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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 00:09 GMT
New push to get workers reading
job centre scene
It is said many people lack basic skills
A fresh attempt is being made to help the many adults in England who cannot read, write or add up properly.


Until recently, I hadn't realised just how many of our staff have problems

Sir Richard Branson
Ministers began the campaign two years ago, following a report that suggested a fifth of the adult population had trouble with the basics of English and maths.

The international research which underpinned that report has since been questioned.

And only 4% of companies have said they have noticed a problem with a lack of skills.

But the government has now produced a "toolkit" for employers - many of whom, it says, have never even considered the issue.

Struggle

The Virgin boss, Sir Richard Branson, is one of them.

"Until recently, I hadn't realised just how many of our staff have problems with literacy and numeracy," he said.

"I understand how they feel. I'm dyslexic and have always struggled with words.

"Obviously, if you have staff who are literate and understand basic numbers you will have a much more successful company than if you don't.

"The employees will enjoy their work more and the business itself will benefit from more productive employees who are doing a better job."

The Department for Education and Skills claims the problem costs the economy £10bn a year.

Hints and tips

The Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, said poorly-skilled workers could expect to earn £50,000 less in their lives as a result of not being able to read and write properly.

She urged employers to use the government's toolkit, which contains a video and handy hints on how to help their workers.

"Many UK companies offer no basic skills training at all and two-thirds say this is because they have never really considered the issue," she said.

"We hope the new 'Get On' employer toolkit will prompt bosses to take action and improve basic skills levels within their company for the benefit of their business, their employees and UK competitiveness as a whole."

See also:

05 Jul 01 | Education
Study casts doubt on adult illiteracy
15 Jun 00 | Europe
Western literacy levels 'too low'
22 May 00 | Education
Basic skills for adult learners
03 Apr 00 | Education
Boost for basic skills
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