Tech-savvy young lack basic literacy skills

Employers have warned that although school-leavers are IT competent, their English and maths skills leave much to be desired

School-leavers might be tech-savvy but they are increasingly entering the workplace without basic numerical and literacy skills, employers have warned.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Pertemps Employment Trends Survey found 92 percent of employers are happy with the IT skills of GCSE students.

The CBI puts this down to the familiarity of "generation text" with web and mobile-based technologies and a 47 percent increase in the number of pupils sitting the ICT GCSE over the last decade to 110,000 last year.

Richard Lambert, CBI director-general, said in the report: "Their fluency with iPods, mobiles and MySpace has translated well into the workplace, and often gives them an edge over their bosses. The greater focus on IT in schools and investment in computers is also helping."

But the report found school-leavers increasingly lack basic abilities in English and maths. More than half (52 percent) of the employers questioned in the survey said they are dissatisfied with the basic literacy of school-leavers, and half said the same about numerical skills.

Just 47 percent of pupils sitting GCSE English and maths last year achieved a grade C or above, and employers warn this often leaves teenagers unable to function in the workplace because they can't do simple calculations in their heads or speak in an articulate manner.

Lambert said: "Maths and English skills are a vital bedrock for further learning and are essential both in the workplace and in life... We simply cannot match the labour costs of India, China and other emerging economies, and only a higher-skilled workforce will keep the UK competitive."

Almost three-quarters (71 percent) of employers also said school-leavers lack basic business awareness.

The survey, which will be published fully in September, questioned 507 employers across all industry sectors.