Why don’t employers still train their staff?

What does a union learning rep or an officer reply to an employer who says that they don’t want to train their staff because then they’ll just leave (and presumably use the new skills to benefit the new employer)? The answer is, of course, that if the employer does train, people stay.

Employers train staff

Joking aside, it’s actually more likely that employees who don’t get any training and development support from their employer go look them somewhere else where they can feel valued and see progression opportunities.

Staying in the same job for a long period of time is definitely not the issue here, though. The issue is convincing employers that it is in their own interest to train their staff, develop skills, keep everyone motivated and business productive.

Recently released Employer skills survey 2017 tells a revealing, albeit not surprising, story about employers’ readiness to train. As in previous years over a third (34 per cent) of employers responded that they didn’t offer training and development opportunities to their staff.

Although the number of staff trained has gone up since the previous year, the total number of training days has gone down and so has the spending on training per employee.

Considering that the basis of this Department for Education (DfE) report is fairly large cohort, 87,000 employers, we should all be concerned.

The main reason employers cited for their unwillingness to train was that all their staff are fully proficient and there was no need for training.

Fortunately, there are also plenty of views and evidence that confirm that learning benefits both employees and employers.

Another report comes from the Government Office for Science. They have released a Foresight project report on Future Skills & Lifelong Learning which highlights the returns for spending on learning and that

Skills are intrinsically linked with economic growth, productivity improvement, competitiveness, and innovation.

Now, the question remains: why won’t some employers train their staff. Any decent employer should take a handle on workforce planning, engage unions and seriously think how the business will respond to future challenges without skilled staff.

Often employers mention that they want staff who can adapt to change but maybe it is the employers who need to look at how they are equipped to manage change themselves.

Employers can start with working with unions. Employees in unionised workplaces are a third more likely to get training in the workplace than non-unionised ones which tells about the stellar work unions are doing in their learning projects.

Unions can help employers to see the light.

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Kirsi Kekki

Kirsi Kekki is a unionlearn policy officer working in the Strategy team. She has worked in a number of trade unions in the UK and Finland with a variety of roles from tutoring to organising and project management.

Kirsi is currently looking after English and maths, adult learning and apprentice policy and support to unions.