Workers Favour Informal Learning Route

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Informal learning is workers' favourite method of gaining new skills, a NIACE survey has discovered.

Overall, 82% of the 2,000 respondents found learning by doing the job quite or very helpful. This was followed by being shown how to do things by others (62%), and watching and listening to others (56%). Just over half - 54% - felt that taking a course paid for by the employer or the worker was helpful, followed closely by reflecting on your own performance (53%).

However, markedly fewer of the least skilled, a key target for government training programmes, found courses helpful. Reading books and manuals (39%), using trial and error (38%) and using the internet (29%) were the least favourite methods.

A second key area of enquiry explored where the main responsibility for the training and development of workers lay - with the worker, their employer, or shared between the two. Just over one in five workers (21%) said that their employer was mainly responsible for their learning at work, whilst more than one in three (36%) accepted that it was mainly their responsibility, with the balance of 39% reporting that it was a shared responsibility.

NIACE believe that results of the Practice Makes Perfect survey call into question the focus of government policy on skills.

Alan Tuckett, director of NIACE said: “The survey raises important questions about the balance of our workforce skills policies. Firstly, there is powerful evidence in the survey that the British preference for less formal ways of learning remains deeply ingrained, and that government should recognise this, by encouraging a culture of learning and reflective practice in workplaces, alongside its drive to secure an increasingly qualified workforce. This finding is reinforced by other data in the survey that suggests that workers feel more benefit from all kinds of learning when working in places where thinking about how to do the job well is encouraged and shared between workers.”

He added: “Second, the findings about the balance of responsibility for training and development can be read in two ways. On the one hand, government can interpret the increasing recognition by workers that they need to take the main responsibility for their own development as evidence that its policy focus on securing individual commitment to learning is working well. On the other hand, the figures equally suggest that many workers have less faith in employer-led training and skills policies than Government currently has.

“Whichever is right, the survey suggests that the forthcoming Government action plan to implement the proposals made in the Leitch review of skills should give priority to trusting and supporting workers to identify their own development needs.”

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