Managing Director accessplanit
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What Brexit and Trump mean for training

5th Dec 2016
Managing Director accessplanit
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After the events of 2016, there’s only one thing I’m certain of…

Whatever else happens, in the last remaining days of what’s left of it, 2016 is sure to be remembered. We’ve lost icons like Bowie and Cohen, seen waves of immigrants strike the world’s conscience as they desperately flee war-torn countries. Oh, and Britain wants to cut itself out of the EU, while America’s elected a reality TV businessman as President.

And that leaves us in uncertain, unchartered territory. Here be dragons, and so on.

We’ve heard just as much doom-mongering as glee-mongering from all sides about events which, let’s be honest, have shaken up the established order – for good or ill. Now it’s time to sit back and take a look at what it actually all means. What’s the likely impact of June’s EU referendum, and what the subsequent election of Donald Trump to the Presidency mean for our industries?

What does this mean for training?

The economic shock, though not yet quite as bad as some claimed, will have obvious knock-on effects. When businesses are pulling their horns in, what’s perceived as ‘non-essential’ training is often the first to get put on the back-burner. I don’t always agree that halting investment is a good thing – smarter investments are better; investments that bring more efficiency to a business, for example. It’s a totally understandable position for nervous businesses to take, but even though, according to the UK Government, investment in employee training increased to £45.5bn in 2015, and globally there’s been a surge too, some training companies, particularly those reliant on technology to deliver their services, are feeling uneasy.

Google’s recent £1bn investment in Britain is an absolute boon to the technology sector – it shows that there is at least some confidence that Britain to navigate stormy seas. But I’m not convinced that Brexit has much to do with the decision, and I believe that Google’s expansion in Britain would’ve happened regardless of the vote. That has far less to do with Britain and Brexit, and far more to do with the bad blood between Google and the EU; a relationship that’s grown progressively strained over the past few years – from the controversial ‘right-to-forget’ regulations to the more recent accusations that Google’s omnipresent Android OS is abusing its market dominance in Europe.

Increased technology regulations 

Elsewhere in the technology world, we’re seeing more and more regulations come in. A good example is the recent ruling by the courts that Uber is technically an employer, rather than just a platform provider. From a technology perspective, this is bad news and proves to them that governments haven’t quite embraced what digitalisation offers. That will change. It has to, not least because these technologies are growing by the day – the alternative is an end-game where we place Airbnb hosts under the same rules and regulations as hoteliers. However, I’d fully expect to see a loosening around these sort of rules in future, almost entirely due to Brexit Britain’s desire to put on a business-friendly face. That’s a given, an absolute must since we’re about to go head-to-head with Europe, which has already upped its game in trying to attract British businesses.

In technology terms, that goal is ably helped by President-Elect Trump’s own troubles with Silicon Valley giants. Can you imagine two more dissimilar personalities than Donald Trump and Silicon start-ups headed by folks like Mark Zuckerberg? Despite a famous addiction to Twitter, and stating that the internet should remain ‘free and open without government censorship’, the President-to-be has rubbed many in Silicon Valley the wrong way, with his wavering U-turns on important issues like cyber security and net neutrality. He’s also started a war with Apple, one which saw Trump attempt a boycott over the company’s refusal to give FBI access to confidential files, and also demand they bring their manufacturing back to the shores of America. That would put the President-elect in direct conflict with China, where Apple is currently based, and whose own tech centre is currently thriving – and the result is an even more competitive marketplace.

If Trump isn’t clear about the direction of America’s technology sector, and how they interact with global rivals, it’s inevitable that some tech companies are going to start eyeing up other options. For Britain, that represents a real opportunity – particularly if Theresa May’s government is prepared to seriously compete not just with the EU, but with the emerging markets of South America and the East by relaxing demands on technology firms to entice software innovators to these shores.

The end-goal to this would be to see technologies really grow, to see the next Facebook-style game-changer develop, and discover even more mind-blowingly creative ideas (consider this: there was no YouTube in 2004 – that’s how far we’ve come in just 12 years). And with that growth comes exciting new ways to train smarter. Consider the possibilities that using advanced voice-recognition technology could offer learners, or what genuine AI could bring to training management. That’s not just exciting, it’s ground-breaking.

So, what's next?

And that brings us to the only thing I’m certain of after the roller-coaster ride of 2016: That as the marketplace becomes increasingly competitive, companies will need an edge to survive. An edge that comes from training their staff, developing their skills and thus enhancing the business.

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