Canadian data tell us that an increasing number of workers get involved in workplace learning. In 2002, 35% of workers from 25 to 64 years old participated in some type of formal, job-related training – an increase from 29% in 1997.
Despite this, Canadian workers receive less workplace learning than workers in Scandinavian countries, the US and the UK; and more Canadian workers spend their own money for career development. US firms spend about 50% more on training than Canadian firms4. Canadian participation rates have stayed the same in recent years. Canadian workers have lower levels of essential skills than they need to participate in the knowledge economy. Basic skills training is only 2.2% of total training spending.
Government training programs tend to target the unemployed, especially the long-term unemployed, rather than the low skilled, low-waged employed.
Employers tend to provide more and better programs for workers who already have good skills. Employers are 2.5 times more likely to sponsor training for white-collar workers than for blue-collar workers. People with jobs are more likely to take training than unemployed people. Full-time workers have higher participation rates than part-time workers. Participation rates show no major gender differences. Women rely more on self-financing than men.
Larger firms engage in more formal job-related training. Small and medium-sized employers can have trouble supporting classroom training; the costs are too high and workflow too disrupted. Smaller employers tend to offer more informal training, to make up for lack of classroom training. Tutoring was the most common type of training. In Canada, 97% of firms have less than 100 workers; they employ 58% of all workers.
Young workers aged 25 to 34 and well-educated workers have much higher participation rates than older workers or workers with no more than high school. And the gaps are growing. Although older Canadians take fewer courses in the workplace they continue with various informal learning activities – nearly 40% of the 12-hour weekly average of informal learning was work-related. 1997 participation rates showed the following range according to level of education: less than high school – 11%, high school graduates – 22%, college graduates – 39%, university graduates – 48%.
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4 Employer Investment in Workplace Learning in Canada. Canadian Council on Learning. 2006.