Professional training has a great impact on development of employees and their career growth, the rate of unemployment and the level of service provided by organizations. The main problems faced by the UK labor market are closely connected with the structure of education and vocational-training. The main problem with training in the UK is that many employees lack basic skills acquiring only narrow and job-specific skills.
This problem has deep roots and closely connected with vocational training and education. On the one hand, problem-based approach prevents many young people to receive broad vocation education. Many young people receive good professional training but lack “soft skills”: “they go on to explain that candidates are normally academically proficient but lacking in soft skills such as communication as well as verbal and numerical reasoning” (Many graduates 2007). Similarly, the contrasting appeal of the ‘back to basics’ movement has depended on its ability to conjure up linked images of order in the classrooms, at home and on the streets.
Competence-based approach is aimed to train employees in a particular area only but deprive them chance to acquire basic skills. The previous problem leads to high rate of unemployment and vacancies in the UK. Many employees have a narrow qualification and cannot find high paid job for years. There was no explicit aim within the training of increasing individuals’ skill levels or broadening their experience.
The technical bias of this training implies a somewhat different view from the long-term individual development. This raises the point that workforce skill levels will always need to be high in such knowledge-based organizations. One of the immigrant comments that: ‘Of all the job applications I have made, hardly anybody has even bothered to reply. In desperation I did complete one term of a course as a teaching assistant but then the funding ran out because I have not lived in this country long enough” (It Seems Nobody Wants Our Skills 2006).
The problem is that training courses in the UK do not allow job-seekers to obtain a broad and ‘flexible’ knowledge which can be used in different setting. Knowledge gained on award bearing courses may be used in all three contexts, but the formal assessment requirements give priority to the specific expectations of the academic context. The first characteristic of the training context is its specialized language.
A second is the high value placed on theories rooted in traditional disciplines or established fields of academic study. These characteristics limit the ways in which knowledge can be used in training contexts with important consequences for knowledge acquisition. But these perceived constraints on those whose primary interest in training lies in other contexts need to be balanced against one major positive feature of the academic context. According to Brierley (2005):
“The problem is especially bad in London, where, according to Bari, unemployment in Muslim Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities is two to three times higher than the national average. “If we are going to tackle the problem,” he said, “we must look at deprived groups more seriously, and build partnerships with community and voluntary sectors” (11).
Researchers report (Black 1999) that organizations are still focusing on reinvention and reengineering as they continue to place greater emphasis upon improving narrow skills of employees. This increased attention to training is expected despite downsizing and delaying efforts in the organization. The strength of these trends is likely to continue even if the names change from time to time, for the changes emerge from a growing realization that traditional ways of doing business and being organized prevents an organization from moving fast enough, with high enough quality, or at low enough cost to meet the growing demands and competitive pressures placed on it. Researchers found that:
“Patterns of training tend to reinforce existing inequalities in skills attainment, with people with higher academic attainment generally receiving more training. Those less likely to receive it are semi-skilled manual and service workers, part-timers and older workers” (The Skills Challenge 2003, xviii).
The next decade will continue to witness major changes in organizations. Organizations will continue to get flatter, and power will be more dispersed among employees who are knowledge workers and have the technology to make decisions previously reserved for management. As Black (1999) noted, if information is power, then dispersed information is dispersed power, and that dispersement is what knowledge and technology does. There should be an increased emphasis upon the use of cross-functional and multi-skilled teams, which are essential in taking advantage of advanced technologies, and these developments should free the smaller number of managers to focus on higher level strategic issues.
“It found seven per cent of adults in North Yorkshire – some 10,000 in York and 30,000 across the rest of the county – thought they were missing out on promotions, pay rises and career opportunities at work” (Sterling 2004). The most disturbing facts are that many employees do not have generic skills. “When employers are asked what skills they had difficulty finding to fill their skill shortage vacancies or to overcome skills gaps, they cite a range of technical and practical skills in combination with generic skills” (The Skills Challenge 2003, xviii). Off-the-job training is relatively efficient from the standpoint of learning, but relatively inefficient in transferring learning from the training courses to the job. On-the-job techniques present few transfer-of-training problems (Hart, Shipman 1991).
The main solutions proposed by The SSDA and the Skills for Business include changing nature of training programs and new teaching methods aimed to improve knowledge level and basic skills required in many professional field. Training courses on the whole, do not share this expectation about new professional knowledge. New knowledge is increasingly sought to cope with external demands for change but rarely for the ongoing improvement of practice.
A significant minority of training programs attempt to develop or import new knowledge in response to perceived internal problems or new opportunities. But even in these training programs it is only some teachers who seek any stimulus for change; others will resist it. In many training programs the conservers of the status quo are dominant for long periods of time, and the general attitude towards introducing new knowledge is strongly discouraging (Leadership skills hold Britain back 2007).
Australia is one of the countries which introduced new approach to training and vocational preparation rejecting a competence-based approach (Cornford, 2000). They propose to adapt employees to organizational settings by being socialized into the prevalent norms, thus reducing the uncertainty of not knowing how to behave. The perpetual threat of instability at training courses level creates a strong need for maintaining stability at organization level, unless prevailing institutional conditions are perceived as a cause of problems. Institutional change is an enormous task, and the introduction and use of new knowledge by individuals is extremely difficult in this context.
“Only if there is effective use of human resources and integration of research knowledge, … will it be possible to develop substantial frameworks to guide teachers in the complex process of curriculum design, and to assist teachers to ensure that students achieve genuinely superior levels of learning and skilled performance (Cornford, 1999 135).
The case of Australia shows that it is important to change education policy and give employees flexible knowledge which can be applied to many profession fields. Only in this case, it will be possible to reduce a number of unemployed professionals and semiskilled workforce. Some other nations (Germany, Italy) have partially solved the problem of producing qualified personnel by running training programs which are usually owned and firmly controlled by the state (Black 1999).
The extent to which HRM specialists have the capacity to generate change within an organization will be determined largely by their acceptability and perceived professional competence. They must therefore ensure that they have the potential to undertake projected areas of assessment or they will find themselves in the situation of isolating future areas of activity that are beyond their professional competence, for example, internal training of senior managers. HRM specialists must also undertake a preassessment examination of available training resources: there is little point in going into battle without a detailed and realistic survey of their own strengths (and weaknesses).
HRM specialists cannot afford to ignore the values, expectations, and perceptions of those within the organization, particularly at top management levels. It is essential that training activities contain and reflect the actual organizational culture or value systems and expectations of the organization and not what the HRM specialists feel it “ought” to be. The importance of the wider concept of organizational culture has relatively recently come to the fore as an important factor at all levels of training efforts and is well illustrated in this context in the work of Ch. Carr (1992) and his comparative study of productivity in Britain, Germany the USA and Japan.
The main solution to the current crisis is that training courses must not be too narrow. Employees should acquire a broader vision, view issues from several perspectives, see many alternative courses of action, expect to handle multiple interpretations, etc. Where rival theories or explanations exist, academic staff are expected to give the employee-trainee a choice and to avoid being prescriptive. Adhering to these norms, however, constrains a lecturer from spending much time on any one idea; and to focus on any one trainee work-context to study the practical implications of an idea would be unfair to the other trainees.
Hence the detailed working-out of an idea is left for employees to handle on their own, unless there is strong support from individual tutorials (Brierley, 2005). As a result, some trainees have considerable difficulty in moving beyond the purely replicative use of new ideas; and staff are cut off from opportunities to enrich their own understanding through dialogue with their practical experience. Academic freedom and breadth of training take precedence over knowledge use, and trainees get relatively little support for working with ideas and making them part of their own thinking.
Current state of the problem and its impact on labor market and economy suggest that it is crucial to redesign the whole system of education and training: curriculum development and evaluation, management, public relations, development of policies and procedures, case discussions, etc. Success depends on social relations and institutional politics. Advocates and providers of multi-skilled training courses with substantial professional –based components recognize that knowledge use has to be integrated with ongoing institutional life, but have not always thought through many of the implications.
As the pace and complexity of change in organizations continues, training must become more closely integrated with the organization’s strategic agenda. To do this, training will need a much wider exposure to the organization’s internal and external environment and labor market. Training in the UK should foster an environment for excellence by taking a proactive stance in linking training to strategic issues.
This will require increased research on the impact of organization vision and strategy on HR and HRD, and an increased willingness to participate in strategy formulation and implementation. Training philosophy needsto integrate itself more closely with a wide range of HR functions, such as recruitment, staffing, labor relations, employee relations, and organizational analysis. The training function needs to take a strategic orientation from service provider to performance consultant, policy setter, and value purveyor.
Black, J.P. 1999. Globalizing People through International Assignments, Reading, M.A.: Addison Wesley.
Brierley, N. 2005. The Heat Is On: Britain May Be Poor in Skills, but It Does Not Lack the Funds to Tackle the Problem. It’s about Time That Employers Realised There’s Something in It for Them. Natalie Brierley Reports. New Statesman, Vol. 134 (4735), April 11, pp. 11-16.
Carr, Ch. 1992. Productivity and Skills in Vehicle Component Manufacturers in Britain, Germany the USA and Japan. National Institute Economic Review, 139, p. 79.
Cornford, I.R. 2000. Competency-Based Training: Evidence of a Failed Policy in Training Reform. Australian Journal of Education, 44 (2), p. 135.
Hart, P.E., Shipman, A. 1991. Financing Training in Britain. National Institute Economic Review, No. 136, p. 77.
It Seems Nobody Wants Our Skills; JOB HUNT: Highly-Qualified Couple Struggle to Find Work in Britain. 2006. Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), March 21, 6.
The Skills Challenge in the UK – Developing the Skills for Business Priorities. 2003.
New Statesman, 132, March 10, p. xviii
Sterling, T. 2004. UK workers ‘lack computer skills. Retrieved from http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/jobs/pjobsrecruitmentnews/display.var.1059955.0.uk_workers_lack_computer_skills.php
Many graduates ‘lack soft skills’ 2007. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6311161.stm
Leadership skills hold Britain back. 2007. Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardian_jobs_and_money/story/0,3605,900177,00.html
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