All workers need key skills

20th June 2003 at 01:00
I was impressed with the coverage you gave to Harlow College's working with US firm Pitney Bowes delivering workplace skills ("Partners who pay workers to train", TES, June 6).

The skills in the report were: learning to learn; team working; problem-solving and the diagnosis and development of basic skills. These skills underpin any other training and are precisely those defined as key skills. There is a constant demand from employers to fill this skills gap.

How different was this article from the story you carried only the week before saying that employers and trainers wanted key skills taken out of Modern Apprenticeships because they are too hard for potential workers and irrelevant to the workplace ("Can key skills be a barrier to success?", TES, May 30) .

Some 23 per cent of UK adults have basic skills problems compared with 12 per cent in Germany or 7 per cent in Sweden. This affects our economic performance.

We desperately need "joined-up thinking" on this issue. It must be cheaper and better to make sure skilled workers have adequate key skills before they start serious work than to find in mid-career that not only are they unable to cope with the demands of the workplace but they are completely untrainable.

The report suggests students fail Modern Apprenticeships because of demands made on their poor reading, writing and maths skills. In fact they fail vocational elements exactly because of poor basic skills.

How can you train people who can't read a procedure sheet, write notes or complete a simple calculation? Indeed when vocational students are encouraged to develop better key skills there is a far higher success rate.

We should be working to a model of success like Pitney Bowes, not accepting the failure of a whole generation of workplace trainees.

Derek Munton

Workplace key skills tutor 31 City Way Rochester, Kent

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