The TUC submission includes an analysis of official figures which, it claims, shows only one in 10 unskilled workers receive regular training at work, compared with four in 10 graduate employees, and a total of over 10 million workers receive no training at all from their employer.
The submission warns, with the private sector showing little appetite for increasing investment in workplace training, a combination of reduced Government training subsidies and the potential watering down of the new right to request time off for training will increase the divide in access to training by making lifelong learning increasingly unaffordable for low-paid unqualified workers.
According to the TUC, any shortfall in Government spending must be compensated for by a strategy to increase business investment in skills, including the extension of the kind of 'Licence to Practice' schemes linked to skills standards that are prevalent in the US.
The submission cites recent research by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills showing that the UK is falling behind its competitors in terms of workforce skills. Further cuts will send out a powerful message that the UK is not taking the future competitiveness of its workforce seriously.
The submission welcomes the Government's commitment to increasing the number of apprenticeships, the recognition that lifelong learning is vital to supporting the economic recovery and the understanding that the union network of over 25,000 learning reps can play a vital role in delivering skills in the workplace. It is disappointing therefore that much of the Government's well-intentioned ambition in its skills strategy will be undermined by short-sighted and damaging cuts to its budget.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Spending cuts to training will hit the most vulnerable and damage prospects of a viable economic recovery.
"Lifelong learning is important for everyone, not just highly qualified workers, and yet there is a huge divide between the amount spent on training well-qualified staff and the 10 million workers who receive no training at work. Cuts to the skills budget will only increase this divide.
"Despite our concerns about the Government's skills strategy, unions will always do their best to get more workers training at work. Our army of 25,000 learning reps can play an important role in delivering the skills that so many workers need."
This article was first published on hrmagazine.co.uk