TUC head of learning urges employers to work with unions

The head of the TUC’s new workplace learning initiative has called on employers to put aside their reluctance about working with trade unions and get involved with the project.

Liz Smith, director of Unionlearn, which was launched last week, said employers were critical to the success of the £4.5m scheme.

“Some employers might still hold the view that it’s their prerogative to train and upskill their workforce and not the trade unions’,” she said. “So we must break this belief that workplace learning is not a union area of interest.”

Unionlearn has ambitious targets of recruiting 22,000 learning representatives by 2010 and helping 250,000 workers into learning each year. “Yes, they are challenging targets, but we are confident about achieving them,” she said.

The latest TUC figures show just how big a challenge the targets are. The number of people who accessed training at work via the union route rose by 9% in 2004-05, but still only totalled 67,000.

Smith also reassured employers over the future use of the Union Learning Fund. Unionlearn will take over the running of the £14m fund from the Learning and Skills Council in April 2007.

“We won’t be handed this money and be free to do whatever we want. There will be parameters set [by the government] on what we can use it for,” she said.

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