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Gateway to Growth: what employers need from education and skills

20 Jul 2018

Half of employers are concerned about potential weaknesses in their employees'  numeracy skills

The economy is shifting and demand for higher skilled employees is increasing. Employers belonging to the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) are convinced that one of the biggest issues facing the economy is making sure that the education and training system is adequately preparing their future employees for work. 

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) agenda is particularly important for the UK's ability to sustain innovative, high-value and high-growth sectors. It covers both careers that require a university degree and those that are attainable through an apprenticeship route. Yet it is increasingly difficult to recruit people with the right skills in these essential careers. Consequently 50% of CBI business leaders believe it is paramount that the government ensures there are enough specialist maths & science teachers in schools to adequately equip students with enthusiasm and knowledge of STEM subjects. 

More generally, employers are aware that they will need more high-skilled employees in the future. While they believe the vast majority of their workers can perform to a satisfactory level, just over half (53%) are aware that some employees have weaker numeracy skills.  Concern about employees’ numeracy skills is particularly notable in the service sectors (i.e. retail, hospitality, transport and distribution) where 68% of businesses are aware of a skills gap. 

When businesses recruit, 85% focus on attitudes to work and 44% on literacy and numeracy.

When reflecting on school leavers, 38% of CBI employers are unsatisfied with their basic numeracy and 50% with their capacity to problem solve.  The demand for STEM skills technicians is growing. More than a quarter of STEM-based sectors report difficulties in recruitment. This is especially true for construction where firms state that they are unable to find suitable people to train as apprentices (36%).

Or course the report itself covers much more: employers' concerns about skills training and career advice in schools; their attitudes to taking on graduates; their approach to training staff - and in some cases, neglect of training. Nearly 44% have organised training in at least one basic skills area in the past year.  About half of that training is usually done by external providers.

Download the full report