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Basic Skills - the key to employability in the 21st century?

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Teacher as Critical Analyst Basic Skills - the key to employability in the 21st century? Introduction "To be employed is to be at risk, to be employable is to be secure" (Peter Hawkins, 1999, The Art of Building Windmills) In the past few years there have been a number of reports which have brought about important changes and initiatives concerned with raising literacy and numeracy skills. These changes signal the growing importance of basic skills and key skills both to the individual and to the economy as a whole. In this assignment I will start by looking at the basic skills problem. Evidence shows that lack of basic or key skills has major implications for an individual in terms of social exclusion. Moreover, lack of basic skills is a major barrier to employment, training or progression at work and if we are to compete on a global level, we need to have a highly skilled, adaptable workforce. Employability is of significant concern for 2 reasons, firstly, because of its importance to the government's widening participation strategy and secondly, it is essential for national economic and social wellbeing, thus the concern with employability is inherently linked to the concern with lack of basic skills. I will look at what we mean by employability and how skills associated with employability affect an individual's chance of finding and keeping work. Furthermore, the change in the structure of employment and the changing work climate has produced a real need for a more able and better skilled workforce and I will discuss how the government's push for improving basic skills is at the forefront of efforts to meet these demands. I will look at initiatives that have been set up to increase employability, not just for the unemployed but for those adults already in the workforce, half of whom are estimated to have below average basic skills. I will then draw conclusions on what I have discussed. ...read more.


Currently it is estimated that roughly a third of unemployed people in England have literacy, language and/or numeracy needs that prevent them from finding and keeping secure work. From April 2001 the Employment Service has been screening clients for basic skills needs. Following the screening, those who may have a basic skills need are offered the opportunity of an independent assessment. Following that, those who need it may be referred for basic employability training or basic skills provision. Initiatives such as 'New Deal' are part of current government strategy to get people back to work, including training and job preparation. The emphasis here is very much on work or education activity. New Deal offers either a subsidised job, work and training with a voluntary or environmental group, or studying full time for a qualification, thereby enhancing employability skills. Programmes such as Sure Start seek to support children and their families and can act as a bridge for parents into education, training and employment and often work in socially deprived areas. In particular they promote the employability of parents, defining employability as "the capacity to gain and keep a job, to cope with changes at work and in the wider economy, and the ability to get a new job if necessary"(Improving the Employability of Parents in Sure Start Local Programmes, 2004). Sure Start state employment has a direct impact on incomes, thereby lifting families out of poverty and research suggest this can have significant effects on children's mental health, behaviour and social integration. There is also evidence to show that children with employed parents do better at school and therefore improve their own learning potential. The Government's 'Learning to Succeed White Paper' (2000) highlighted the need to develop the skills of Britain's workforce. More recently the government acknowledged the vital role skills play in an individual's chances of success: ".. A skilled workforce is also important for the wider health of the economy and for UK employers - improving productivity and increasing prosperity. ...read more.


There is no doubt that lack of basic skills significantly contribute to worklessness. More generally they can lead to social exclusion. Those who lack basic skills are also more likely to lack key skills which employers regard as relevant to the workplace, skills such as communication, basic IT, attitude and adaptability. Lack of basic and key skills can undermine personal motivation and confidence, and thus further limit the employability of individuals. The priority is to improve the skills of those groups where literacy and numeracy needs are greatest and where they can make the most impact including the unemployed and benefit claimants, low skilled people in the workforce and other excluded groups. Up to half of the estimated 7 million adults with literacy and numeracy needs will be in jobs, coping well because of the knowledge of the job and the experience they have built up over the years. A further difficulty comes with the changes that people are increasingly expected to face at work. With the introduction of new working practices and new technologies, the level of skill required is becoming greater and people with poor basic skills can find it more difficult to adapt. Many organisations have an 'embedded' approach where the course on offer is, for example, ICT but all the time the basic skills of the learner are being observed. Those who need it can be offered help as appropriate. Schemes aimed at improving basic skills for the least qualified staff are far more likely to succeed where the course is advertised as vocational training rather than labelled as basic skills. Therefore, basic skills are inherently linked to employability but employability is not restricted to the unemployed, it is essential for those who are employed continue to develop their skills to maintain their employability in the 21st century. Interagency co-operation is essential in dealing with the problem. Organisations such as Jobcentre Plus, the prison service, employers, trade unions and community initiatives can identify individuals with lack of basic or key skills and encourage them to take action. ...read more.

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