Workers who would most benefit from training least likely to receive it, report finds

The workers who would benefit the most from training are the least likely to receive it, a new report from the Social Mobility Commission (SMC) has found.

29 Jan 2019| News

Photo by Mikael Kristenson

Opportunities to upskill are often only available for those who are already highly paid or highly skilled, with around 30% of managers and people in professional occupations accessing training in the last three months. Graduates are three times more likely to receive training than those with no prior qualifications.

Nearly half (49%) of adults from the lowest socio-economic group are never offered the chance to improve their skills, and only 18% of those in routine, manual jobs were given training in the last three months. Men in routine, manual jobs have the least access to training.

One’s background is an important factor, with the most disadvantaged least likely to benefit from opportunities to upskill, and low-skilled workers from privileged upbringings more likely than their peers to take up training.

The Adult Skills Gap report, based on a study by the Institute for Employment Research at Warwick University, also revealed a gaping disparity between opportunities for British adults and those in other developed economies, with funding for adult training two-thirds lower in the UK than in other EU countries.

This is partly down to reductions in government funding, which aims to support those who cannot pay for their own further education.

The Adult Skills Budget fell by 34% in real terms between 2015 and 2016, following a previous cut of £830 million in 2010.

Just 7% of all training now receives government funding, with 82% paid for by employers (who prioritise workers in senior and professional roles), and the rest paid for by workers themselves.

Although state-funded training is the most likely to reach lower-skilled workers and those in deprived areas, 29% of it still gets funnelled into the 40% most-affluent communities. Only 3% of all training is accounted for by free government-run courses.

Dame Martina Milburn, Chair of the SMC, said: “Too many employers are wasting the potential of their employees by not offering training or progression routes to their low and mid-skilled workers.”

” The result is a system with vast numbers of low-skilled workers with little opportunity to build skills and escape low pay. This urgently needs rebalancing – for productivity as much as social mobility, says the commission,” she added.

“Both employers and the government need to act to address this problem. They should start by increasing their investment in training, to bring it closer to that of international competitors, and prioritise this to those with low or no skills. Doing this would benefit both business and the economy as a whole.”

Alistair Da Costa, SMC Commissioner, pointed out that the need to upskill lower-paid workers is urgent.

“As we prepare to leave the EU, it is more important than ever for us to build relevant skills to improve the UK’s productivity,” he said.

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), described the findings as a “wake-up call for employers”.

“Building skills at all levels and roles is essential to improving productivity and performance, for engagement and retention of employees, and to highlight and support progression opportunities,” he said.

“However, many of these are longer term outcomes and too often the focus for training is on short term job needs.”

The need to improve training provision in the UK is a central motivation behind the recommendations made in the Institute of Employment Rights’ Manifesto for Labour Law.

Our experts propose that sectoral collective bargaining structures are reinstated across the economy to bring employers, workers and government officials together to negotiate a better deal for workers and plan for the future strength and sustainability of British industry.

Read more about the Manifesto for Labour Law