It’s no secret that Britain has a training problem. Our working adults aged between 25 and 64 hold a third less vocational qualifications than other OECD countries, while UK business investment also sits well below the OECD average. At the same time, we are struggling to overcome a chasmic digital skills gap, with vacancies in the tech sector now equivalent to 13.8% of the country’s entire tech workforce. These are critical issues policymakers, industry and training providers must come together to resolve if we are to unlock productivity and growth.

QA commissioned public policy research agency Public First to investigate businesses’ perceptions of training and the barriers they face when it comes to investing in critical skills. The report “Workplace Training: The Productivity and Growth Accelerator” gets under the skin of these challenges and perceptions, giving businesses a voice to explore what could be done differently and providing practical solutions that we believe might help break through the artificial ceiling we’ve created in training and skills investment. The research includes quantitative insights from 515 CFOs and financial decision makers of English companies, including 356 SME respondents and findings from a qualitative roundtable of business organisations and employers.

The research highlights key findings including:

  • 26% of businesses have not offered staff formal training beyond the basic functions of a job in the past 12 months, despite 83% agreeing it has a positive effect on performance
  • 83% of apprenticeship levy-paying businesses expect to spend less than 50% of their levy pot this year
  • While businesses experience a wide range of financial barriers to investing in training, many of the most pertinent are non-financial
  • Businesses also have a lack of knowledge when it comes to knowing how to engage with schemes like the apprenticeship levy, leading them to rely on less formal and easier-to-access training provision
  • A culture of engagement in training can see businesses utilise training more effectively, embed it into operations and retain staff for longer

The key recommendations include calls to:

  • Shift the culture of training within the business community to drive greater investment by implementing training investment reporting
  • Change how businesses engage with apprenticeships including reforming the apprenticeship standards process and simplifying the apprenticeship levy system to make it easier to use
  • Make adjustments to accountancy practices to ensure training is financially attractive and money already in the system can be used effectively

Download the new report