Lowest paid and least qualified most likely to miss out on training, warns think tank

7 Jul 2021 By Jessica Brown

Report finds an extra 1.2 million people per year would receive training if those with lower qualifications had the same participation rates as workers with degrees

The lowest-paid and lowest-qualified workers are least likely to receive training at work, a report has found, warning that inequalities in training opportunities were likely to further disadvantage these groups.

The report, from the Learning and Work Institute, found just one in 10 (11 per cent) of the lowest-paid workers – including process and plant operatives and elementary occupations – took part in workplace training in the last quarter of 2020.

This compared to a third (34 per cent) of those in professional and caring occupations – which the report said was likely due to compliance or licence to practise requirements.

It also found graduates were four times more likely than those with no qualifications to take part in workplace training.

The report estimated that if workers with low levels of qualifications were as likely to participate in training those with a degree-level qualification, an extra 1.2 million people would receive training every year.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said these inequalities were “holding our economy back and limiting people’s life chances… This report should be a clarion call for greater action to increase investment in skills and level up opportunity.”

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Evans also called for the government to take more action to reduce the inequality in the provision of training, with the report arguing employer incentives were increasingly skewed toward investing in more highly skilled, highly paid workers.

The report also raised concerns around the quality and impact of employer training. Of the employers that were providing training, more than 10 per cent were only giving basic induction or health and safety training. Fewer than 20 per cent of all employers provided management training.  

This was of particular concern given that employer investment in skills is falling, the report said. Before the pandemic, the proportion of employers in the UK, excluding Scotland, that funded or arranged any training over the previous 12 months fell from 66 per cent in 2017 to 61 per cent in 2019 – its lowest point since 2013, according to the report.

The number of training days per trainee also fell to 99 million days in 2019 – the lowest level since 2011.

There would be another 20 million training days if training had stayed at 2011 levels, and an extra £6.5bn invested each year if investment per employee rose to the EU average, the report said. 

Graham Hasting-Evans, chief executive of educational charity NOCN, which supported the report, said the report identified “pre-pandemic issues of inequality and declining employer investment for skills”.

“Skills investment from employers and the government is critical to ‘building back better’ from the pandemic and reducing inequalities in access to workplace learning.”

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