Train and shame
The recent UK Employer Skills Survey has found that 41 percent of companies invested in no training in 2011, leaving 46 percent of UK employees without any access to education or skills last year. Director of unionlearn, Tom Wilson looks at the implications of this shocking statistic.
“It’s the economy, stupid” said Bill Clinton back in 1992, in what has become one of those very familiar and excessively overused political clichés. But it is the economy that is again dominating all political and business discussion. Since 2008 and the banking crisis the discussion has been about how to get the economy back on track and how to establish growth. The revised growth figures just out show that the last quarter’s contraction of the economy was worse than originally thought with figures being revised down to -0.3 percent. For businesses the recession and the current downturn is about more than statistics; it is a question of survival for the company itself and what options are available to ensure that a company gets through the lean times. A key element to this, which is frequently not discussed, is that of skills and staff development. We are used to discussions about youth skills and the need for better training of young people but all too often this is not linked up to businesses and existing staff. Sadly, this is not just something that is missed in the media and in the world of political discussion. For many businesses training and staff development do not feature in the business plan either. Percent: “Training is not an optional extra, it is a vital element. Those businesses that invest in their staff and expand their skills will reap the benefits”
The figures that we have seen from the UK Employer Skills Survey are shocking. To put them into context, that’s around 13 million people last year who received no training. In hard figures, it is clear that it is a staggering level and one that is bad for business. To see exactly how bad for business and indeed the wider UK economy we can now start to put some figures to it. A recent report by The Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA) in Bonn looking at investment and time spent on vocational training showed that for every hour spent on training the workforce, growth of GDP was accelerated by 0.55 percent.
It is extraordinary that such a small amount of training can have such an impact on the economy. Of course, the report has some clear definitions that go with it; vocational training is defined as being robust, it has to be a genuine skills programme that delivers real benefits to the learner and do more than just comply with the basic statutory requirements. The financial and productivity benefits are not going to be reaped from a quick one-off training session that, even if informative, does not widen the skills base within the workforce.
The same report also showed that in countries where training is already well embedded with strong take-up, then the training on offer is used more effectively, the quality will be higher and it will be better planned. This perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. A CBI report at the time of the banking crisis showed that companies that invest in training and staff skills are 25 percent more likely to survive than those that do not. The experience of unionlearn fits in with what the author of the report found. We have worked across a wide variety of workplaces both in the public and private sector and has found a huge appetite for learning amongst employees. When it is offered it is taken up and when it is taken up the demand expands year-on-year. For employees, we have seen that those that have taken up courses continue to expand their interest and take on more training, with many of them going on to apply for better jobs and promotion. For employers, we have found that they report lower sickness levels and increased motivation and retention rates.
It has been a vital part of that success that training is extended across the whole workforce not just the high fliers or top tiers. If businesses are to unleash the talent they have, they need to ensure access to training is available to all staff. Those staff that were perhaps the least likely to engage in training have more often than not gone on to be its biggest advocates, bringing more of the workforce into the training room. Unionlearn’s own assessment of the work undertaken through the unions via funding from the government supported Union Learning Fund has shown that 50 percent of businesses have increased their own training investment and a further 45 percent saw it as match-funding the money they were already putting in, a signal that the investment in training was of clear benefit to the business.
Created on: 16-May-12 14:38
By: Will Hogan