Training for employed people: the need for expansion and improvement
- 1The training of employees is essential if workers are to maintain their competitiveness and adapt to changes in the field of production.
- 2Investment in training for employed workers has fallen to 50% of levels prior to the economic crisis.
- 3Continual training for employed workers is concentrated among large-sized companies and benefits employees with higher prior qualifications.
Training employed people is a vital element for improving their employability and adapting their skills to changes at work and to the requirements of companies. In the long term, investing in the training of employees leads to an increase in companies’ productivity and competitiveness.
However, the reduction in budgets allocated to this type of training has limited its influence to a large extent. The budget for training for employed people grew progressively up to 1,545 million euros in 2010. After very severe cuts in 2012 (when it was cut back to 951 million euros), the slight increases of subsequent years have not enabled recovery of the amounts prior to 2012: in 2015 the budget reached 1,069 million euros.
As we can see in Figure, cutbacks have not occurred so much in the continual training offered by the companies or that of public employees, but have essentially been directed at the training offered by Spain’s government or its autonomous communities, so-called “supply-based training”.
The economic crisis has also affected the type of continual training that companies offer. Although the number of participants in training programmes has increased slightly, the courses offered are increasingly of a shorter duration. Continual training, furthermore, is taught fundamentally at large-sized companies (with coverage rates higher than 80% in the year 2016), while it is much less frequently found at small companies, whose coverage rate does not even reach 20%, a percentage that has fallen even further in recent years. In general, better-qualified employees with a higher prior education level receive more continual training.
1. Training for employed people within the framework of active employment policies
The aim of active employment policies (AEPs) is integration into the labour market of unemployed people or, in the case of those already working, the improvement of their qualifications to favour their continuation and promotion in their employment. Despite their importance for employment, the resources devoted to AEPs in Spain are meagre, after a suffering major reduction during the economic crisis: from nearly 8 billion euros allocated in 2008 down to less than 4 billion in 2013. Today they total less than 5.5 billion[MBI1] , as can be observed in Figure 1.
Active employment policies are grouped into three areas. The first is that of guidance, intermediation and placement policies, which are designed to guide and manage recruitment.
The second is that of employment promotion and job creation policies, such as those directed at self-employment and, above all, those that offer incentives to companies for hiring. These incentives for hiring through subsidies and reductions in social security contributions represented, according to data for 2013 from Eurostat, 16.2% of the total AEPs in the EU-28. In Spain this figure totalled 34.3%, i.e. more than double, even though a consensus exists among experts that these subsidies do not help to create employment (Lope, 2016).
The third area, of active employment policies, is that of training policies which favour the acquisition, upgrading or updating of skills and qualifications that favour employability. This third area is divided into two types of measures: a) those aimed at the unemployed, with occupational training as their main component, and b) those aimed at employed people, which are the subject of analysis here, and which in turn are divided into continuing training and supply-based training.
Continuing training is carried out within companies, and is a key element for them for ensuring employee adaptation to constant changes in the world of work. Supply-based training is provided by the Spanish Government and the autonomous communities through public calls backed by government funds. It is taken up by employed people who are seeking to improve suitable skills for their own jobs or to acquire new skills necessary to apply for other posts. In supply-based training courses, offered by training centres, up to 40% of those participating can be unemployed, but they are counted as participants in supply-based training for employed people.
Training employed workers is a vital element for improving their employability and enabling them to adapt their skills to changes in their work and to the requirements of companies. However, the reduction in resources allocated to AEPs in general and to supply-based training in particular has largely limited their influence.
This reduction occurs within the framework of what is widely accepted as a priority across the EU: the need to improve people’s skills to adapt them to the so-called “knowledge society”. Since the Lisbon Summit in 2000, the EU’s employment policy has been geared towards the knowledge society. This aspect is reaffirmed by the Europe 2020 Strategy (European Commission, 2010), according to which this type of society requires highly qualified jobs and ongoing training for workers, with the aim of improving their adaptation to changes (CEDEFOP, 2010). From this perspective, member states must invest in training to improve people’s qualifications and employability and thus business competitiveness.
Furthermore, it is important to take into account that in the near future, employment needs will be closely linked to technological advances. Such advances may have a negative influence on the volume of employment and will certainly affect the qualifications required to perform tasks (Arntz et al., 2016). For this reason, it is important to promote training for both unemployed and employed people that enables their skills to be adapted to new technological requirements and those related with the knowledge society.
The measures used by Spain to tackle the economic crisis, which included reducing resources allocated to training, are not heading in this direction (Figure 2).
The budget for training for employed people grew progressively to 1,545 million euros in 2010. Following a very dramatic cutback in 2012 (951 million), the subsequent slight increases have not enabled a return to the amounts available prior to 2012: in 2015 the sum reached was 1,069 million. This reduction also affects training for public employees, which is counted separately, and which has declined from over 140 million euros in 2009 to just over 50 in recent years.
The bulk of the budget is allocated to subsidies for companies for developing continuing training for their employees, which has gradually increased: 431 million in 2008 and 605 million in 2015. Quite the opposite occurs with supply-based training: the contribution to state-run schemes has been reduced (413 million in 2008 and 268 million in 2015) and even more so in those run by the autonomous regions (from 413 million in 2008 to just 111 million in 2015). With the passing of Law 30/2015, of 9 September, which regulates vocational training for employment, in 2016 there was no state scheme for supply-based training at all, and in 2017, of the 250 million euros budgeted, actions were only executed to the tune of 35 million euros. For this reason, Figure 2 stops at 2015, because once the afore mentioned law had been passed, whenever there was a state-run call, the requirements for implementing courses prevented many training centres from being able to access them. This has also meant that employed people – towards whom most supply-based training is geared – have had great difficulty in securing places on courses that interest them.
2. Continuing training and concentration of schemes
Continuing training is essential for enabling employed people to adapt to changes in the provision of goods and services. In Spain, it presents relatively modest figures, but these have not fallen since the crisis, as has occurred with those relating to supply-based training. Participants in continuing training have consistently increased since 2005 (Fundae, 2017 and other years), as shown in Figure 3.
It is necessary to clarify that participants are not equivalent to workers trained, since a worker may take more than one course. Thus, in 2016 the 3,766,997 participants represented 2,535,038 employed people who took continuing training courses.
As for the coverage rate, companies that provide training as a percentage of the total have gradually decreased: 30% in 2013, 27.4% in 2015 and 22.7% in 2016 (439,188 companies). But this figure varies according to company size. In 2016, the coverage rate among micro-companies (from 1 to 9 employees) was only 18.5%; it exceeded 50% in small companies (10 to 49 employees;) it was over 80% for medium-sized companies (from 50 to 249 employees), and exceeded 90% at large companies (over 250 employees).
Table 1 offers data of interest on the number of companies that train employees, the number of participants and the duration of the schemes. The 3.7 million participants in 2016 are distributed as follows: 376,383 correspond to micro-companies, 577,754 to small companies, 766,515 to medium-sized companies, and 2,046,354 to large companies. Despite the overall increase, participants from small companies and micro-companies have declined in the last two years.
The table shows a descending order of hours of training according to company size, given that face-to-face training, of a shorter duration, is more typical of large companies. In any event, it is important to underline the progressive reduction in the average duration of training. By way of example, the average 12.8 hours in large companies in 2016 barely exceeded 50% of the 24.3 hours registered in 2005, and the 15.6 hours of medium-sized companies are a long way from the 29 hours of average duration during the 2007-2009 period. It is evident that the economic crisis has had a negative influence on the substance of continuing training: more employed people are taking courses, but the courses increasingly last less time.
With respect to the characteristics of people who take continuing training courses, it should be highlighted that it is people with a university qualification and who occupy management or more highly qualified posts who enrol on courses of a longer duration or more than one course. This reaffirms the findings of other research: people already trained receive more continuing training (QUIT, 2000).
Men participate more (55.9% in 2016) than women (44.1%), exceeding their proportion in the employed population (53.8%); even though the participation of women has grown over the last decade (it stood at 40.1% in 2005), there continues to be a gap observable between men and women in continuing training.
With regard to age, the proportion of participants is broadly similar to the employment structure, although young people aged up to 25 years and people aged over 55 years participate less than would correspond to them.
In terms of activities where continuing training is carried out, there is a major concentration in just a few of the 27 professional families that make up the National Qualifications Catalogue. As shown in Table 2, the three professional families with the greatest presence in continuing training account for 57.6% of total participants, and the seven with the greatest presence for 87.3%. The degree of concentration is increasing, without any tendency towards greater diversity of training, which would appear to be necessary (Lope, 2016). Furthermore, part of this training has little importance for qualification in specific employment, as happens, for example, with work health and safety courses.
3. Supply-based training, decentralisation and participation of social agents
There are three programmes aimed at employed people:
- Sector plans, for workers of a particular sector. These are the plans that train the most people (73.3% of the total in 2015).
- Cross-sector plans, for the learning of skills common to various sectors. These are also aimed at self-employed people and members of the social economy
- Training, of a longer duration, that offers professional certification.
The latest data on state-funded supply-based training for employed people are from 2015 (Fundae 2016). Although the autonomous communities receive funding and run supply-based training schemes (as we saw in Figure 2), their data – in terms of people trained, types of actions, etc. – are not collected for the whole of Spain. For this reason only those corresponding to state-run calls can be analysed. The largest number of people to participate in supply-based training was 784,966 in 2010. But since then, the number has fallen, so by 2015 there were only 168,830 people of whom 28% were unemployed, meaning that the number of employed people who took state supply-based training barely approached 120,000. This reduction is explained by budget cuts which, in contrast, have hardly any repercussions on continuing training, which is funded with the professional training fees paid by member companies and employees.
As with continuing training, more supply-based training is attended by workers from higher professional and educational categories. By gender, 53% of participants in 2015 were male and 47% were female. Female participation in supply-based training is 3.4 points higher than in employment overall. This indicates a greater desire among women to gain admittance to training when, as in supply-based training, those who choose are the employees and not the companies. With respect to age, it is important to highlight that employed people aged over 45 years undergo less training, which complicates their adaptation to changes in the work environment.
With regard to training in sector plans, the only type that is somewhat significant numerically, breaking it down into the 27 professional families previously mentioned shows a high degree of concentration, although less than in continuing training. In the latter, the seven families with the greatest weight account for 87.3% of people trained, while in supply-based training they account for 73.8%.
The scenario offered by supply-based training is certainly discouraging. In addition to funding, the centralisation of training schemes, the difficulty of training centres to meet the requirements of calls and the scarce participation of social agents all combine to contribute to its problematic performance.
Trade unions and employer organisations alike criticise the limited nature of their role in designing the criteria used to organise continuing training. Law 30/2015, which reforms the system of vocational training for employment, formally maintains this participation in the current State Foundation for Employee Training, but in practice this does not happen.
Criticisms increase when referring to the near elimination of the presence of trade unions and employer organisations in supply-based training since the passing of Law 30/2015, which prevents their participation in implementing it. Social agents stress their knowledge of the production fabric’s employment needs and its sector and territorial characteristics alike to defend their participation in the design and implementation of supply-based training (Lope, 2018). They also point out that no notice is taken of their proposals through the joint collective agreement committees, which should define the training for each sector according to the knowledge of the trade unions and sector employers’ organisations. With this, their understanding is that supply-based training for employed people is not designed in line with the needs of the territory’s production fabric.
4. Proposals and conclusions
In the face of the limitations presented by employee training to adapt workers’ skills to changes in job requirements and improve their employability, it becomes necessary to increase the resources allocated to it.
The reduced participation of social agents in defining the criteria and in the implementation of continuing and supply-based training schemes is one of the limitations. The presence of these agents in supply-based training in some autonomous communities offers positive aspects, such as better implementation of schemes with technological content in certain activities and territories (Lope, 2018). Therefore, that participation should be strengthened through the decentralisation of training for employed people.
Also, although continuing training in companies shows a growing number of participants, the substance and depth of the schemes is gradually decreasing. This is a situation that must be reversed, as is happening with the gender gap. A greater control of continuing training resources, accompanied by incentives to increase their substance and promote greater participation of women are elements that need to be developed. Equally, it is essential to increase continuing training in micro-companies.
Finally, supply-based training for employed people and continuing training do not respond to strategic criteria for supporting emerging activities or activities of occupational interest. This is why the concentration of schemes into just a few professional families has been reiterated, with no attention being paid to the interest in selectively promoting activities that represent improvements in the number and quality of jobs. Thus, the participation of social agents should be encouraged in order to cater better for sector and territorial training needs. However, in parallel, the need also exists to promote major changes in Spain’s production and employment model.
ARNTZ, M., T. GREGORY and U. ZIERHAN(2016): The risk of automation for jobs in OECD countries.A comparative analysis, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers.
CEDEFOP (2010): Skills supply and demand in Europe: medium-term forecast up to 2020, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
EUROPEAN COMISSION (2010): Europe 2020. A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, Brussels: European Commission.
FUNDAE (Fundación Estatal para la Formación en el Empleo) (2017 and other years): Formación en las empresas. Informe anual 2016, Madrid: Fundae.
LOPE, A. (2018): "Limitaciones de la formación a las personas ocupadas para adecuar sus capacidades a los cambios en el empleo", en F. MIGUÉLEZ(coord.):La revolución digital en España. Impacto y retos sobre el mercado de trabajo y el bienestar, Bellaterra: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
LOPE, A. (2016): "La relegación de la formación en el nuevo modelo de políticas activas de empleo", in Anuario IET 2015.
QUIT (Centre d’Estudis Sociològics sobre la Vida Quotidiana i el Treball) (2000): ¿Sirve la formación para el empleo?, Madrid: Consejo Económico y Social (CES).
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