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Strengthening workplace learning


The IPD is today launching a consultation document entitled 'Success through Learning' examinng ideas and options for promoting more effective workplace learning. The report is in response to several current developments: the government's plans for post-16 education published in 'Learning to Succeed' (and currently the subject of legislation going through parliament), and the work of the National Skills Task Force. The Institute is keen to explore the relationship between learning and organisational performance and the clear implication is that this linkage is inadequately understood at present. Many companies would benefit from a far greater investment in workplace-based learning.

The IPD argues that the present education and training system does little to prepare young people for lifelong learning at work. Managers themselves have only a limited understanding of the connection between workplace learning and workplace performance. And employers need to demonstrate a far higher degree of leadership if the infrastructure is to be put in place to create strong workplace-based learning.

Several recent trends are identified. The skills gap in many industries is increasingly recognised. At the same time, many organisations are having to change the way in which they do business. Conventional training can be expensive and require a lengthy lead time – so workplace learning acquires increasing importance, despite the problems in making it effective and efficient. Several surveys have demonstrated the lack of an established culture for learning at work and the need for radical change in this area of development and competitiveness.

The IPD points to several blocks to effective workplace learning:

  • young people need to learn how to learn both as individuals and as members of a team;
  • our teaching and education systems need to create an awareness of continuous education from school throughout a person's working life, including appropriate qualification systems and the importance of both on-the-job and off-the-job training and learning;
  • managers need to develop a greater understanding of the role and importance of workplace-based learning, particularly as it relates to the overall performance of the company.

It will take time to address these problems and the IPD suggests action to be taken by both employers and government in their consultation document. Government action is needed to encourage workplace learning, and the role of National Training Organisations (NTOs) is particularly highlighted. The establishment of a Workplace Learning Fund is suggested, and is the role of further and higher education in offering opportunities for continuing learning. The IPD urges major employers to provide leadership by:

  • encouraging learning to learn, supported by vocational training, as a natural part of work for everyone;
  • developing a vocational qualification system which recognises informal learning as well as formal workplace learning;
  • developing a greater understanding of the links between skill, knowledge and work organisation, particularly in leading organisations; the NTOs are suggested as bodies capable of leading in this area;
  • developing collaborative activities to experiment in ways of informal workplace learning which balance the differing interests of employer and employee;
  • developing management programmes and qualifications which focus on the links beween learning and performance; again, NTOs and the new Council for Excellence in Management and Leadership are seen as capable of giving an important lead here.

The IPD has established a consultation period to 1 July and is interested in whether others agree with its analysis and proposals.


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