Today’s post comes courtesy of Roger Francis, MindLeaders HR & services director
Last month saw the publication of a report by the World Literacy Foundation which makes depressing reading for those of us attempting to address this issue. The report highlights the fact that in the UK, six to eight million adults are functionally illiterate. This means that although they can read and write simple words, they cannot apply these skills to accomplish tasks which are necessary to make informed choices and participate fully in everyday life, such as filling in a job application form or reading a bank statement.
Moreover, the problem is self-perpetuating as illiterate parents tend to have lower aspirations and expectations for their children. They cannot teach them to read or encourage a love of learning.
The cost to the UK economy, according to this report, is in the region of £81 billion per year. When one considers that almost three times as many adults lack functional numeracy skills, the total cost to the economy is likely to be far higher.
There will never be an easy single solution to a crisis of this complexity, but there is no doubt that the introduction of Functional Skills into the Apprenticeship programme represents a significant step forward. Functional Skills is designed to enable learners to adapt their learning to different situations rather than simply applying some basic knowledge to their current role.
It is therefore worrying that a number of organisations are still lobbying the government in an attempt to delay the introduction of Functional Skills or to dumb down the robust Assessment process. Their argument is that learners will find Functional Skills too difficult to complete and will therefore lose interest in their Apprenticeship programme. But is that really their concern or do they simply want to maintain the status quo because they know that the discredited Key Skills alternative is easy to deliver and can therefore quickly draw down government funding?
Our experience to date with Functional Skills has been extremely positive. First-time pass rates have been exceptionally high (and continue to improve) and learners love the additional challenge presented by a course which genuinely stretches them and provides them with real learning opportunities. Moreover, our clients report that Functional Skills learners are more confident and more highly motivated than their Key Skills counterparts and likely to progress more rapidly through their Apprenticeship programmes.
So let’s embrace Functional Skills with open arms rather than trying to fight or delay its introduction. It provides UK Plc with a genuine opportunity to develop the skills required to enable us to compete globally whilst at the same time reducing the massive cost burden to the economy.