The employers' lobby group VECCI has announced that current graduates have poor mathematical skills, on the basis of their competence with manual and mental arithmetic (The Age, 2/5). In my experience as a professional engineer, all significant calculations must be done with increasingly complex software packages, often of incredible sophistication. While there will always be a place in engineering for "the back of the envelope", mastery of these commercial-grade systems is where the "real world" is at - not long division by hand.
VECCI must know this, so why is it pushing this barrow? Perhaps it has an old-fashioned view of what it means to be educated - good at toting up figures, able to recite a Wordsworth poem and knowing the coronation dates of key English monarchs. We need creative and innovative engineers, not good clerks.