Essential & life skills

What skills and capabilities do people need for life and work in the 21st century?

How can we encourage more adults to improve their essential skills?

Literacy, numeracy, digital, financial capability, health literacy and citizenship are central to people’s job and career prospects and ability to be active and engaged in their communities. Over time, economic and social changes, and the advance of technology, are increasing their importance.

The Coronavirus pandemic highlights that people who don’t have good essential skills are likely to face difficulties in finding and sustaining jobs.  They are also at risk of exclusion from essential public services and social interactions which now take place online, including everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, catching up with friends and family, and accessing non-emergency healthcare such as GP appointments.

However, far too many people do not have the skills they need. More than nine million adults have low literacy or numeracy, 13 million have low digital skills, and more than 850,000 people say they cannot speak English well or at all. Yet the number of adults taking classes to improve their skills has fallen significantly in recent years.

Our work is focused on identifying the benefits of building essential skills, understanding how to engage adults in learning and exploring the most effective ways of delivering essential skills learning.

Find out more about our work on Essential and life skills

Latest news

Nine million adults lack essential skills

Our latest work

Want to know more?

For further information about our Essential and life skills work contact: Alex Stevenson, head of English, maths and ESOL