Patrick Dunn, Project and Partnership Manager at Ufi, discusses the current challenges around poor numeracy and literary skills in the UK and how technology can help us to improve the skills system to make sure no one is left behind.
With more than 35 years' experience working with digital technology and learning, Patrick draws critical insights from his own knowledge and reflects on some of the Ufi-supported projects who are tackling literacy and numeracy skills challenges with vocational technology.
An economy in rapid transition needs a workforce equipped with the right skills. And these skills can only be cultivated in a system that, from top to bottom, is built to identify, respond to, and deliver what’s needed in an ever-changing environment. As outlined in our recent Green Paper, without a responsive system, much of the workforce, and indeed the economy as a whole, could be left behind as new, unpredicted requirements emerge.
But even in this period of constant change, it is clear that the need for certain fundamental skills – specifically numeracy and literacy – remains constant. What is changing is how they are learned, and how they are applied.
So what’s the current situation in the UK? A research report by Pro Bono Economics states that what they call the “numeracy crisis” could be costing the UK up to £25 billion a year.
According to Andy Haldane, Chief Executive of the RSA:
“The UK faces a numeracy crisis, plain and simple. The cost comes in widening regional disparities, since numeracy skills are weakest in regions whose incomes are lowest.”
The situation with literacy is no better. The National Literacy Trust’s research shows that just under three quarters of those with poor literacy skills have never been promoted. And the human scale of the problem? Estimates vary – but according to Learning and Work Institute, roughly 1 in 6 adults in the UK struggle with reading and writing, and around 1 in 4 adults find Maths difficult.
Clearly, we do not currently have a system that cultivates fundamental skills for all who need them, nor one that supports those who have had a poor experience of mainstream education and training.