UK's skills gap preventing country reaching full potential, MP says

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Written by Seun Robert-Edomi on 14 October 2013 in News
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Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock acknowledged that the UK was third from the bottom in the developed world

The UK's skills gap is preventing the country from fully realising its economic potential, the House of Commons heard on Thursday. 

Leading the backbench business debate on adult literacy and numeracy Caroline Dinenage, Member of Parliament for Gosport, said these were particular problems, and had shown little change in spite of initiatives introduced by successive governments over recent decades.

The social stigma attached to illiteracy and innumeracy often prevented adults from seeking the help they needed, which meant that signposting illiterate and innumerate adults to Further Education Colleges was not always the most effective course of action.

Dinenage urged the government to renew efforts to provide imaginative, targeted and accessible support to illiterate and innumerate adults.

"In many cases, a formal educational environment did not work out very well for these people the first time around, so the prospect of going back as an adult is, quite literally, terrifying" she said.

She hoped the government would make sure funding was able to continue to the innovative and successful local schemes she had found to address the issue. 

"I think that this problem can only be tackled from the grass roots up" she said, citing peer-to-peer learning as arguably the most effective way to boost skills.

Skills and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock acknowledged that the UK was third from the bottom in the developed world, as surveyed by the OECD. 

"We are 22nd out of 24 in numeracy and 21st out of 24 in literacy and however we want to cut those figures, they are bad."

He felt this problem must be solved first in primary and secondary schools. 

"We can then try to solve it, for those who do not succeed at school, in colleges and further education, and then, of course, for those for whom that still does not work, throughout life. This problem must be tackled at all levels, therefore."

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