HR: Confusing Education with Training


It really is tough for kids growing up today. It seems that there is ever greater pressure to cast them into a pre-determined shape at an ever earlier stage. This is especially apparent in the jobs’ market where specifications are written so tightly that there is no room for individuals who are well-educated and adaptable but who lack many of the terribly narrow requirements that you see listed in job adverts.

I absolutely place the blame for this at the Human Resources community’s door. It seems to me like HR has become a monstrosity, extending its tentacles into all areas of corporate life and building an empire that would impress Darth Vader. You only have to look at the multitude of books that have been written on recruitment and applying for jobs to understand that as a cadre, HR has tried extremely hard to develop a rigid science behind something that is otherwise largely common sense. It also leads to companies and organisations deferring to this self-promoted expertise and allowing people without any great understanding of a business to select the job applicants which are crucial for that company’s future wellbeing.

There are wider adverse effects too. Overly tight job and people specifications preclude a whole group of candidates who might well perform better in a job than those that are able to tick the most boxes. It also forces young people to make crucial career decisions at an ever earlier stage so that they then have time to gather the necessary ticks. This is not the way a childhood should be in my opinion. They just don’t know what they want to be when they are growing up and they shouldn’t have to make such weighty decisions until they are mature enough to recognise their path through life. In my experience, individuals can achieve extraordinary things when they love their job but that job can take a bit of finding. On the other hand, if someone has been steered onto a particular path by premature and irreversible decisions then they are likely to be unhappy and will be certainly less productive.

Finally, we hear much from Industry moaning that they can’t find the people with the necessary skills and fingers are pointed to failings in the education system. Now, let me make clear that improvements do need to be made to education, but we need to be clear what schools, universities and companies are responsible for. Schools and Universities do education, firms do training and by trying to confuse the two industry is attempting to drive training costs onto the State. Education should provide the foundations for training which is the last stage in the process before an individual starts work.

If we confuse education and training then we are in danger of weakening those foundations. We will end up producing demotivated automatons who are incapable of creative thought and constructive innovation. Is that what industry really wants? Our industrial leaders need to take charge of their manpower and invest properly and strategically in their businesses if they wish to remain competitive. Crucially, that will involve them taking more responsibility for training their workforce. Maybe this is one reason why the UK’s productivity has been so poor in recent years.

Rant over, do pass me the hay…