• Quarter of workers ‘receive no training’

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  • 6 Nov 2017
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Short-sighted lack of L&D opportunities is fuelling productivity crisis, says TUC

One in four employees does not receive any training opportunities at work beyond their onboarding process, new research has found.

A poll of more than 3,000 working adults, conducted on behalf of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), revealed that 24 per cent never undertook formal learning, while just 33 per cent said their employer regularly made training available to them.

The lack of opportunities for employees to increase their skillset was most acute for those in the service sector. The poll also found that white-collar workers were twice as likely to enjoy training opportunities as those in blue-collar roles, while 18 to 24-year-olds were the most likely to miss out.

“The short-sighted approach of too many employers has blighted the UK for years. And it is stifling productivity as we head towards Brexit,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady. “Companies that train and listen to their workforces perform better and hold on to talented staff.”

Lizzie Crowley, skills advisor at the CIPD, said the figures were another indication that businesses weren’t investing enough in their staff.

“The CIPD released a report earlier this year suggesting that, in terms of the proportion of the workforce receiving training, the UK was ranked at the bottom of European countries,” she said. “The UK has a productivity crisis and improving skills is part of addressing that challenge.”

David Willett, corporate director at The Open University, added: “Providing training opportunities ought to be second nature to organisations, with the benefits far outweighing the costs, yet our recent study found that 84 per cent of workers in low or semi-skilled work were in the same roles as five years ago – that's equivalent to 13 million workers with untapped potential.”

Willett said organisations that do not invest in work-based training could find themselves behind the curve as the technological, political and economic climate shifts. In turn, this means businesses are missing out on the chance to increase productivity and diversify their workforce, which brings increased innovation.

“Providing learning opportunities and developing the skills of employees enables organisations to become more agile and flexible, and ultimately more able to seize new opportunities,” said Willett.

The Open University Business Barometer, published in July, showed that the ongoing skills gap is costing UK businesses more than £2bn a year in higher salaries, recruitment costs and temporary staffing.  

Around half of employers were unable to find a candidate with the required skills and chose to hire at a lower level. More than half were also found to be using training to boost new employees’ skills to bring them up to the required standard.

Coupled with the lack of training opportunities, the TUC poll also suggested that many employees do not feet they are listened to. Around 40 per cent said major changes in their workplace were driven through without consultation, while a fifth said staff suggestions were ignored by management. The UK ranked 27th out of 28 European nations for the degree of workforce participation.

In its Great Jobs Agenda, the TUC is calling for employers to ensure every job is a ‘great’ job. This includes giving employees the ability to have their voice heard at work, and the opportunity to learn and progress.

“It’s about time managers started to wake up, invest in their workers’ skills and listen to their workers’ opinions,” said O’Grady.

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  • It would be interesting to know what the employees and employers think of as training. For example my employer would probably say that I get three to four lots of training each year. I, however, would point out that these are short online CBT packages to give me a refresher on data security, data protection act and anti-bribery and every few years an additional CBT package on equalities. Technically training, but not development and not aimed at improving my ability to do my job. These packages exist so that should I ever leak data, breach the DPA, take a bribe, give a bribe or express an untoward view about a person based on a protected characteristic (not that I ever would do any of those, of course) they can tell the court "Well, we trained him not to." I wonder how much training that is given falls into this category.

    Unfortunately training has always been the easiest budget to cut when times get a little hard, "We'll just delay the training till next year" is the argument. And then next year...money is still tight and "We were fine last year...". I wonder how many of those who do get training only get that sort of training.