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Home > News > May 2007 > 29 May 2007

Survey finds preference for less formal learning

According to a survey from the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), UK workers have an overwhelming preference for less formal ways of learning to improve job performance.

NIACE says the central findings of the survey on learning at work poses challenges for current Government skills policy.

For the survey (Practice Makes Perfect), a sample of 2,076 workers in the UK were asked which of ten ways of learning were helpful in learning to do the job better.

Learning by doing the job on a regular basis was the favourite method - overall, 82% found this quite or very helpful.

This was followed by being shown how to do things by others (62%), and watching and listening to others (56%).

Just 54% felt that taking a course paid for by the employer or the worker was helpful, followed closely by reflecting on your own performance (53%).

Reading books and manuals (39%), using trial and error (38%) and using the internet (29%) were the least favourite methods.

NIACE says each of the ten methods of learning to improve job performance attracted fewer positive responses in the 2007 survey than in the surveys of 2004 and 2006.

The survey also explored where the main responsibility for the training and development of workers lay - with the worker, their employer, or shared between the two.

Just over one in five workers (21%) said that their employer was mainly responsible for their learning at work, whilst more than one in three (36%) accepted that it was mainly their responsibility, with the balance of 39% reporting that it was a shared responsibility.

Fewer (28%) of the youngest workers, aged 17-19, felt the main responsibility lay with themselves, whilst 41% of 55 plus employees thought they bore the main responsibility.

Alan Tuckett, director of NIACE said, "The survey raises important questions about the balance of our workforce skills policies. Firstly, there is powerful evidence in the survey that the British preference for less formal ways of learning remains deeply ingrained, and that Government should recognise this, by encouraging a culture of learning and reflective practice in workplaces, alongside its drive to secure an increasingly qualified workforce. This finding is reinforced by other data in the survey that suggests that workers feel more benefit from all kinds of learning when working in places where thinking about how to do the job well is encouraged and shared between workers.

"Second, the findings about the balance of responsibility for training and development can be read in two ways. On the one hand, Government can interpret the increasing recognition by workers that they need to take the main responsibility for their own development as evidence that its policy focus on securing individual commitment to learning is working well. On the other hand, the figures equally suggest that many workers have less faith in employer-led training and skills policies than Government currently has.

"Whichever is right, the survey suggests that the forthcoming Government action plan to implement the proposals made in the Leitch review of skills should give priority to trusting and supporting workers to identify their own development needs."

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