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LSDA Looks at Barriers to Learning


Employees with poor basic skills and few qualifications are the least likely to take part in learning activities at work, despite having the greatest need for education and training.

The finding comes from a new report from the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA), which examines the obstacles to workplace learning and initiatives to break down these barriers.

According to the LSDA, there is no single factor that acts as an obstacle to workplace learning, the research concludes. But there are a number of barriers that, when combined, are significant.

    Factors include:
  • Most employers consider their main purpose is providing goods and services, not education or training.

  • Many employers, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), do not see the need for formal workplace training and prefer a more informal approach.

  • When training is encouraged, it is usually offered to those in higher level occupations. Those in the lowest skilled occupations are more likely to be expected to learn from each other, rather than through formal training.

  • The lack of any progression routes or job promotion prospects for some employees restricts employers’ willingness to provide training.

  • It is often difficult to organise staff release or fit training around shift patterns. Nor is the workplace a suitable location to deliver off-the-job training or education, in most cases.

  • Negative views of education, lack of confidence, the fear of being stigmatised and lack of awareness of opportunities are all barriers to learning experienced by employees with poor educational attainments.
  • Researchers also looked into actions that make it easier for employers and employees to get involved in learning activities at work.

      These include:
    • Marketing and promotion: Common techniques include personal contact with employers and employees, newsletters, flyers and posters. The use of ICT as a hook into learning is particularly effective.
    • Brokerage and ‘learning champions’: Intermediaries, such as learning reps and guidance professionals, are seen as key to engaging the ‘hard to reach’ in learning.
    • Flexibility: The introduction of roll-on/roll-off education programmes, “bite-sized” courses, experiential learning, and online, electronic and blended learning are important facilitators.
    • Financial incentives: Fee remission and grants are available for some individual learners.

      Darshan Sachdev, LSDA research manager said that it was important to understand what motivates people to engage in learning and how best to get employers on board. "This research suggests that learning is not a primary concern for most employers, but rather a means to an end," he said. "We need to give more attention to the activities that drive up demand for learning, by encouraging employers to demand higher levels of skills and by motivating employees to seek ways to improve their career prospects."

      The LSDA research is available at


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