US delight as EU firms slash training budgets

The amount of training European employees receive continues to fall, despite repeated warnings that the continent must focus on developing highly skilled economies, according to major new research.

A study of 15,000 organisations across the US and Europe shows that the median amount of training for full-time employees in Europe fell from 23.9 hours in 2003 to 19.7 in 2004 (the latest figures available).

The Key Trends in Human Capital report by Saratoga – the human capital division of professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers
(PwC) – shows that UK organisations offer even fewer hours of training, with a median of 17.3 hours.

The findings cast doubt on employer commitment to the European Council of Ministers’ 1999 Lisbon Agenda agreement, which pledged to make Europe the leading knowledge-based economy by 2010.

The European figures contrast with those from the US, which showed a leap of 35% in time spent training in 2003, followed by a further 5.6% rise in 2004.

Questions over Europe’s ability to compete globally in the future are compounded by developments in India, which, according to the report, shows “an astonishingly rapid development of skills and know-how”.

It concludes that “although no causal link has been established, we consistently find clear correlations between high investment in learning and development and competitive business results”.

Richard Phelps, partner at PwC and one of the report’s authors, said: “The level of training is decreasing when all the evidence suggests that if we are going to compete then we are going to have to be more innovative.”

Phelps blamed this on the perception that it is hard to demonstrate the return on investment in training, which made it difficult for a board to take it seriously. However, he said enough research was now available for there to be no excuses not to demonstrate the business benefits of training.

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