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Last updated: 26.05.17

Why the government should invest in learning and development

Why the government should invest in learning and development

The latest report from CIPD warns that the UK is ‘sleepwalking’ into a low-value, low-skills economy and must invest in learning and development to resolve this problem.

Did you know that:

  • the UK ranks in the bottom four Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries for literacy and numeracy among 16-24 year olds?
  • UK employers train less and invest less in skills than the majority of European Union (EU) countries?
  • the UK lies fourth from the bottom in the EU league table on participation in job-related adult learning, with evidence showing a marked deterioration since 2007?

With the recent release of its report ‘From ‘inadequate’ to ‘outstanding’: making the UK’s skills system world class’, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has warned that the government must invest in learning and development to tackle low skills in the workplace.

The professional body for HR and people development also revealed that two decades of under-investment and failed policy on skills in this country which has contributed to the UK lagging far behind its competitors in Europe. Specifically, the UK lags behind the majority of OECD countries in literacy and numeracy, learning and development, and digital skills.

If the country continues to look past this issue, it will ‘sleepwalk’ into a low-value, low-skills economy that will leave the nation unprepared for its post-Brexit future. This is also particularly true if the UK is to face restrictions on accessing talent from outside the UK.

A widening skills gap

One of the key findings from the report was that the amount of money UK employers spend on training has decreased to a figure less than the majority of EU economies and less than the EU average. Since 2005, this gap has widened, and in 2010 the cost per employee was €266 in the UK, compared to €511 across the EU.

Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser for the CIPD and co-author of the report, hopes that this information will serve as a real wake-up call for government to move from the current failed skills policy and set the UK on a new course that “delivers the right results for individuals, organisations and the economy as a whole”.

She commented: “While more efforts are being made to reform education, it’s clear that there needs to be a much greater emphasis on learning and development in the workplace.

“As we move towards Brexit, and possible restrictions on overseas talent, it’s crucial that government works in partnership with education providers and businesses to address these deep-rooted issues that continue to blight individual and business potential.”

How do we solve this problem?

In order to address this problem and build strength and stability into the UK skills system, the CIPD has set out four points for the government to act on. The points are:

  • To make additional skills funding for the workplace a priority. The CIPD argues that funding could be allocated to training and development. For example, they could take five per cent from the National Productivity Investment Fund and £2 billion from the total funds raised by the Apprenticeship Levy.
  • Prioritise skills in the Industrial Strategy. Training and development, alongside leadership and line management have a direct impact on business and economic success. This is why, according the CIPD, it is vital the government’s Industrial Strategy recognises the value of improving skills.
  • Reframe the Apprenticeship Levy as a training levy. The CIPD also believes that the Apprenticeship Levy should be angled as a training levy to make it more flexible to employers and to boost individual skills.
  • Encourage companies to invest more in learning and development. Currently, the majority of the workforce of 2030 is already in work and won't be impacted by the present round of education reforms. However, instead of expecting the UK’s skills challenges to be solved at the point of supply, the government and businesses must act to build and nurture cultures of lifelong learning within organisations and society.


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