The levelling out of management structures within the Weapons Defence Establishment has increased the significance of both formal and informal learning opportunities. As part of taking on more responsibility, employees are encouraged to commit themselves to training opportunities through the appraisal system. Whereas previously salaries were consistent within grades of the organization and negotiated by the union, in the current system promotion and pay depend on individual performance. In this context, employee involvement in formalized training has the potential to bring benefits in terms of promotion and pay.
The IT and English courses at this organization have been a success in so far as they have recruited a large number of learners over the long-term. The popularity of these courses indicates the importance of workplace courses being tailored to the priorities of the organization. In this case, such courses have responded to major structural changes in the company involving the delegation of responsibility to lower-level employees and they have been utilized to address a perceived training imbalance amongst the different strata of employees.
The levelling out of management structures also has major implications for informal learning. The expectation that employees should “take on more” and “show initiative” means that employees are frequently given greater scope for learning about new duties through on the job experience at work.
The publication of the Moser report in 1999 provided the impetus for the implementation of Skills For Life courses in the Borough of Thorpton, which employs between 1,500 and 1,800 staff. Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) have played an important role in implementing a series of Skills for Life courses at the local authority’s learning centre – located on the premises of a refuse centre – in partnership with the learning centre manager, Barking Adult College and the College of North East London.