An emphasis on skills and training is self-limiting, says Tim Pickles
No-one seriously questions the notion that staff development is a good thing. We are familiar with many aspects of good practice; we have heard the exhortations for lifelong learning; we know what we want for ourselves.
Yet the boundaries of staff members’ entitlement to learning and development remain somewhat unclear.
In an on-line survey conducted by the TrainingZONE, members responded to a question about entitlement to training and CPD. Seventy-two per cent believed all staff should have an annual allowance of time and an individual budget for their training; 12 per cent suggested staff should have a time allowance; and 5 per cent argued for simply a budgetary allowance.
An overwhelming 89 per cent of respondents felt staff should be automatically entitled to some form of development or learning. Just 11 per cent believed training should be at the discretion of the employer.
Yet this is clearly not how the majority of employers regard the situation.
Very few organisations have a policy towards staff training entitlement, although many have adopted progressive attitudes towards the development of staff, recognising it can help to achieve business objectives, and increase motivation. We are surrounded by positive messages about the value of lifelong learning and continuous professional development, yet these are promoted as best practice rather than policy or statute.
The Skills Task Force last year recommended against the introduction of a training levy on employers, a recommendation which the Government was swift to adopt. The roll-out of Individual Learning Accounts for employees and the launch of UfI/learndirect places an emphasis on skill-based training (often allied to vocational qualifications). Like earlier schemes, the focus is on individuals being supported to develop themselves, rather than on learning as a benefit or entitlement.
We support the concept of lifelong learning but turning it into a meaningful reality - as the Campaign for Learning works to do - is hard work. We need a shift in emphasis away from skills-based training towards broader staff learning.
Skills training is