5. Continuing training for adult employees
Although a majority of British employers display
relatively low demand for the types of skills that are developed
through long-duration apprenticeship training, there are good
reasons for many of them to finance short periods of continuing
training for existing employees.
In the 2013 UK Commission's Employer Skills Survey
(UKCESS), as many as 71% of UK establishments reported that some
of their employees needed to acquire new skills or knowledge,
with many of these new skill requirements deriving from factors
such as the introduction of new goods or services or new work
practices or new technologies (Winterbotham et al, 2014).
These skill updating needs were reported across a
wide range of occupations but applied particularly to professionals,
personal service workers, managers and skilled trades workers.
Across all occupations the main types of skill in need of improvement
included technical and practical skills, planning and organising
skills and problem-solving skills. Other priority skill updating
needs included advanced IT/software skills for managers, professionals,
associate professionals and administrative and clerical workers
and customer handling skills for workers in sales and elementary
occupations (ibid). This reported incidence of skill updating
and improvement needs among existing staff was much higher than
the 4% of firms reporting skills-related recruitment difficulties,
defined as vacancies that were hard to fill for skills reasons
at a given point in time (ibid).
According to evidence from the Continuing Vocational
Training in Europe Survey in 2010, about 80% of UK firms supported
continuing training for at least some existing employees in order
to meet skill improvement needs of the kind described above (Eurostat,
2013, Table 1). This measure refers to continuing vocational training
courses designed either by the company itself or by external providers,
plus other forms of training such as planned learning through
job rotation, exchanges or secondments, participation in learning
or quality improvement groups, or self-directed learning. By this
yardstick the UK ranked third highest of 25 countries, with France
ranked 6th (76% of firms) and Germany 9th (73%).
However, the UK ranked much lower in terms of the
proportion of employees participating in planned continuing training
courses which took place away from their usual workplace: by this
measure the UK ranked 18th (31% of employees participating) compared
to France ranked 6th (45%) and Germany ranked 11th (39%).
Cross-country evidence on continuing training is
hard to gather and to interpret, and some other measures of the
incidence of continuing training show the UK comparing more strongly
against both France and Germany (O'Mahony, 2012). However, even
if we treat the comparative evidence with caution, there is evidence
internal to the UK which points to growing weakness in continuing
training provision. Recent analysis based on the Labour Force
Survey suggests that the average volume of job-related adult trainingin
terms of days per employeefell by about a half between
the mid 1990s and 2012, with the strongest effects on those in
younger age groups and those with lower levels of prior education
(Green et al., 2013).
This is paralleled in the US by similar evidence
of employers reducing their commitment to training for existing
employees: evidence derived from the US Survey of Income and Program
Participation suggests that employer-financed training for adult
workers fell by roughly 28% between 2001-09 (Waddoups, 2015).
This provides a degree of support for the proposition that 'responsibility
for developing the skills that [US] employers want has been transferred
from the employer to the job seekers and schools' (Cappelli, 2015:281).
Reductions in continuing training for adult workers
could potentially harm productivity performance, not just because
of possible failure to meet recognised skill updating needs (of
the kind revealed by the UK employers' survey described above)
but also because, in cross-country comparisons at industry level,
positive links between vocational skills and labour productivity
have been found to strengthen when the measures of vocational
skill take account of employer-provided job-related training as
well as certified vocational skills (Mason et al, 2014).
One well-known institution designed to stimulate
continuing training by firms is the French training levy scheme,
introduced in 1971, under which firms are obliged to spend specified
proportions of their wage bills (varying by firm size) on continuing
vocational training. For several years after 1971, French firms'
spending on continuing training rose steadily and, for all but
the smallest firms, reached levels well above the minimum required
share of wage costs (CEREQ, 2006). Although the impact of the
training levy is hard to disentangle from other influences on
training expenditure, successive Continuing Vocational Training
in Europe Surveys have shown higher levels of continuing training
per employee in France than in the UK or Germany and some researchers
have attributed this in part to the effects of the French levy
(Greenhalgh, 2002; Behringer and Descamps, 2009). However, as
in many countries which do not have training levies, continuing
training in France continues to be offered disproportionately
to more highly-educated employees than to lower-skilled workers
(Muller and Behringer, 2012).