lacked basic skills such as literacy, numeracy and IT. Of those employers, seven in ten said that the skills gap was a “significant problem” in their organisation.
Better standards in reading and writing were seen as an “urgent” priority for the next Government by almost nine out of ten (86 per cent) respondents, while 79 per cent wanted to see improved employability skills, such as communication, team working and problem solving. In addition, one in seven thought there should be stronger links between education and employers.
The IoD’s head of education and skills policy, Mike Harris, said the results were “worrying”, but not altogether surprising.
“It’s something we’ve known for a while, and our feedback from employers shows that it’s clearly a big problem. While we saw an initial improvement after 1997, evidence shows that we’re now sliding backwards,” he said.
In small businesses, the problem was often magnified:
“In companies where you don’t have many staff, any weaknesses are going to be felt more severely. Whether it’s grammatical mistakes in emails, or an inability to handle cash correctly, the negative impact can be huge, both internally and on a customer facing level.”
According to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), around five million adults currently struggle with literacy in the UK and seven million lack numeracy skills.
But a BIS spokesperson said that new vocational standards now included compulsory literacy and numeracy modules across all training courses.
“There has been a significant amount of reform in this area. Any adult, of any age, who now does a vocational course, whether it’s in carpentry, electronics or hairdressing, will get extra tuition in reading and writing,” she said.
“We’re also working hard with employers through the Sector Skills Councils to make sure that businesses are being heard, and their skill demands are being met.”
Based on recent trends, the UK is likely to be ranked 23rd globally on low level skills by 2020, compared to 17th today, according to the UK Commission.