A study produced by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on Monday has highlighted a growing desire for training within the workforce, and with it a growing frustration at the obstacles placed before workers in moving in this direction.

The survey comes at a time when work based learning is being expanded through a number of initiatives, but also at a time when the funding for adult continuing education beyond 18 or beyond Level 2 is being restricted due to budgetary constraints. And in spite of a number of projects designed to further the cause or work "“ based learning, including those enacted by The Training Foundation in their work with the Department of Health and the DfES, there evidently remains room for improvement.

The Nitty "“ Gritty

The two most popular reasons for not taking up work "“ based training that came from the report were; the worker was looking after children and therefore could not afford either the time for the course or the childcare supervision whilst attending the course (approximately 29% of respondents cited this); or the worker's current position was so stressful and time consuming that there simply was not any time or energy to spare for further training, no matter how desirable (the level of response for this was also approximately 29%).

More than half of the workers asked (around 52%) stated that they would like their employers to provide more opportunities for training, with almost as many (42%) saying they would like to take up training outside the work place in order to get a better job. This does not mean that employers need to fear a mass exodus of staff "“ only just more than one in five of those asked (21%, to be precise) stated that a desire to get a better post elsewhere was their motivation for further training.

Men and Women Agree and Disagree

The survey results also take into account the different points of view of both men and women. It was found that more than twice as many women compared with men stated that caring responsibilities stop their participation in training schemes (42% of women, compared with 18% of men). Just under one in three women (29%) said that help with childcare costs / provision would encourage them to take up training, and one in three (33%) said that more support from a spouse or a partner would help. This varies from the response garnered from men, whose desire for spousal support rested at 22% and desire for childcare assistance at merely one in six (16%).

However, on other matters the men and women were in complete accord. Almost four in five backed (77%) favoured paid time of work for training, whilst one in three (32%) stated that they would take unpaid time off to complete the training course. The issue of overtime also came up, with more than two out every five asked (42%) saying that less overtime, no matter whether paid or unpaid, would also help them be able to take up training opportunities.

A Little Help From My Friends"¦

The assistance and advice of colleagues who have undertaken training previously also proved very popular, according to the responses of the survey. Three out of five of the respondents cited "help and advice from a colleague at work with special knowledge" as being an extremely valuable tool. This function is being filled by Union Learning Reps across the country, numbering more than 8,000 and who are specially trained to assist their colleagues with training.

The General Secretary of the TUC 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.

"The survey gives a massive vote of confidence to union learning reps and strengthens the argument for paid time off for employees to study, with three-quarters of workers saying this would give them the boost they need to train."

The survey is released to coincide with the release of the film Love Learning which promotes the work of Learning Reps. This features case studies of a number of people who experienced problems with reading, writing and IT skills and were helped in overcoming this by advice from their local Learning Rep.

Mr. Barber said: "Love learning further emphasises the crucial role union learning reps play in helping thousands of people learn new skills. The powerful and moving accounts in the film highlight the fear people have about confronting their demons, and show the real difference learning has made to both their professional and personal lives."

Jethro Marsh

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