Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance

Learning Organisation, Lifelong Learning & the Mystery of the Vanishing Employer

This paper reviews UK employers’ provision of lifelong learning. It opens with an overview of the concept of the learning organisation and the barriers that stand in the way of its adoption, arguing that relatively few UK organisations have or are about to become learning organisations. It then examines the record on providing lifelong learning to its adult workforce, which suggests that certain groups of workers (parttimers, older workers, those in low status jobs, those working in SMEs, and the less well qualified) are at risk of receiving very little non task specific training. The paper then highlights the dwindling role, which policy makers are according to employers in the strategies for lifelong learning. The structural factors that explain this picture are outlined, including firms’ product market strategies, the impact of the structure of the domestic market, the persistence of routinised forms of work organisation and job design, and the pressure for the maximisation of short-term profits. The paper concludes with a plea for a different style and type of policy approach to lifelong learning, that engages with these issues and which addresses the often-limited demand for higher levels of skill in the workplace.

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