MPs back campaign to win funding to boost employees’ English & maths skills

The consortium, NCCP, is behind the ‘For Business, For Life’ campaign, which has already attracted the support of the TUC’s education arm Union Learn and a number of MPs and sector experts.

NCCP Chairman Harvey Young says: ‘It’s fantastic there’s so much government and media focus on apprenticeships, which are about getting young people into work. But we risk neglecting the issue of adults who are already in employment but who may not be work ready, and whose lack of confidence in the key areas of English and maths is holding them – and their employers – back.

He added: ‘All too often low-skilled adults get stuck in low-pay jobs but to get out of them we need to improve the foundation on which all their other skills are based. Many have bags of potential, but because the basics of English and maths aren’t up to scratch, they’re unable to progress into better- paid jobs.’

He continued: ‘Provisional data from the Skills Funding Agency published last month showed that adult learner participation on English and maths courses, after rising between 2009/10 and 2011/12, fell sharply in 2012/13, and again in 2013/14.’

‘This is extremely worrying,’ said Mr Young. ‘Just as we need participation to rise, it’s falling. With FE funding in general continuing to be squeezed, the prospects look bleak unless the next government, whoever that may be, takes decisive action to address these numbers.’

He went on to say: ‘Last year’s Adult Literacy and Numeracy inquiry report by the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee made some good recommendations, but it is very disappointing that ministers are still failing to address the issue of adults who are already in work.2

‘This is an issue that affects hundreds of thousands of employees working for all types of businesses up and down the country,’ said Mr Young. ‘This is about unlocking their potential so that they, too, can make an even bigger contribution to economic growth. By failing to support employed adults in improving their literacy and numeracy skills, we will not only be letting this talent go to waste, but also create a generational workforce skills gap in an ageing population that will have to work for longer.’

NCCP members are currently delivering a European Social Fund (ESF) which provided £50 million to fund Basic Skills training for employees in businesses of all sizes.

Mr Young said: ‘The impetus of this ESF money is having a dramatic effect on participation rates for this academic year, which clearly demonstrates the huge demand – and need – for basic skills training. But apart from the ESF money for this year, the funding issue is not being addressed.’

Young added: ‘As providers, we have seen first hand the transformative, life-changing effect of Basic Skills training on employees of all ages. Learners tell us that once their English and maths skills are up to scratch they are able to support their children with homework and get involved in their education – which is key to attainment at school. We are reaching adults with a low skill set who can in turn help their children with their schoolwork, thereby breaking the cycle of social deprivation and under-achievement. It is therefore very frustrating for us, employers and learners, who want to continue their development, that there is little access to specialist support for them.’