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Janki Amin

GSM London

Employer Relations & Partnerships Manager

Read more from Janki Amin

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Are your maths skills up to scratch?


Ever found yourself confounded by job applications that call for number crunching skills? You're certainly not alone, but new research and a recent understanding of UK skills culture indicates that boosting our mathematical abilities is something that should be concentrated upon. Research indicates that a significant number of us have been found to be taken aback by numbers.

In a rather shocking revelation likely to further galvanise pro-numeracy campaigns and those against gender inequality, it's been found that that one in five women would go out of their way to avoid a job that required them to use basic arithmetic skills. Adding further shock to the disclosure, when asked the same question, men replied at a rate of half of this total (11%).

The research, conducted on behalf of GSM London by YouGov, polled 2,000 UK adults and over 1,000 businesses to discover the extent of the country's apparent aversion to all things mathematical.

Over one in four (28%) of all unemployed persons were found to be put off by mathematical requirements in job adverts. Phrases such as 'good with numbers', 'must be numerate' and so on turned away many potential applicants, despite the fact that 12% of 18 to 24-year-olds admitted to exaggerating their maths skills when applying for positions.

Employers were found to desire staff with good numeracy skills though. Three-quarters of senior bosses polled (75%) confessed they would choose one candidate with a good handle on maths over another with a less developed understanding. Over half (57%) went further, saying that they would lean away from hiring candidates who had not achieved at least a grade C or higher in GCSE Maths.

Maths in an incredibly important skill, not just from a career point of view. The vast majority of problems, calculations and research tasks use mathematical thinking. Taking a problem, applying or devising maths to process the information, then translating the results - it's all part of what should be encouraged in students. It's a process used practically everywhere at every moment, forming a key way in which people think about and explain the world around us.

The implications for this are rather severe. Both a general lack of skills and a disparity between genders means lost productivity and wasted human talent, wasting opportunities for economic growth. On a greater scale, with Britain lagging behind other nations in this field we collectively risk losing our global edge to competitors.

Over the past few years the extent of the problem has become increasingly apparent, with news outlets such as the Independent, Guardian and Prospect regularly focusing on the topic. Journalists and experts have mulled over a variety of options for the nation's rather lax mathematical standards compared to the rest of the world, in particular East Asia.

Language differences pertaining to the length and meaning of mathematical words, culture differences and incorrect educational focuses have all been earmarked as reasons for the poor standards, but there is hope. Some 81% of all adults taking part in the survey said that they had never tried to improve their maths skills, revealing a huge potential opportunity for personal and societal growth.

The lack of support and training for UK workers with their numeracy skills came as a surprise as senior decision makers see it as important for their businesses. Learning and training shouldn’t end once a person has finished school or higher education, and there are always opportunities to develop your skills throughout your career. Focusing on more training and support would not only benefit a business from a HR perspective but also makes business sense to develop your workforce.

Janki Amin is Employer Relations & Partnerships Manager at GSM London, leading the Employment Services team and responsible for developing their Student Ambassador, Graduate Internship and Temporary Work schemes.

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Janki Amin

Employer Relations & Partnerships Manager

Read more from Janki Amin

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