Business bodies join forces to tackle literacy and numeracy in NI

Northern Ireland’s key business bodies have pledged to work together to help improve literacy and numeracy across Northern Ireland. Business leaders and representatives from education gathered at an event in Barclay’s Eagle Labs at Ormeau Baths Gallery on Friday 8 September to officially launch the NI Business Charter on Literacy and Numeracy.

The Charter, which aims to improve the literacy and numeracy of primary school children here, was developed in a partnership which includes: Business in the Community, the Confederation of British Industry, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Institute of Directors and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce.

Gillian McKee, Deputy Managing Director, Business in the Community explains: “Young people who leave school with poor levels of literacy and numeracy tend to struggle to find employment and the negative effects can last a lifetime.

“Despite the work that we, and other business organisations have carried out to improve business education links, and ensure that children leave school ready for the world of work, youth unemployment here remains higher at 13.3%, compared with a 10% average across the UK*. By working in partnership, we hope to achieve a goal of 90% of children leaving primary school in Northern Ireland with Level 4 skills in literacy and numeracy, rising to 95% by 2025.”

Each signatory organisation has committed to challenge and support its members to help tackle the issue.

Sam Davidson, Chair of Confederation of British Industry NI Employment and Skills Forum added: “Employers have a vested interest in helping to ensure tomorrow’s workforce has the skills needed to fully participate in employment, but they also have a duty to ensure that our children are not excluded from full participation in society through poor literacy and numeracy skills which can plague them through the rest of their lives, if not addressed. Through this collaboration, we call on business to actively support the achievement of good literacy and numeracy skills so that every child leaves school able to fully participate in society and employment.”

Justin Edwards, Chief Executive of CCEA, added: “CCEA are delighted to be involved with the NI Business Charter on Literacy and Numeracy. Literacy and numeracy skills are central to the academic and economic success of Northern Ireland’s young people. We welcome the engagement of business in the support of literacy and numeracy skills. The benefits to young people, particularly those from disadvantaged communities, and the skills pipeline are obvious. I would encourage all business, large and small, to consider becoming involved.”

To get involved or find out more about the NI Business Charter on Literacy and Numeracy, visit

*Source: NISRA Labour Market Report June 2017