Employers urged to support scheme aiming to boost maths skills of millions of workers

A bid to improve the numeracy skills of employees could help firms add value to their businesses, it is believed.

Companies are being encouraged to take part in a scheme which it is suggested could help make them more competitive and help prevent the UK as a whole from falling further behind its foreign rivals.

The people behind the project want employers to commit to a target that aims to raise the maths skills of a million adults over a five-year period.

The challenge has been set by charity National Numeracy, which said it will provide access to online resources and advice that will help bosses assess the progress of their staff as they improve their maths skills.

While the scheme will initially target those at work, it is hoped it will be rolled out to those not in employment or education if it proves to be a success. It could also help provide the extra skills those out of work need to help them secure a job.

The scale of the problem was highlighted at the launch of the scheme, with figures revealing that 17 million people of working age in England could only claim to have numeracy skills that would be expected of primary school age children.

Almost half of these people are only able to match the ability the Government would expect of children aged up to seven.

The charity said the initial targets are quite modest, but it has a long-term plan that will eventually set the bar even higher.

For now, workers will be encouraged to reach a standard equivalent to what a 14-year-old is capable of achieving, although some will be asked to take it a step further and reach the standards equivalent to GCSE at grades A* to C.

A spokesman for the charity said: "Poor numeracy is a blight on individuals' life chances and we believe that employees will be as keen as their employers to improve their skills."

Copyright Press Association 2012