Technology: the e-learning solution to skills gaps?


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Learndirect's example shows how technology-enabled learning can provide the solution for human resources directors as they look to address skills gaps in an age of austerity.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 HRDs, carried out by the consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), revealed fears of a return to pre-recession skills shortages. Respondents said they expected to find it increasingly difficult to hire people with the right skillset, with 53% rating skills shortages as the greatest challenge in 2011.

We know a skilled workforce is necessary to stimulate the private-sector growth that will bring new jobs and prosperity for people all over this country.

Therefore, the need to fill these skills gaps comes at a time when the public purse is under more pressure than ever before. Given the expectations set out in the recently released skills strategy, for employers to co-invest alongside government in meeting the costs of training, there is increasing emphasis on business identifying training solutions that are not only relevant but cost-effective.

I believe the solution lies in the application of technology. We know this at Learndirect, because we have used technology successfully for the past ten years – and in doing so helped almost three million people gain the skills they need to progress. Quality online training, tailored to specific needs, translates into a more motivated and confident workforce, which in turn helps to boost profitability.

Some of the world’s largest firms, such as Toyota and BT, have benefited from the cost savings and flexibility of e-learning for years. Toyota estimates a cost saving of at least 60% on training delivery per trainee (against a trainer's time) with its e-learning programme. While removing the cost of equivalent instructor and classroom-based courses, BT has saved in the region of £12 million on its annual training budget.

Technology is the enabler that allows Learndirect to deliver learning at scale, in multiple locations, or in ways that can be tailored to the varying needs of the workforce. It can achieve efficiencies that are much needed in this time of austerity. But our experience has told us technology shouldn’t work in isolation. By deploying it in appropriate and novel ways, with the right content and support from tutors, we can provide the quality learning and experience our customers want.

Our new tenth anniversary report, Ten years of Learndirect: learning today and tomorrow, shares more insights on how technology can be an enabler, delivering personalised, high-quality training on a large scale with high levels of learner satisfaction.

I encourage employers to think differently in these financially straitened times. With your training budget needing to work harder, how should you invest for the future? Could a technology-enabled learning platform offer you a long-term and flexible solution? Should you be considering a model which offers you the flexibility you need for your workforce? Can you learn from how some of the world’s largest organisations have used technology to upskill their workforces?

Sarah Jones (pictured) is chief executive of Learndirect

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