A raft of new projects to boost learning at work got the go-ahead from Education and Skills Secretary Estelle Morris yesterday.
Lorry drivers, who will be offered flexible learning which reflects their shift patterns, and bakers who need to brush up on their basic skills are just two groups of workers who will benefit from the 26 projects worth £1.2 million.
Speaking at the TUC‘s Union Learning Fund conference in London, Ms Morris said:
“It is vital to our future in the new knowledge economy that we invest in the skills of the workforce. Trade unions have long been champions of workplace learning. These new projects demonstrate their continuing commitment to widening the training opportunities and raising the skills of their members.
“The £1.2 million that we are approving today underlines the Government’s commitment to supporting the trade unions’ learning agenda.
“The Union Learning Fund is now entering its fourth year. To date over 3,000 learning representatives have been trained and almost 14,000 people have taken part in ULF learning. The Fund is scoring real success with the traditionally hard to reach learners such as freelancers, shift-workers and older workers.
“Unions stand in a unique position between workers and employers and are able to concentrate the minds of both. Increasingly unions see education and training as important as the traditional focus on pay and conditions. They see that the most significant contribution workers can make to improve their job prospects and standard of living is to learn new skills or upgrade their existing ones. Workers may need help and encouragement to do this, and unions are well placed to deliver it.
“Workplace learning offers promotion and progression opportunities, new skills which can be used both in and out of the workplace and increased confidence and self-esteem.”
TUC General Secretary, John Monks said: “Education and learning have always been core to union business. And since the Government’s Union Learning Fund was launched in 1998, nearly 3,000 trade union reps have been trained specifically to promote learning at work.
“And in that time, these learning reps have promoted learning to almost 200,000 people at work. But this only scratches the surface and Government proposals to give learning reps the same rights as shop stewards means we have the potential to establish a learning culture in every workplace.”
The Government’s Union Learning Fund began in 1998. The Fund finances projects to increase union capacity to encourage and support learning in the workplace. For the Fund, the Government has allocated £7m for 2001-2 (£6m plus £1m for basic skills) £9m for 2002-3 (£7m plus £2m for basic skills) and £11m for 2003-4 (£8m plus £3m for basic skills).
Evaluations of the Union Learning Fund and of the Union Learning Representatives role have been carried out on behalf of the Department for Education and Skills and the TUC by independent consultants. Copies of the report are available by email from [email protected]. You can also find further information on the DfES website.
The DfES is currently consulting on the proposal to provide statutory backing for Union Learning Representatives. The consultation closes on 27 July 2001. Information on the consultation can be found at http://www.dfee.gov.uk/consultations