UK charity National Numeracy has launched a scheme to help a million adults improve their numeracy over a five year period.
Recent government figures have shown 17 million people of working age have primary-school-level numeracy ability.
The charity ultimately aims to raise the skills of every employee to at least the standard of a 14-year-old.
From next spring businesses will be urged to enrol employees in the National Numeracy Challenge. Organisers hope to develop an online tool that will give every employee a diagnosis of their numeracy ability.
Charity chair Chris Humphreys urged businesses to take action, and consider this “radical move”. He said: “All employers know what a massive problem we have with numeracy in this country. We are now asking them and their employees to commit time and effort to doing something about it. [The scheme]…is urgently needed if the UK is not going to sink further behind its competitors.
“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.”
He added: “With 17 million people in need of help, this is just the beginning. Our initial targets are actually quite modest, but we are in this for the long term.”
One potential stumbling block could be the cost of the online test. National Numeracy has endeavoured to make it affordable, and it should not cost more than a few pounds per employee.
Convincing small businesses to give their staff time off to take numeracy courses could be a more significant problem: “Some get it, some don’t,” said a spokeswoman for the organisation.
However, she endeavoured to underline the value of the scheme to businesses. She stated that increasing numeracy levels in the workplace is in the interests of every employee, regardless of their seniority.