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50,000 in workplace training revolution

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In the past year 2,000 TUC-trained trade union learning reps have been involved in a 'quiet revolution' at work, encouraging almost 50,000 of their colleagues to take up some kind of work-based training, according to a new report published by the TUC and the Campaign for Learning today (Thursday) to coincide with Learning at Work Day.

And the TUC predicts that the government's plans to place learning reps on a statutory footing, giving them a new legal right to take time off from their jobs to promote learning at work, could see as many as 22,000 learning reps reaching out to around half a million employees by the end of the decade.

The new publication – The Quiet Revolution – explains how both employers and employees stand to benefit from having union learning reps. It points out that if learning reps are given sufficient time, their presence doesn't just increase the confidence of work colleagues, it also improves skills and productivity, leading to better industrial relations, and a new partnership between boardroom and shopfloor.

But with official statistics showing one in five adults with such poor reading abilities that they cannot find the entry for plumbers in the Yellow Pages, and over half the workforce without qualifications above NVQ Level 2 (equal to five GCSEs grades A-C), learning reps certainly have their work cut out.

The Quiet Revolution says that many employers are not making full use of learning reps, and are in many cases, actively preventing them from reaching out to potential learners. The report refers to research carried out for the TUC by York Consulting, which finds that:

  • 25% of learning reps were refused time off by their employers to attend training on how to become effective learning reps
  • only half the number of employers questioned give their staff time off to meet with the workplace learning rep
  • learning reps are only able to devote five hours a week to promote learning at work, with over a half not being given any paid time off to develop their crucial roles.

But the TUC says that union learning reps can encourage employers to establish learning centres at work, develop and run union training schemes, produce learning materials, and above all, boost confidence levels of the workforce, persuading reluctant learners that training could start to make a real difference to their lives.

TUC General Secretary John Monks said, "Where there are union safety reps, workplaces are undoubtedly safer. Now as a network of union learning reps begins to emerge, workplaces with them are becoming smarter. The government's welcome announcement to give learning reps legal backing will help unions make even more of a difference to learning at work. Well-trained workers are the workers of the future, and unions stand ready to work with employers to make learning a reality in every workplace in the UK. Learners of the workplace unite!"

Bill Lucas, Campaign for Learning, Chief Executive said, "Everyone at work needs a learning friend. Someone to help get them started and be there to provide on-going support. Union learning reps are in an ideal position to do just that, offering distinct advantages to bosses and workers alike."

 

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