Sir, Sarah O’Connor (“ ‘Demographic crunch’ poses skills challenge for companies”, June 25) misses the underlying reason that so many British companies rely on older workers: basic education.
The UK is the only country surveyed by the OECD where basic literacy and numeracy skills are worse among the young (15-24) than among the age group of most older workers (55-64). The overwhelming majority of those under 55 were not taught properly either to read or to perform basic mathematics.
No amount of vocational training will make the illiterate and innumerate employable unless the core problems are addressed. Ruth Kelly and Michael Gove have done a great deal to fix the literacy problem for the future; recent reforms may address the numeracy problem for the future. No one in state education, however, is doing anything to effectively address the tens of millions of illiterate, innumerate adults, who are also seriously lacking in the basic knowledge needed to understand our world or operate effectively in it.
The damage done to generations of our fellow Britons has to be addressed not just so that they can replace older workers, but so they can participate fully in society. This needs not only resources, but a complete rethink on methods by the educational establishment that created the problem in the first place.
St Mary Cray, Kent, UK
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