Editor’s comment

What are we to make of the TUC’s assertion, in its 2020 Vision for Skills document, that about one-quarter of the UK workforce – 8.5 million people – receive no training from their employers?

On the face of it, such a figure seems unbelievable at a time when so much emphasis is given to the importance of skills and educational development in developing the UK workforce and its economy. So let’s dig a little deeper.

Much of the UK workforce is engaged in unskilled work. Many of you, like me, will have done such work. Fruit and vegetable picking, refuse collection, some production-line work and so on. Training is required for such work but not a lot. Indeed, many unskilled jobs can be done adequately after a short training session, and thereafter operatives require little more.

Now consider mentoring and on-the-job training. For many organisations, this is a no-cost and effective way to provide training. And in many, this training will not be logged as such. My point is that a lot of training is informal and won’t be picked up by mass research radar. And, given that much work is mundane, it is to be expected that a large part of the workforce receive little formal and reported training.

What the TUC research is partly about is its determination to ensure it and the unions have appropriate ammunition to enable them to be a major player in the training game. This can be seen in its demands, which include giving some workers paid time off to train and study and granting unions and workers the right to negotiate collectively about skills development and training.

We must wait and see what the Leith Review of the UK’s training needs – due to be published in November – will draw from the TUC’s document, while remaining a little sceptical about some of its inferences.

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