POSTED: April 08 2016
UK falling behind in numeracy – younger workers feeling isolated by lack of basic skills

UK falling behind in numeracy – younger workers feeling isolated by lack of basic skills

UK employees are less competent in basic literacy and numeracy skills than their European counterparts, pan-European research of more than 11,000 employees by ADP reveals. 11.6% of UK workers feel that they need more training in numeracy, while 14.3% would like to develop their written communication skills – falling behind the European average (8.8% and 13.5% respectively).

The issue is particularly pronounced among younger employees who – despite often having more recently left education – are also more likely to feel less confident with these skills compared to their older colleagues. One in five 16–24 year olds (20.5%) feel they are in need of improved literacy. Similarly, they are also far more likely to feel they need improved numeracy skills.

The findings are consistent with the most recent OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results on mathematics and reading, with Poland and Netherlands holding top positions, while the UK, Spain and Italy rank lowest. Employees in the UK feel more than twice as likely as those from Poland to improve their numeracy skills (11.6% as opposed to 5.4%). However, the UK does not fair the worst in Europe, with Italy (12.3%) and Spain (11.9%) feeling the most in need of help with their numeracy ability.

Annabel Jones, HR Director at ADP UK, commented: “It is important that UK employees feel confident in basic workplace skills, even though they may feel nervous about admitting they need help. However, the scale of the problem, as shown in this research, means they should take comfort in the fact that they are not alone. Organisations should address their employees’ individual training needs, as this will help both the employee and the employer. Instead of only focusing on job-specific competencies, employers should look to ensure their workforce is fully competent at work.”

Mike Ellicock, Chief Executive of National Numeracy, said “Numeracy is involved in so many tasks in the workplace, from using technology to planning and time management. So helping employees with their numeracy skills can improve performance in a range of areas – and benefit productivity too.”

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