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Few employers provide training to help workers advance, survey shows

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If you feel like you're not getting enough help to stay up to speed with your job, you're not alone.

A survey by business consulting firm Accenture Canada found that 63 per cent of Canadian workers had to learn new skills in the past five years to perform their jobs, but only 27 per cent of companies are providing their employees with formal learning or company-provided skills upgrading programs.

Because of the discrepancy, 66 per cent of employees said they were unsure that they would be able to easily move to a more demanding role in their organizations.

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The research was designed to explain why at a time of high unemployment, many employers say they're finding it difficult to hire people with the skills that they need, said Janet Krstevski, the lead for talent and organization for Accenture Canada and an author of the study.

"We concluded that workers are eager and ready to learn more skills, but they need more support and guidance from their employer on what skills they will need in the future," she said.

"There is a great opportunity here for employers to identify the people who have the foundation to move into a different kind of job if they had help in building a set of needed skills," Ms. Krstevski added.

The survey consisted of written surveys of 1,025 workers about how they keep their skills up-to-date in a changing work force, as well as in-depth interviews with 36 senior executives at large Canadian companies.

Only half of the workers surveyed said their employers provide a clear understanding of the skills they will need to take advantage of opportunities and move up in their organization.

While a majority of respondents said their employers document their skills, in many cases that consisted only of looking at their education, job experience and current responsibilities, rather than reviewing the workers' ability to stretch their potential.

The study found that two-thirds of the employees believe it is their responsibility to upgrade their skills and most said that with better communication about the organization's needs in the coming years, they would do so.

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While 45 per cent said they have taken courses to add technology skills in the past five years, only 21 per cent made efforts to boost their analytical and problem-solving skills; and 20 per cent took courses or mentoring to upgrade management skills.

If training money is short, companies should look at building mentoring and e-learning into the work days, Ms. Krstevski suggested.

Another route would be to set up an internal social network where employees can share experiences and solutions they have found to problems.

"These approaches can be much more cost effective than having workers take time off for training," she said.

"What we're saying is that employers who are saying the skills aren't there should be looking at different ways to develop them," she said.

By the numbers

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Percentage of workers who said their employer highly

values their ability to learn new skills quickly.


Percentage of employees who believe it is their responsibility to update their skills to maintain their competitive edge.


Percentage of workers who said their employers do not consider their potential to stretch into a new role by gaining new skills.

Accenture Canada survey

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About the Author

Wallace Immen is an award-winning staff writer for The Globe and Mail whose stories about workplace trends and career advice, as well as about cruising and travel destinations around the world appear regularly in print and on-line. He has worn many hats in his career with the Globe, including science writer, medical writer and columnist, urban affairs reporter and travel writer. More


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