Skills in England fall behind the rest of the world

The skills of English employees are falling behind those of other countries despite a decade of government initiatives and national training targets, a report reveals.

Employers and schools have failed to equip the UK workforce with the skills needed to compete in the modern world economy, according to the latest report of the employers’ body set up to monitor targets for training.

The report by the National Advisory Council for Education and Training Targets warns that only one in five adults is educated to a reasonable standard, which is below the world average. It adds that other countries are improving at a faster rate.

Many people have no qualifications and one in five has poor literacy and numeracy skills, far higher than in other developed countries.

“In a world economy built on knowledge-based industries these weaknesses are a major handicap. Firms unable to recruit well-educated staff cannot compete effectively against firms in other countries where educational standards are much higher,” said Derek Wanless, the Nacett chairman.

Wanless said the lack of examination success among people in their late teens was giving most cause for concern and that it was the result of lower school standards 10 years ago. He said poor adult literacy and numeracy levels were not being addressed because of full employment.

Wanless also chided employers for failing to meet the targets set for signing up for Investors in People, the kitemark set up by the previous government to raising standards of training.

The report proposes solutions including more specific targets for key skills. The organisation will be replaced by a new Learning and Skills Council next April.

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