Report

Employer Skills Survey (ESS) in UK – Three-fifths (61%) of employers had funded or arranged training

The Employer Skills Survey (ESS) has run biennially since 2011, providing a vital source of intelligence on the skills issues employers face. ESS traditionally has an inward- looking focus assessing the current skills position and skills needs of employers. It has sat alongside the Employer Perspectives Survey, which is primarily outward-looking, covering provision of and engagement with the wider skills system. In ESS 2019, the two surveys were, in effect, merged, by incorporating EPS questions as modules.

This report focuses on findings relating to training and workforce development, making up one of four thematic reports to supplement the core ESS findings on skill-shortage vacancies, skills gaps and key training measures.

Most of the training measures reported are based on the full sample of 81,013 respondents across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Some topics were modularised in order to integrate the EPS questions, including questions covering employer provision of training designed to lead to vocational qualifications and the extent to which employers sought advice on skills and training-related issues. In total, 16,057 respondents were included in this module.

In addition, a separate follow-up survey explored the investment employers had made in providing training to employees in the previous 12 months (the “Investment in Training Survey”).

Incidence of training and workforce development

Three-fifths (61%) of employers had funded or arranged training for any of their employees over the previous 12 months. This is lower than found previously in the ESS series from 2011 to 2017, when two-thirds of employers (65%-66%) had provided training over the previous 12 months.

The decrease in the proportion of employers providing training was driven by results in England and Northern Ireland, where the proportion of training employers had decreased by 5 percentage points and 4 percentage points respectively compared with 2017. In contrast, the proportion of employers providing training in Wales remained stable (62%).

Results varied by sector, with training most common among employers in Education and Public Administration (each mentioned by approaching nine in ten employers), in comparison, only around half of establishments in Information and Communications and the Construction sectors provided training.

Incidence of training increased substantially as establishment size increased; less than half (46%) of employers with 2 to 4 employees had provided training, compared with three-quarters (75%) of those with 5 to 24 employees, and almost all (92%) of those with 25 or more employees. Employers were more likely to have provided on-the-job training than off-the-job training in the previous 12 months (49% and 43% respectively); three in ten (31%) had provided both.

Number and profile of staff trained

Employers trained a total of 16.5m staff over the previous 12 months, very similar to the 16.4m figure reported in 2017. However, due to a 4% increase in the total workforce from 2017 to 2019, the proportion of the workforce trained has fallen from 62% in 2017 to 60% in 2019.

The overall decrease in the proportion of the workforce trained was driven by a decline in England (60%, down from 62% in 2017). In contrast, the proportion of the workforce trained in Northern Ireland (62% vs. 60% in 2017) and Wales (65% vs. 58%) had increased.

The proportion of staff trained increased as establishment size increased, ranging from a third (36%) of staff among establishments with 2 to 4 employees, to two-thirds (67%) among establishments with 250 or more staff.

In terms of sector, the proportion of staff trained was highest in the Health and Social Work (76%), Education (75%) and Public Administration (72%) sectors. In contrast, less than half of staff in the Manufacturing and Construction sectors received training (each 48%).

By occupation, Caring, Leisure and Other Services occupations remained the most likely to have been trained (75%), although the proportion had decreased since 2017 (80%). Fewer staff had also been trained compared with 2017 among Elementary occupations (54%, compared to 59% in 2017), Machine Operatives (47% vs. 52%) and Managers (46% vs. 49%). In contrast, the proportion of Associate Professionals receiving training has risen since 2017 (66% vs. 62%).

Training days

Employers provided 99m training days over the previous 12 months, equivalent to 6.0 days per annum per trainee and 3.6 days per employee. Despite employment growth of 4% since 2017 across England, Northern Ireland and Wales and a 1% increase in the number of staff trained, the total number of training days undertaken was 6% lower than in 2017. As a result, the number of training days per person trained (i.e. ‘per trainee’) and per employee were also lower than in 2017 (6.4 days per trainee and 4.0 days per employee).

Despite a higher proportion of employers training than in 2017, Wales saw the biggest decrease in training days per trainee (down to 5.1 days, compared with 6.2 in 2017 and 7.2 in 2015).
In line with historical patterns, training days reduced as establishment size increased, falling from 8.8 days per trainee among establishments with 2 to 4 staff to 4.7 days among establishments with 250 staff or more.

The Public Administration and Hotels and Restaurants sectors provided most training days per trainee over the last 12 months (8.2 and 8.0 days respectively), although both had decreased on 2017 levels (9.8 and 8.9 days respectively).

The Education and Transport and Storage sectors, which have historically ranked low on this measure, provided the lowest number of days training to their trainees (4.6 and 4.9 days respectively), although the Transport and Storage sector was one of the few sectors to report an increase since 2017 (4.5 days per trainee).

Investment in training

Employers had invested around £42.0bn in training over the previous 12 months, slightly less in real terms than in 2017 in (down 0.5%). This was equivalent to a spend of £2,540 per trainee and £1,530 per employee (1% and 5% decreases respectively on 2017). Training spend per trainee per annum was higher in England (£2,570) than in Northern Ireland (£2,190) and Wales (£2,130).
By sector, the largest increase in total training expenditure occurred in the Business Services sector, from £9.4bn in 2017 to £11.4bn in 2019 (an increase of 21%), however spend per trainee per annum was highest in Construction (£4.4k), despite decreasing from the 2017 average (£4.8k).

The overall composition of training expenditure shifted slightly compared to previous years, with off-the-job and on-the-job training each accounting for half of overall spend, compared with 55% spent on off-the-job training in 2017. Off-the-job training expenditure decreased in real terms by around £2.3bn compared with 2017, whereas on-the-job training expenditure increased by around £2.1bn.

Types of training provided

The most common type of training provided in the last 12 months was job specific training (mentioned by 84% of training employers). Health and safety or first aid training and basic induction training for new staff were also both provided by the majority of employers that had trained (71% and 60% respectively), although incidence for both of these types of training had decreased since 2017 (by 3 percentage points and 5 percentage points respectively).

Results show an increase in the use of online training and e-learning. Overall, 56% of training employers funded or arranged online training or e-learning for staff (up from 51% in 2017). Increases were reported across all nations, though training employers in Northern Ireland remained the least likely to utilise online methods (42%).

Use of online methods increased with employer size: under half (45%) of employers with 2 to 4 employees that trained had made use of these, compared with approaching nine in ten (86%) of those with 250 or more employees.

By sector, at least three-quarters of training employers had arranged online training in Education, Financial Services, Public Administration Health and Social Work. In contrast, it was only provided by a quarter of training employers in the Primary Sector & Utilities, and by a minority of those that trained in the Manufacturing, Transport and Storage and Construction sectors (each 38-40%).

There was no change compared to 2017 in the proportion of training employers offering other self-learning (i.e. besides online or e-learning) where the employee does the learning at a time of their own choosing (42%). Subgroup patterns were similar to those reported for online training.

More than two-fifths (43%) of training employers had trained staff towards a nationally recognised qualification in the last 12 months. This represents a reduction of 3-4 p.p. compared with previous ESS waves since 2011. In total 2.9m employees across England, Wales and Northern Ireland had been trained to nationally recognised qualifications compared with 3.2m in 2017 and 3.4m in 2015.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Employer Skills Survey 2019: training and workforce development

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