In-depth interviews with 2,000 non-managerial workers in 31 large organisations show that half have reading problems, a quarter have difficulties with basic speaking skills and well over a third felt they lacked computer skills needed to cope with new technology in their workplace.
The findings by the independent training consultants, Workbase Training - backed by both the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry - suggest employers are resisting workplace education and schools and colleges are failing to provide the basic skills.
Half the workers interviewed said they received no induction training for their jobs. Three-quarters said training was offered later but many added they had no confidence in their communications skills.
Frances Graham, chief executive of Workbase Training, told the conference companies must change to survive. "The days of non-managerial workers learning one skill for a job are gone." Employers were demanding multiple skills from individuals who were expected to take on greater job responsibility.