Too many adults at risk – latest OECD report on skills

7 October 2013

Too many adults have a ‘higher risk of losing their jobs in today’s rapidly changing global labour market’ according to the OECD Survey of Adult Skills, which confirms many of NIACE’s concerns about the serious inequalities in skills training that prevent too many people from participating in learning. NIACE believes that the OECD recommendation that low-skilled adults need more second-chance opportunities to learn is critical for our economy.

Responding to the OECD Survey of Adult Skills – which analysed literacy, numeracy and technology skills in 24 countries across the world, including England and Northern Ireland – David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“This survey confirms our participation survey findings that those adults who have the most to gain are the ones who are missing out on learning the fundamental skills of literacy, numeracy and technology. This means they are more vulnerable to losing their jobs and being trapped in a low-skills, no-learning cycle of creeping hopelessness. This could not only have lifetime consequences on their confidence, self esteem and life chances, but also have a major impact on a sustained economic recovery.

“While there are positives – including those which show the effectiveness of England and Northern Ireland activating their highly skilled adults and the strong and positive association between higher literacy and good health, volunteering and political involvement; there are many areas that are deeply concerning. Most worrying is the particularly large proportion of adults who have low levels of numeracy skills, the fact that the pool of highly skilled adults is likely to shrink and the impact that low skills have on social inequalities – especially for young people and when compared to other countries.

“We need to find out what will motivate people back into learning and create a culture where learning is seen as an aspirational activity which will not only benefit individuals but their families and communities aswell. We cannot allow a situation where the adults who don’t participate in learning are the ones who need to improve their skills the most for the sake of their future career prospects. NIACE wants to see a number of stakeholders, including Government, employers and providers, form local partnerships and put the ‘scaffolding’ in place that will provide new learning opportunities to help people get the skills they need that will lead to sustained and fulfilling careers.”