UK Needs 'Work-Learn' Balance

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There is huge pent-up demand for learning new skills among the British workforce, but a range of obstacles - topped by overwork and stress - prevent many employees from taking up training, according to a TUC poll.

The survey asked a sample of workers whether they wanted more training, what had put them off taking up training and what would help them in the future.

The top two reasons for not taking up training suggests that the UK needs a new ‘work-learn’ balance, with just under one in three (29%) saying that they don’t have time because they have to look after children or have other caring responsibilities. The same proportion say that their current job has such long hours or is so stressful that they do not have the time or energy to take up a course.

Women (42%) are more than twice as likely as men (18%) to say they have caring responsibilities that stop them taking up training.

Nearly four out of five of those polled (77%) back paid time off from work, one in three (32%) would take time off even if it meant losing pay, and 42% say less overtime (paid or unpaid) would help them take up more training.

More than half the workforce (52%) say that they would like their employer to provide more training, and 42% say they would like to take up training outside work that would help them get a better job. But employers who are worried that their staff want training so that they can get a better job elsewhere will be reassured that only one in five (21 %) give this as a reason for seeking new skills.

The poll is published to coincide with the launch of a new film called ‘Love learning’, which promotes the work of union learning reps.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "Britain’s skills gap can be closed. This survey shows huge demand for work related learning, and a real hunger to get on at work. But the biggest barrier to learning is the overwork and long hours culture of too many UK workplaces. We have always said that long hours working hinders productivity. Now we know it stops people getting the new skills that can make workplaces more efficient."

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