The government should use a "carrot-and-stick" approach to persuade employers to support training as part of a sustained effort to attract more people into learning, the Learning and Skills Development Agency has said.
Generous tax incentives should be combined with "sticks" such as training levies and employee rights to time off for learning, according to a report, Attracting New Learners . It says such measures are needed "as it is clear that the UK's voluntary approach towards employers' responsibility to train employees has had only limited success".
International comparisons reveal that although the United Kingdom has a good record in developing initiatives that give adults a second chance at learning, it is low down the league for levels of qualification in the workforce, adult literacy and numeracy, and post-16 participation in education.
In an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development study of progress in lifelong learning strategies, the UK sits among a group of countries ranked third out of four tiers, described as "characterised by comparatively weak and uneven performance".
The report argues that a long-term strategy is needed to stimulate demand for learning among the "hard-to-reach" and to focus systems on the needs of learners.
The report recommends that:
* Social policy objectives and resources be linked more closely with those for learning and skills
* A bank of successful initiatives for stimulating demand for learning be set up
* The qualification system be simplified
* Informal learning be brought into mainstream provision.