THE BLOG
19/05/2014 11:54 BST | Updated 16/07/2014 06:59 BST

Learning at Work Day: Why Creating an Aspirational Environment Is Good for Employees and the Economy

As the UK economy continues to improve, so does support for a new generation of employees that are increasingly adopting a 'work ready' attitude to life as they open their minds to the many different pathways to employment now on offer to them.

A timely barometer of this change in perception is this month's Learning at Work Day which, due to demand, this year has become Learning at Work Week for the first time.

Launched in 1999 to put the spotlight on the importance and benefits of learning and development within the workplace, Learning at Work Week (as it is now known)has never been more relevant, as employers and training providers look to maximise on a recent upturn in economic activity.

More importantly, it supports the extension of opportunities to learn to all employees everywhere - especially those who may not currently participate for reasons that may range from personal barriers, to historic organisational structures that focus development on particular staff only.

From the perspective of organisations such as the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), which exists to pursue the economic benefits an unbroken dialogue between industry leaders and Government can bring, the importance of creating an aspirational environment within any workplace is at present very great indeed.

As employers look to maximise on economic developments, which saw the UK GDP expand by 0.8% in the first quarter of 2014 after a 0.7% growth in the last three months of 2013, vocational training can and should play a key role in enabling employees to support businesses that will now be looking towards increased growth and expansion as a result.

Meanwhile, employees whose possess career aspirations and have perhaps been stifled by the downturn in recent years must also be rewarded for the wait wherever possible if businesses are to harness not only the skills, but also the enthusiasm they will need to capitalise from the economic advantages on offer.

I reported recently that both apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships in Wales have experienced an unprecedented surge in popularity this year in comparison with the last, and that youth unemployment is also falling faster in Wales than the rest of the UK.

In addition to this, the number of people out of work in the UK fell by 133,000 to a fresh five-year low of 2.2 million in the three months to March, and the jobless rate also fell to a five-year low of 6.8%, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

This shows us that a new generation of employees is beginning to take on board the value employers are increasingly placing on 'work ready' traits when recruiting, but also suggests there is scope for this to be replicated amongst longer-standing employees too.

Having worked for so long in a static environment, where progression has often been slow and skills development less of a priority as companies struggled to balance their books, it's likely our existing workforce has never been so eager to learn.

Now is the time that vocational learning pathways can show real value in creating a UK workforce suited to tomorrow's industry, but also in ensuring existing employees are 'work ready' for tomorrow too.