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Workforce training “apartheid” excludes the less skilled


Most of the UK's training is provided for those already relatively highly skilled, while the rest of the workforce has no access to skills improvement, according to a report by the Industrial Society.

'Not very qualified - raising skills in the UK workforce' also notes that the average time spent per year in training in the UK - 99.5 hours - lags behind almost every country except the US. That's 35 hours less than the OECD average and less than half that of Ireland. The report gives little acknowledgement to existing informal training, and rejects claims that this is a significant ongoing part of skills development.

These findings preview the review of workforce development which is expected from the Downing Street Performance and Innovation Unit, and suggest that British business can expect the government to intervene in this area soon. In particular, the report foresees attempts to change the "winner takes all" culture in which access to training favours those with advanced qualifications, whereas at the other end of the scale one in five adults falls below the literacy standard expected from an eleven-year-old child.

Though government action is expected on incentives and conditions favouring training, the report also suggests that the rise of the "McJob" must be recognised: the growth in low-skilled high-productivity occupations. Other forms of business support need attention because raising skills through work-based develpoment may not be not relevant to productivity in every area of the economy.

The report's main predictions based on the governement's past record are:
- increased tax incentives for companies investing in training
- the provision of a number of development days for everyone each year (employed and unemployed)
- an entitlement to training towards a Level 2 qualification for all adults
- simplified qualifications (there are estimated to be over 25,000 vocational qualifications)
- Investors in People will need to change their approach to increase uptake among SMEs and companies with no real tradition of training
- extension of the model provided by union learning representatives to non-union workplaces
- employers should be obliged to join Sector Skills Councils to take a greater role in fitting training provision to need

The Performance and Innovation Unit's report is expected this month.

'Not very qualified' report

Performance and Innovation Unit, workforce development project


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