Businesses back the need to improve maths and English skills among employees

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9 in 10 British employers are in favour of staff having practical maths and English skills for greater success in the workplace, the Education & Training Foundation announced today.

In their study of 1400 employers, learners and training organisations, the foundation found that three quarters of employers believe that action needs to be taken across the nation to improve literacy and numeracy skills in UK workers because of the impact poor performance in these areas has on their business.

David Russell, Chief Executive Officer at the Education and Training Foundation, said:

“Everyone knows – or thinks they know – what a GCSE in maths or English stands for. But other qualifications exist too, and are increasingly common post-16.

“We set out to discover whether employers recognised them, and, if they did, whether they rated them. We found, unsurprisingly, that it is something people really want to talk about. Employers care about the quality of maths and English skills people have, not just the qualification. They told us about the type of knowledge and skills which hold real currency and support the success of their businesses.  Nearly half of the employers we surveyed told us they recognised Functional Skills, and most of those who did so valued them for their content and approach.”

Currently, 37 percent of GCSE students do not achieve grade A*-C in both maths and English but it is the practical skills of being literate and numerate that employers reported as being essential for their business, expressing concerns that potential recruits and young employees don’t have a firm grasp of units of measurement and other essential skills such as listening, writing and speaking.

The Education and Training Foundation is recommending that work needs to be undertaken to improve the awareness of qualifications outside the school system.

The study showed that 47 percent of employers know about Functional Skills qualifications, and 87 percent of these value them for their approach to practical skills, flexible assessment and problem solving.

Skills Minister Nick Boles said:

“I welcome the Education and Training Foundation’s findings, and the support of those who contributed to this report. Over 1 million Functional Skills certificates were awarded last year, giving adult learners a route that is valued by employers to the literacy and numeracy skills essential for success.

“This report finds the current Functional Skills system is generally serving its purpose, and reflects the Government’s commitment to ensure all adults have the opportunity to study English and maths. I welcome the new evidence provided by the Foundation and its recommendations for improving the quality and recognition of Functional Skills to ensure they meet the needs of employers and learners, as well as improving understanding of all English and maths qualifications outside of GCSE.”

According to Ofqual, Functional Skills have become a widely used qualification. The number of qualifications achieved has more than trebled to just over a million in 2013/14 and outside of GCSE are the highest volume qualifications that Ofqual regulate.

Other recommendations in the report include ensuring that all learners have access to a curriculum of practical English and maths knowledge and skills; a review of the standards on which Functional Skills are based; and the creation of a mechanism to provide regular, reliable and representative feedback from employers and providers to inform continual improvement in curriculum and qualifications.

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