Unions key to developing employee skills

Unions
are key to closing the employee skills gap, which is costing UK business an
estimated £10bn a year, according to a TUC report published today.

The
research, written by John Healey MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, and
Natascha Engel, a graduate of the TUC’s Organising Academy, spotlights the
potential of union learning representatives to encourage and help colleagues to
develop skills through training.

It
also urges unions to use their increasingly important role in tackling learning
and skills issues to boost union membership and break into previously
unorganised sectors of the economy.

A
network of 4,500 union learning representatives have fostering training in
workplaces, with the help of the £12.5m union learning fund set up by the
Government in 1998, and this is predicted to grow to at least 22,000 by 2010.

The
report commends the Government for feeding this growth by allocating £20m to
the union learning fund budget over the next two years and introducing the same
statutory rights and protections for union learning reps as other workplace
union reps (with effect from April 2003).

Healey
said: "Improving skills is the key to increasing productivity, growth and
prosperity – both for individual companies and for our economy as a whole. The
firms that invest in training are often those that grow more rapidly, increase
productivity and become more profitable. That’s good for employers and
employees alike. And trade unions have a massive role to play making training a
top priority in every workplace."

By Paul Nelson

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