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Business professors say lack of training a concern

By Moira Finn | Feb. 7, 2012

New research from Memorial’s Faculty of Business Administration shows that nearly 50 per cent of workers do not have access to employer-sponsored training. They say it is often low-skilled workers with poor prospects in today’s economy who are excluded from training opportunities -- trends with worrying implications for Canada’s long-term competitiveness.

In addition to workers not offered training, a further 16 per cent – or one in six -- of those offered training do not take full advantage of the opportunities.

These are some of the findings revealed in the article Declining versus participating in employer-supported training in Canada, published in the current issue of the International Journal of Training and Development. Read the article here:

The research is significant, the authors argue, because it indicates there are barriers preventing Canadian workers from bettering their skills and employment outcomes – a trend which, if it continues, will impact Canada’s global competitiveness.

“Training is key for marginalized workers to upgrade skills and improve their plight, so it is important to define and understand which workers have the chance to take training, whether or not they do so, and why,” explained Dr. Gordon Cooke, associate professor, industrial relations, Faculty of Business Administration.

“This is a first step for more targeted public policy responses to boost training availability and uptake,” he added.

The research by Dr. Cooke, James Chowhan, PhD candidate DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, and Dr. Travor Brown, professor, labour relations and human resources at Memorial University, uses data from Statistics Canada 2005 Workplace and Employee Survey (WEB) to determine which workers have access to employer-supported training and who takes advantage of training opportunities. The authors classified workers into four categories: takers, who take all training offered; choosers, who take some and decline some training; decliners, who decline all training; and excluded, those not offered training.

“It is the latter two categories with which we are most concerned,” said Dr. Cooke.

A disappointing but not altogether surprising finding of the research is that women, older workers, less educated workers and employees of very small, small and medium-sized businesses were substantially more prevalent in the excluded category, while most of the choosers and takers were highly-educated managers and professionals – likely secure in their occupations.

The researchers hope the empirical findings and the conceptual framework they use for this research stimulates additional research to investigate why training is declined and to find ways to make training more accessible in Canada and in other jurisdictions as well.

“If, for instance, workers decline training solely due to logistical hurdles – family issues or an inability to access training during work hours, then remedies to boost training levels at a corporate and national level can be designed,” said Dr. Cooke.

“We know that training is key to improving people’s employment outcomes, but it is not just good for individual workers: a highly-trained national workforce benefits employers and society in general, so we may find that the government needs to play a more hands-on role in labour market policy.”