Workplace learning opportunities go to those who benefit from them least, finds survey

9 May 2019 By Francis Churchill

Higher-skilled staff more likely to be trained, says ONS, but just 26 per cent took part in learning in last three months

Employees in moderately skilled professions benefit far more from in-work training than their  more skilled counterparts, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, these employees are still far less likely to receive in-work learning opportunities, the bulk of which go to more experienced professionals.

The revelations have led to calls for employers to increase the availability of training to mid- and lower-skilled staff.

Today’s report, which analysed data from 2017, found just 26 per cent of employees in the UK said they had received in-work learning opportunities in the last three months – with professional occupations the most likely to have answered positively.

This category accounted for nearly two in five of all employees who said they had received training (37.3 per cent), followed by occupational services, which includes caring and leisure (36.2 per cent), and associate professional and technical occupations (28.9 per cent).

However, the same research found that some of those least likely to take part in in-work training – process, plant and machine operatives, who made up just 16.2 per cent of those who had received training – received the highest wage premium when they did participate.

They received a wage boost of 4.3 per cent, compared to associate professional and technical occupations, at 2.4 per cent.

The lowest premium for in-work training went to administrative and secretarial occupations, at just 1.8 per cent.

Speaking to People Management, Lizzie Crowley, skills policy advisor at the CIPD, said the data confirmed that just a small proportion of employees in the UK participated in in-work learning opportunities.

“The training rate is relatively low and the people who get trained are generally the more highly skilled and those in higher level occupations.

“What’s quite surprising about these statistics is that the people who, in many cases, are receiving the lowest levels of training are actually the ones that accrue the greatest benefit from engaging in training.”

Crowley added the research suggested there were different motivations for engaging in workplace training depending on career stage. Younger employees often trained to learn a new skill or attain a new job, while older and more senior workers were more likely to train to maintain their status.

“The research suggests from an employer perspective that we need to really focus on providing opportunities for training among the mid-skilled and lower-skilled occupations,” said Crowley. “In particular, the findings are quite shocking in terms of the proportion of training for those who have no qualifications.”

The survey found 32.4 per cent of those with a degree or equivalent level qualification had received in-work training over the last three months, compared to just 8.5 per cent of those with no qualifications.

The ONS data also found women were more likely to have taken part in workplace training than men – 28.4 per cent against 24.4 per cent – but that when men did take part in training, they did so for longer.

Crowley said this was likely a result of occupational segregation, with women more likely to work in roles requiring training on compliance or health and safety issues – for example in the health or education sector – where courses were likely to be more regular but shorter in duration. However, she added, without a more detailed breakdown of the data it would be impossible to draw firm conclusions.

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