Insight: Almost 1 in 3 feels not enough skills opportunities

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Almost one in three (29%) UK office workers believe their current employer does not provide them with sufficient opportunities to improve their literacy and numeracy skills, a newly-released report from Oxford Open Learning Trust shows.

The new Literacy and Numeracy Survey 2014 from the distance learning company provides insights into the barriers and motivations to taking further academic and professional qualifications. One potential key barrier identified is lack of support in the workplace. Some 29% of those polled said their current employer does not provide them with sufficient opportunities to improve their literacy and/or numeracy skills.

Women are more likely than men to take this view, with 34% of women indicating this opinion compared with 25% of men. Differences in opinion were also seen dependent on the age of the respondent. The top three barriers office workers identified when considering further qualifications were not having the time (31%), feeling they were already sufficiently qualified (31%) and being unable to afford it (30%).

The top three motivations respondents identified for additional education were to enhance their earnings (49%), improve their level of knowledge (44%), and because of a general interest in the course/subject areas (44%).
The report, based on a YouGov poll of over 900 UK office workers, also examines how UK office workers perceive basic literacy and numeracy skills as they relate to their ability to do their job, whether it is themselves or their colleagues.

It revealed almost one in seven (13%) office workers who have colleagues disagree that their colleagues have the necessary literacy skills required for their current role. Additionally, one in ten people (10%) disagree that their colleagues have the necessary numeracy skills needed to do their job. In general, office workers were more confident in their own abilities than those of their colleagues, though the survey also revealed 41% of UK office workers agreed with the statement that a 'lack of confidence in my skills has led me to NOT apply for a new job or promotion before'.

Younger workers (aged 18-24) were more than twice as likely to agree with this statement as those aged 55 and over (54% vs. 26%). Women were also more likely than men to feel they had been held back with 44% to 38%.
Dr Nick Smith of Oxford Open Learning Trust said: “It is probably a reflection of today’s job market that young people are more motivated to enhance their skills; one way to win a job or achieve a promotion is to show that you are committed to a process of continuous self-improvement.

"Older people should not become complacent, however. Lifelong learning has benefits for all, not just to enhance job applications but also in terms of neural health and general well-being. We all need to live and learn!”

A full breakdown of the survey results can be found in the Literacy and Numeracy Survey 2014 report on the Oxford Open Learning Trust website. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,071 adults of which 927 were office workers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th - 31st January 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

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