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Government survey shows sharp rise in employers not offering any training

Published date
New statistics reveal a large increase in the proportion of employers not providing any training to workers. The government should give everyone a ‘right to retrain’, to ensure workers can avoid being trapped in unemployment.

In the two years from 2017 to 2019, non-training employers increased from 34% to 39% of all employers.

And the latest edition of the biennial survey - Employer Skills Survey - includes a snapshot of the latest workforce training trends during the second half of 2019.

It also allows comparisons with the previous surveys conducted using the same approach.

Over 81,000 employers were interviewed between June and December last year in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (the Scottish government decided not to participate in the 2019 survey).

And although the timing means these latest findings don’t give us any indication about the impact of Covid-19 on workforce training, the accepted view is that training trends have worsened considerably since the lockdown in March.

The authors of the survey report suggest this, saying that “the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020 means that the economic landscape has changed significantly since survey fieldwork was conducted.”

Training opportunities for workers is falling

The 2019 survey highlights many fewer training opportunities for workers since the previous survey.

For example, the amount of training per worker - measured as training days per employee per annum – fell from 4.0 days in 2017 to 3.6 days in 2019.

In the same timeframe the total volume of training – measured as total days of training per annum – declined by 6 million, down from 105m to 99m.

In addition, 40% of workers said that they had received no training in the past 12 months compared to 38% saying this in 2017.

Employers offering off-the-job training were down 5 percentage points, from 48% in 2017 to 43% in 2019.

This is affecting some groups more than others

It is not possible to ascertain from the survey which groups have been hardest hit by this recent decline in training.

While the survey does give a breakdown of trends by sector, it does not provide an analysis broken down by individual characteristics.

However, research studies are able to do this by drawing on training data from other large surveys (e.g. the government’s Labour Force Survey). 

For example, TUC research commissioned from Professor Francis Green shows that the total volume of workforce training declined by 10% between 2011 to 2018. 

Further analysis of the data drawn from the Labour Force Survey in this TUC study showed that two groups were hit hardest – those with lower-level qualifications and younger workers.

Workers with qualifications below GCSE (or vocational equivalent) experienced a 20% cut to the amount of training they received, which was double the average rate of decline.

Workers aged 16-34 also saw a disproportionately larger cut in training, a reduction of 16%.

These are two groups who are now facing the greatest prospect of losing their jobs and being trapped in unemployment.

It’s time for a right to retrain

The TUC is calling on the government to give all workers a right to retrain as part of a package of measures to tackle unemployment urgently.

Independent evaluations of the Union Learning Fund have consistently demonstrated that it is particularly effective at supporting workers who don’t get their fair share of training.

A growing number of stakeholders are joining with the TUC to call on the government to reverse its decision to cut the funding for the Union Learning Fund and unionlearn.

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