An alarming number of applicants for entry-level Customs jobs cannot pass basic math and English tests.

They had 263 applicants at the last recruitment drive but Collector Winniefred Fostine-DeSilva was unable to find eight people who could pass the entrance exam, drug test and psychometric testing.

She said her Customs team was currently running 20 people short because the agency could not find people capable of filling the vacancies.

Some fail mandatory drugs tests but lack of basic numeracy and literacy skills is just as big a problem.

Ms Fostine-DeSilva said the test is “not rocket science” and contains simple math and general knowledge questions.

“The education system has clearly failed us,” she told the Joint Select Committee on Violence and Gun Crime yesterday.

Her comments follow similar statements from fire chief Vince Hollinshid, who revealed last year that only 10 of more than 150 applicants were able to pass the department’s testing process, which includes rudimentary numeracy and literacy questions.

Former Labour Minister Colonel Burch told the Bermuda Sun earlier this year that the prison service was experiencing similar issues, with only nine of 106 applicants able to pass entry-level tests at the most recent recruitment drive.

Ms Fostine-DeSilva said: “Young people are bitter and angry, they don’t know what to do with themselves because they can’t get entry-level jobs.

“These are trainee customs officers positions.

“We must address this problem.”

She said on-the-job training was provided and the tests do not require any great expertise, they simply seek to establish that applicants will be capable of writing reports and doing basic duty calculations.

The pass mark for the entry exam has been lowered from 70 per cent to 60 per cent and applicants are now given the material a week in advance — but many still fail to meet the standard. Ms Fostine-DeSilva said some applicants even had degrees from universities in the U.K. or U.S.

She added that the department responded by lowering their sights further and interviewing some applicants who scored 58 or 59 per cent in the test but few performed well at interview.

William Pearman, assistant collector, said some could not get through the psychometric tests.

He added: “Some have clinical psychosis and it is coming out on our tests.”