The training crisis that HR cannot ignore

Many employers are joining in with CBI criticism and complaining about the skills levels of their recruits, while at the same time failing to offer the training needed. Yet according to a new TUC report, 2020 Vision for Skills, one-third of the UK’s employers offer no training to their workers – denying nearly 8.5 million workers the new skills they need.

To remedy the problem, the TUC is demanding – among other things – more government support for training in next year’s comprehensive spending review, as well as calling on employers to invest much more in staff training that leads to formal qualifications and sustainable skills.

The TUC report is targeted at Lord Leitch’s skills review team, which is expected to report in November, and calls for paid time off for training those employees without a Level 2 qualification – those who really need training most.

Such new legislation is essential, as those with a degree are far more likely to be offered training than those with no qualifications.

Women, ethnic minorities, disabled employees and older workers have also traditionally missed out on training. The TUC is, therefore, calling for the Sector Skills Councils to come up with initiatives for improving training opportunities for these groups.

To back this, employers and the government need to invest more in adult skills, and HR will undoubtedly have an important role to play in this.

Clearly, life-long learning needs a much higher profile in the debate on education. In his interim report, Lord Leitch pointed out that 70% of those who will make up the 2020 workforce are already working. So we cannot just rely on the next generation we must also train and develop the current workforce.

Employee training and development is a key part of the HR role, and it is set to gain even more prominence over the next decade as we battle to bridge the skills gap. If organisations have not yet woken up to the fact that they have an important role to play and need to invest more money in basic skills and continuing professional development, then it is the duty of HR professionals to flag this up.

Canny employers already realise that providing good training opportunities for the workforce improves employee loyalty. And as worker self-confidence grows, absenteeism and staff turnover drops, while productivity increases.

It is self-evident that training works, and it is a tragedy that a recent report from vocational awards organisation, City & Guilds, shamed the construction industry by revealing that almost two-thirds of employers spend less than £10,000 a year on training.

HR practitioners will need to address these problems, as well as the difficulties that the six million people of working age who have severe problems with literacy will bring to the workplace.

But employers and staff can work together to tackle the skills crisis, and the TUC’s life-long learning division, Unionlearn, demonstrates how this can be done.

Since Unionlearn was set up in 2005, trade unions have recruited more than 14,000 union learning representatives in workplaces up and down the country, who last year helped more than 100,000 people into training. Courses ranged from English lessons for migrant workers, to training environmental reps to make workplaces more environmentally-friendly.

It is this diversity of training needs that HR professionals will need to familiarise themselves with so that they can play a leading role in raising the UK skills levels.

The TUC’s learning and skills project

The 138th Trades Union Congress takes place in Brighton this week. See next week’s issue for coverage.

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