By Sarah Axon, Ufi Grants Manager
This is the week which many people have been anticipating for a long time. Not just because it’s the week that includes National Numeracy Day, but because as the lockdown rules are relaxed we’ll finally be able to go to the pub and sit inside for a drink with friends. Restaurants will be hosting family parties as at last we can celebrate family occasions together. Behind the scenes hospitality staff are gearing up for a busy time as they brace themselves for a wave of customers.
While many think of ‘people’ skills as the most important for working in the hospitality and leisure sectors, in fact numeracy is an equally important underpinning vocational skill. Anna, who runs a busy venue in south London, explains:
It’s not just the money side - making sure bills are correct and giving people the right change – although obviously that’s critical. We’ve got a lot of post lock down events planned for the summer and front of house staff have to organise tables and seating plans, which involves mathematical thinking to find the most economical way to seat guests at a function. And of course there’s a lot of maths in the kitchen working out quantities and timings. We need staff who are good with people but we also need staff who are confident with numbers.
Numeracy for work is one of the three themes of National Numeracy Day which takes place on 19th May. At Ufi we’re supporting National Numeracy Day because we recognise the importance of numeracy as a vocational skill, a significance which has been highlighted by the pandemic.
Better numeracy can improve your work prospects, both of getting a job and getting on in work. Yet over half of the UK’s working age population have low numeracy skills, making them more likely to earn less, at higher risk of unemployment and are even more likely to experience worse health outcomes.
Covid has exacerbated and highlighted economic and social disparities across the UK – and numeracy is a factor. Research published in April ‘Counting on the Recovery’ showed that the impact of the economic crisis has been disproportionately felt by those with low numeracy skills. 59% of those who have lost their jobs so far in the crisis have low numeracy skills. Numeracy skills are weakest in regions whose incomes are lowest. The North East, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber, for example, all have a higher proportion of working age adults with low numeracy skills (64%) than the rest of the UK (58%). At present, the average wage in these three regions is around 12% below the average for the UK. As we move out of the pandemic improving numeracy can form part of the levelling up agenda, boosting job and income prospects for those living in the UK’s least-advantaged regions.
National Numeracy Day is an upbeat day to inspire people to take the first steps to improving their number confidence and skills. It’s a celebration of numbers to raise awareness of the importance of numeracy to personal lives, career development and the economy. It aims to empower adults and children to improve their confidence and competence with numbers in three key areas of their lives: at home, work and school.
At Ufi we agree that the focus on improving confidence is the right approach when it comes to encouraging people to improve their skills for work. In our VocTech Challenge research we looked into how we could best improve vocational outcomes for people at greatest risk from the long term impact of the pandemic. The responses indicated that a lack of learner confidence was a significant barrier to being able to take up digital vocational learning opportunities. We’ll be running a funding round later in the year aiming to support projects which address confidence issues.
So encourage everyone you know to take part in National Numeracy Day as the first step towards better numeracy skills. Take the National Numeracy Challenge and start a personalised journey to improve your maths skills.