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March 2002     Vol. 3, no. 3

Barriers to job-related training

Deborah Sussman

Continuous investment in human resources through job-related training is essential for ensuring long-term economic growth in today's global economy. However, not everyone who wants or needs job-related training has access to it. If policies are to be developed to improve access, then it is necessary to understand what these barriers are and who is experiencing them.

For the year 1997, about 1.5 million people reported needing some job-related training but not taking it. This amounted to 7% of Canadians aged 17 and over (excluding full-time students), down from close to 9% in 1993. Of the 1.5 million, 40% had had some job-related training in that year but felt they needed more, while the remaining 60% had received none at all (Chart A). At the time of the survey, the majority were employed full time (71%), while the rest were employed part time (12%), unemployed (9%), or not in the labour force (8%). note 1 

What are the most important barriers to job-related training? Do some groups experience particular obstacles? Has access to job-related training improved over time? This article will examine these questions using the results from the 1998 and 1994 Adult Education and Training Survey (AETS) (see Data source and definitions).

Types of barriers

Three main types of barriers to participation in job-related training have been identified in the literature: situational, institutional and dispositional (or psychological). note 2  Situational barriers arise from one's situation in life at a given time—for example, being too busy at work, financial constraints, family responsibilities or lack of child care, and language or health problems. Institutional barriers consist of established practices and procedures that exclude or discourage participation, such as high tuition fees, entrance requirements, limited course offerings, or courses offered at inconvenient times or locations. Dispositional barriers involve attitudes and opinions towards learning, as well as perceptions of oneself as a learner (Cross, 1981).

These barriers, while important in their own right, are not mutually exclusive, and may overlap or act together to compound the problems faced by an individual. For example, if one is too busy at work, then the possibility of a course being offered at an inconvenient time becomes greater, since one is all the more limited to course offerings during non-work hours. Moreover, if a course or program is not offered at a convenient location, the added expense of travel creates an additional obstacle.

The AETS provides information regarding situational and institutional barriers. Since the questions pertaining to the specific barriers faced were directed only at those who had indicated an interest in participating in job-related training, dispositional or psychological barriers were not directly addressed. However, almost 80% of people did not participate in any job-related training in 1997, and the vast majority of them felt they needed none. This may suggest a lack of motivation operating as a dispositional or psychological barrier (Statistics Canada and HRDC, 2001a). Individuals were also asked to identify all the barriers they faced (see Data source and definitions).

Who faced barriers?

In 1997, some groups were more likely to face barriers than others (Table 1). In particular, people in British Columbia, those between the ages of 35 and 44, those with preschool (under age 6) children in the household, and university graduates had unmet training needs above the average of 7%.

Similarly, full-time workers and workers in service industries such as public administration; finance, insurance and real estate; and education, health and welfare were also characterized by higher rates (Table 2). Professional and managerial occupations, particularly in natural sciences, engineering and mathematics, also had higher rates. note 3  These industries and occupations were also associated with higher rates of participation in job-related training, as were university graduates (Statistics Canada and HRDC, 2001a). This supports the idea that training breeds training, or the perceived need for more training. That is, participating in some job-related training may create an awareness of the need for more training that may not be able to be met. This may increase the likelihood of these groups facing unmet training needs, or barriers to job-related training.

Conversely, New Brunswick and Quebec had the lowest rate of all provinces at 5% each, while barriers to job-related training were less prevalent among women (as opposed to men), older individuals (aged 55 to 64) and those with less than a high-school education. Likewise, workers in agriculture and other primary industries; as well as those in primary, and construction and other occupations were also associated with lower rates of unmet job-related training needs.

Despite these variations, virtually all major groups (the only exception being service occupations) experienced a decrease in the incidence of unmet job-related training needs between 1993 and 1997.

How the barriers ranked

In 1997, being too busy at work (42%) and expense (40%) were the two most important barriers faced by those who felt they needed job-related training but did not take it. These situational barriers were followed by institutional ones—the course or program was offered at an inconvenient time or location (35%) or not at all (24%), or the employer was not supportive (23%). Family responsibilities or lack of child care posed a situational barrier to almost one in five people. Of much less significance were a lack of sufficient qualifications or prerequisites (5%, an institutional barrier) and health reasons (3%, a situational barrier) (Chart B).

Although the ranking of barriers did not change from 1993 to 1997, all except being too busy at work were cited by a greater proportion of people in 1997. That is, while fewer people overall faced barriers to job-related training in 1997 compared with 1993, the number of barriers per person increased. Specifically, in 1997 the average number of barriers cited per person was 2.2, with 61% of people reporting two or more barriers, and more than 25% reporting three or more. This is in contrast to 1993, when the average number of barriers per person was only 1.8, with less than half of people reporting two or more, and less than one-fifth reporting three or more. The ones that increased the most were inconvenient time or location, expense, and a lack of child care or other family responsibilities.

Cost a key barrier

Among people who faced barriers, those who had taken some job-related training in 1997 were more likely to cite being too busy at work, inconvenient time or location, and the unavailability of a course or program as barriers to further training. By contrast, those who had not taken any training at all over the period were more likely to report expense, a lack of employer support, child care or other family-related responsibilities, and a lack of qualifications. In fact, these concerns appeared to be so difficult to overcome for this group that they were effectively prevented from taking any job-related training at all during the period.

Full- versus part-time workers

Full-time workers were more likely to view being too busy at work, inconvenient time or location, the unavailability of a course or program, and the lack of employer support as barriers to job-related training. Expense, and family responsibilities or a lack of childcare figured more prominently for those working part time.

Too busy at work

Of the 1.5 million Canadians who faced barriers in 1997, being too busy at work was seen as a barrier to job-related training by 42% (down from 46% in 1993). It was particularly important in Alberta and Manitoba (Table 3). Among the groups reporting this barrier more frequently were men, people in the 35-to-44 and 45-to-54 age groups, and university graduates. People working in finance, insurance and real estate industries; in agriculture and other primary industries; and in trade also reported this as a barrier more often than those in other industries (Table 4). The same was true for those in primary occupations, and professional and managerial occupations—especially managers and administrators.

By contrast, women and individuals without a high-school diploma reported this barrier less frequently. Similarly, workers in medicine and health occupations found this barrier to be relatively less important.

Too expensive

Expense was a barrier for 40% of Canadians who reported unmet training needs in 1997, up from 32% in 1993. It was mentioned by slightly more than half of people in British Columbia, followed closely by those in Newfoundland and Labrador. Expense was also relatively significant for women and for people under 35. Similarly, those employed in business, commercial and personal service industries; as well as those in service, and medicine and health occupations reported this as a barrier more often.

Expense figured less prominently for residents of Quebec, men, older individuals and university graduates.

Inconvenient time or location

Inconvenient time or location of courses was a barrier for about one-third of Canadians who felt they needed training in 1997, up from less than one-quarter in 1993. This was particularly true in the western provinces, with residents of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta stating this reason more often than residents of other provinces. Other relatively more affected groups included people between 45 and 54, and workers in medicine and health-related occupations—possibly reflecting their non-standard work schedules (Statistics Canada and HRDC, 1997). Among the groups least troubled by this factor were Quebeckers, young people (aged 17 to 24), and those without a high-school diploma.

Unavailability of a course or program

The unavailability of a course or program posed a barrier to nearly one-quarter of Canadians who faced barriers to job-related training, up slightly from 1993. The identification of this barrier may also indicate a lack of information about course and program offerings (Statistics Canada and HRDC, 1997), which may be as much a function of the individual as of the training institution.

This barrier was of relatively high concern to individuals living in Nova Scotia, those aged 45 to 54, and those working in public administration, education, health and welfare. Workers in clerical and teaching occupations also reported this barrier more often. Conversely, those without a high-school diploma; workers in business, commercial and personal service industries; and those in managerial and administrative occupations were among the groups that identified this barrier relatively less often.

Lack of employer support

Almost one-quarter of Canadians who reported unmet training needs specified a lack of employer support as a barrier to job-related training in 1997, up slightly from one-fifth four years earlier. At first glance this may appear somewhat surprising, considering the growing need for skilled workers. However, more than half the people reporting this barrier neither belonged to a union nor were covered by a collective agreement; and almost one-quarter were employed by companies employing less than 100 people. note 4  Firms whose employees are covered by collective agreements are generally associated with higher levels of support for training. Similarly, employer support typically rises with firm size, as larger firms often have more resources at their disposal to undertake such activities (Statistics Canada and HRDC, 2001b). note 5  Training is also more cost-effective for larger firms, since one instructor can train more employees at a time.

Lack of employer support was of greater concern to people living in Nova Scotia and Alberta, and to those working in transportation. By contrast, people living in Ontario; those without a high-school diploma; and workers in business, commercial and personal service industries, and in service occupations cited a lack of employer support less often. In the case of the latter three, this may reflect in part a lack of expectation for such support.

Child care and other family responsibilities

A lack of child care and other family responsibilities presented a problem for nearly 20% of Canadians who felt that they needed job-related training in 1997 but did not take it, up from 13% in 1993. These barriers were of particular significance to women (29% versus 10% for men) and to people aged 25 to 44—both groups that are most often responsible for these tasks. Residents of Quebec mentioned other family responsibilities or a lack of child care less frequently than other provinces.

Summary

People who feel they need some job-related training cite various reasons for not taking it. Being too busy at work, a situational barrier, topped the list in both 1993 and 1997. Expense, a barrier that may be both institutional and situational, ranked second. Health reasons were at the bottom of the list. Institutional barriers related to the course and employer support fell in the middle, as did a lack of child care or other family responsibilities (a situational barrier) and a lack of prerequisites (an institutional barrier).

These barriers varied in importance by various factors: previous job-related training, type of work (full-time or part-time), province, demographic characteristics, industry and occupation.

People between the ages of 35 and 44, those with preschool (under age 6) children in the household, and university graduates had above-average rates of unmet training needs, as did workers in service-producing industries—particularly public administration; finance, insurance and real estate; and education, health and welfare—and those in professional and managerial occupations—particularly natural sciences, engineering and mathematics.

Conversely, barriers to job-related training were less prevalent among women, older individuals (aged 55 to 64) and those with less than a high-school education. Likewise, workers in agriculture and other primary industries, those in primary, and construction and other occupations were also associated with lower rates of unmet job-related training needs.

Although fewer people overall faced barriers to job-related training in 1997 compared with 1993, the number of barriers cited per person increased between the two years, suggesting that still more needs to be done to address the continued inequality of access.

 

Data sources and definitions

The Adult Education and Training Survey (AETS) was conducted in January 1994 and 1998 as a telephone supplement to the Labour Force Survey (LFS). The LFS is a monthly household survey involving about 52,000 households across Canada. Labour force information is obtained for all civilian household members aged 15 and over. Excluded are residents of institutions, full-time members of the Armed Forces, persons living on Indian Reserves, and residents of the territories. For the AETS, the target population was modified to include only those aged 17 and over. Moreover, education and training information was collected for only one randomly selected member of the household aged 17 and over. Proxy responses were not permitted.

Although the AETS included persons over the age of 64, they were excluded from this analysis. People in this age group either have retired or are nearing retirement and are thus unlikely to feel the need for job-related training. Moreover, although data have been collected since 1984, the questionnaire structure and survey procedures changed between 1984 and 1991, making historical comparisons possible only for surveys conducted since 1992. The 1994 and 1998 surveys provide the most detail about why job-related training was not taken.

Question used:

At any time during 1997 (1993), was there any training or education that you needed to take for job-related or career reasons but did not?

If the answer to this question was yes, the respondents were then instructed to identify all the barriers they faced:

  • Course or program not offered
  • Course or program at an inconvenient time or location
  • Lack of sufficient qualifications or prerequisites
  • Lack of employer support
  • Too busy at work or job
  • Too expensive/have no money
  • Lack of child care
  • Other family responsibilities
  • Language problem
  • Health reasons
  • Other reasons

Adult education and training refers to activities followed by adults, whatever the content, level and method, that supplement or replace initial education. For the AETS, this is restricted to formally structured and sequentially organized activities, in which the participants follow a program of study or a series of experiences planned and directed by a teacher or trainer. It does not include education and training acquired informally while performing regular tasks at work (learning by doing) or watching someone else perform them.

Job-related education and training is a subset of adult education and training. It refers to activities taken for the development or upgrading of skills for use in present or future employment.

Adult learners are individuals aged 17 and over registered in part-time education or training activities. Individuals engaged in full-time education and training activities were included only if the activities were sponsored by their employer, or if they were aged 20 and over and enrolled in an elementary or secondary program, or if they were 25 and over and registered in a post-secondary program. These restrictions were imposed to exclude students between 17 and 24 in their initial cycle of education.

Notes

  1. Labour force status refers to the month of January 1998 (or January 1994)—that is, the month immediately following the survey reference period—all of 1997 (or 1993). Therefore, a person employed in January 1998 may not have been employed at some point during 1997, and vice versa. Similarly, province of residence, level of education, industry and occupation also refer to an individual's situation in January. While there may have been some movements in these characteristics (particularly with respect to industry and occupation) during 1997, they are not deemed large enough to affect the overall findings.
  2. This classification is not meant to provide a definitive way of grouping barriers to training. For example, in A Report on Adult Education in Canada: Learning a Living, these barriers are grouped somewhat differently (Statistics Canada and HRDC, 2001a).
  3. Industry and occupational designation includes persons who did not have a job during the Labour Force Survey reference week, but who were employed within the previous year, and excludes persons who did not have a job within the previous year. See Guide to the Labour Force Survey, Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 71-543-GIE, for a complete description of survey concepts and definitions.
  4. Union membership, collective agreement coverage and firm size also refer to the individual's situation in the month of January 1998 (or 1994).
  5. Other factors affecting the level of employer support of job-related training include the introduction of technological or organizational change in the firm and the level of importance attributed to human resources management in the firm's overall business strategy (Statistics Canada and HRDC, 2001b).

References

Author

Deborah Sussman is with the Labour and Household Surveys Analysis Division. She can be reached at (613) 951-4226 or deborah.sussman@statcan.gc.ca.

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