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School leavers’ skills gap undermining British productivity

One third of school leavers lack basic numeracy and literacy skills

A lack of work-ready school leavers is undermining British productivity according to a survey of 1,205 finance professionals undertaken by The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). The research finds that on appointment over three quarters (82%) of UK school leavers require significant training. This figure is up 7% since last year.

More than 90% of finance professionals reported that their workload had increased as a result of a lack of work-ready juniors, with 44% reporting it was undermining departmental productivity and 66% agreeing it had increased the stress levels of staff.

The leading weaknesses for new recruits are people skills and business skills, followed by technical skills. Worryingly, the research finds that the low calibre of new hires is affecting the performance of firms.

Noel Tagoe, Executive Vice President, Academics, CIMA said: “The lack of workplace preparation of our school leavers is undermining business performance, and limiting the potential of our young people. Children spend over a decade at school and should expect to emerge with the functional numeracy and literacy skills on which to base a career. Despite all the changes we’ve seen to our education system, I am worried that our students’ grasp of the basics is not improving.

“At a time of political and economic instability, this causes even more concern. If the UK is going to continue to prosper as a service economy we must maintain our skills base, and this means making sure our education system is fit for purpose.”

The survey, which also covered business attitudes to graduates and apprentices, reveals a more positive story for the UK’s higher education sector. 62% of UK graduates were found to require little or no training, with 85% adequately prepared when it came to functional skills. Apprentices were also reviewed positively, with respondents saying 80% were adequately prepared when it came to IT skills, and 79% when it came to functional literacy and numeracy skills.

Tagoe concludes: “This creates an opportunity for the UK. If British business, educators and government could work closer together to ensure that curriculums do a better job of preparing people for the workplace, we would have more work-ready young people, and thus improve productivity and competitiveness.
“We are arguably starting to see this with the introduction of apprenticeships with curriculums that are set with employers. If this principle is applied more widely, the country could see a positive benefit as a result.”


For press enquiries please contact:

Deborah Burgess / Matt Clemens
CIMA team at Good Relations /
020 7861 3093 / 020 7861 3153