OECD Report: Training in Enterprises New Evidence from 100 Case Studies

By Gerard Walker, Future Jobs-Skills-Work-Insights



This recent OECD report investigates what, why and how enterprises provide training. It presents evidence from 100 qualitative cases studies of medium and large sized companies from five countries: Ireland, Austria, Estonia, France, and Italy.


These were chosen to represent a diverse set of adult learning systems and different approaches to employer-provided training. Labour markets are undergoing adjustments due to technological change, globalisation, population ageing and the transition to a low-carbon economy.


The COVID-19 pandemic has posed additional training challenges for enterprises, notably by making it difficult to deliver in-person training as well as by changing the way many employees work. Fewer employees have participated in training programmes during the pandemic, according to data from the European Labour Force Survey. 


Findings from the case studies on key aspects of enterprise training provision are as follows:
What learning opportunities do enterprises provide?


Enterprises offer six types of learning content:

  • Technical, practical, or job-related skills
  • Health, safety, and security
  • Soft skills
  • Induction of new employees
  • IT skills
  • Foreign languages


The adoption of certified training is driven by regulatory pressures and primarily relates to technical, practical, or job-related skills. Enterprises offer a range of informal learning content. These include by working across different projects or through structured job rotation systems; through mentoring schemes or exchanges with colleagues; and keeping up to date with new products and services.


The pandemic has proved to be an accelerator of existing trends in online training. Large enterprises were able to upscale online delivery quickly, whereas medium-sized firms struggled during the crisis


Why do enterprises train (or why not)?
A main motivation for firms to train their employees is to comply with legal requirements regarding health, safety, and security training. The need to improve performance and stay competitive, and were additional drivers of the provision of training. Enterprises faced several constraints limiting the amount of training they can offer. These included a lack of time by employees and management functions, followed by training costs to employers and negative attitudes of employees and managers. Lack of time is particularly problematic for employees directly involved in manufacturing, which often takes place as shift work. Office workers are considered to have more flexible schedules that can more easily accommodate training. 


How do enterprises make decisions about training?
Firms with a dedicated training manager/specialist provide more training. Training Needs Assessment is a key tool for enterprises to understand their human resource requirements. The decision whether to deliver training internally or through external providers is driven by the availability of expertise in-house, costs and the need to customise training. Some firms with a high-skilled workforce are empowering employees through individual training budgets and self-directed online training. Enterprises used basic methods to assess the outcomes of training despite spending significant amounts of time and resources on its delivery. There were some cases of enterprises planning training, anticipating its benefits and measuring them. 


Why and how should enterprises be supported?
Based on the insights from the case studies, this report suggests a ‘tool-box’ for policy makers to support enterprises that includes five main types of instruments, namely:

  • Information and guidance for enterprise, including on current and future skills trends
  • Capacity building of enterprises, including for consultancy services and funding training networks
  • Financial incentives to steer training provision, including subsidies and tax incentives
  • The direct provision of training such as for digital, green, leadership and management skills
  • Regulatory instruments such as laws and agreements



Main Takeaways 
Enterprises are a main provider of reskilling and upskilling opportunities for adults. Understanding what, how and why learning opportunities are offered is crucial to assess whether enterprises are targeting the skills, knowledge and abilities needed to prepare individuals for the future of work. These insights can inform Governments and social partners in designing and implementing policies in support of enterprise training.


OECD (2021), Training in Enterprises: New Evidence from 100 Case Studies, Getting Skills Right, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/7d63d210-en 



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