Articles from Unionlearn

Skills for Growth White Paper will help UK catch up to Europe

Compared to France, Germany and the United States, the UK has far too few highly-skilled technical workers.The proportion of technicians in this sector in the UK is only 10.7 per cent to the European average of 27.3 per cent across all 27 countries of the EU. With a predicted demand of an extra 650,000 workers in this category over the next seven years, a step change in improving skills levels is needed.This is why I support the ambition and many of the proposals in the Government’s skills White Paper, Skills for Growth. It sets a new overarching ambition for three-quarters of people to participate in higher education or to complete an advanced apprenticeship or equivalent technician level course by the age of 30. And it proposes a new target of having 35,000 advanced and higher level apprenticeships over the next two years and provides £1,000 scholarships for 1,000 apprentices to go into higher education. It makes the case for a clear vocational route from apprenticeship to technician to foundation degree and beyond.It also sets out a more strategic approach to skills and the priority for increased funding in training places at Level 2 and 3 in digital media and technology, advanced manufacturing, engineering and construction. Importantly, it addresses the need to develop green skills and the vision required for a low-carbon economy.The White Paper talks about creating a culture in which every employer takes responsibility for investing in their staff’s skills. The benefits of an educated, skilled workforce are blindingly obvious. Research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies shows that a one percentage point increase in the proportion of employees trained results in an increased productivity worth around £6 million to the UK economy.So why is it that one in three employers will not or cannot train their workers?Unions are already playing a vital role in changing this culture, with as many as 220,000 learners being supported by their union in the past year. In organisations where unions are recognised, more than a third of employees received 5 or more training days in the past year, compared to 23 per cent in non-unionised workplaces. And three in five managers report that union learning reps (ULRs) in their workplace contributed to addressing skills gaps.The Government envisages a £100 million training pot over time, including £50 million from business. I would have liked to have seen other incentives for employees who want to upgrade their skills, for example by having tax breaks on learning and more pressure on employers to invest in skills. It appears that the expansion of the apprenticeship scheme and other proposals in the White Paper will have to come from present funds and a "reprioritisation" of the Train to Gain grants to employers for training. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has announced a 10 per cent cut for the funding rates for apprenticeships for the over 25s, but extra funding will be needed to meet the new target.Any White Paper this close to a general election is at risk from falling off the legislative cliff. However, David Willetts, the shadow minister for universities and skills, said there was much to welcome in it. He supported the expansion of the apprenticeship scheme, a proposal for apprentices to be awarded UCAS points and scholarships and a move to simplify the overall funding system. Mr Willetts is also on record saying that he strongly supports the work of unionlearn.Unions are playing a vital role in improving employee skills and retraining workers for a modern economy. They can support the aspirations and ambitions outlined in Skills for Growth and they can work with whichever Government offers opportunities to raise our workers, scientists and engineers on to a higher level of learning.Tom Wilson is director of unionlearn, the TUC’s learning and skills organisationRead FE News articles by Tom Wilson:The commission of inquiry into the future for lifelong learningA celebration of learningFE prominent at start of political conference season

No one should underestimate the importance of the skills crisis all of us in FE are facing

No one should underestimate the importance of the skills crisis all of us in FE are facing. But the recent complaining by employers about the skills levels of their newly employed workers has a bit of a hollow ring.

The commission of inquiry into the future for lifelong learning

Time off for learning can be just as refreshing as a holiday and is not just a boon to the employee - it can also directly help productivity.So why is it that so many employers seem reluctant to give their staff paid time off for learning and training? If anything it is in their interest to have workers willing to improve their education and learn the skills required as an industry or organisation develops.But there are still too many UK employers who spend little or nothing on training; who operate within a narrow, controlling, short-term mind-set which will simply not survive in tomorrow’s knowledge economy. And that is why we have to encourage a more generous attitude to training that does not begrudge and question the value of qualification, but looks positively at how work can be made more interesting and valuable - so as to make the best use of the higher skills and expectations which employees are increasingly bringing to their work.Learning Through Life, an independent report on lifelong learning, discovered that on average more than £800 is spent on training for each 18 to 24 year old. Those aged between 25 and 50 received £300 and 50-to-75 year olds received just £86. The report and previous reports by the intergovernmental thinktank, the OECD found that the people, besides the young, who benefit from workplace training are those already advantaged and highly educated. And a 2006 survey of union reps by unionlearn, the TUC’s learning and skills organisation, reported that 46 per cent blamed lack of paid time off as a barrier to training, with long working hours being cited as another major obstacle.It is a patent nonsense that people’s educational development should end on the day they leave the school or college gate for the last time. You would think that it would be unnecessary to have to argue that employers should be responsible for the development of the workforce for the benefit of the economy. But in the neo-liberal climate of the 1980s and 1990s there was little appetite among governments for a statutory right to paid time off for training.Paradoxically the current recession may have opened new space for innovation in this area. Employers and unions have been keen to work out deals in order to preserve jobs during the downturn by offering different working patterns. This time should be used productively. It is a great opportunity for workers to use this down-time to improve their knowledge, be it basic literacy, IT skills or more sophisticated management packages. And it is here that union learning reps can work with employers by identifying the best courses and training for their workmates. From next year, thousands of employers will have a new legal right to request time off for training. This opportunity must be grasped: surely most managers will see that everybody in the workplace will reap the reward.Tom Wilson is the director of unionlearn, which helps unions encourage lifelong learning among membersRead FE News articles by Tom Wilson:A celebration of learningFE prominent at start of political conference season Daily Mail gets it wrong on union learning, says new unionlearn director Tom Wilson

Daily Mail gets it wrong on union learning, says new unionlearn director Tom Wilson

Last month I found myself in a crowded room at the TUC, bidding an emotional farewell to Liz Smith the previous Director of unionlearn. Over 200 people had gathered to cheer Liz into a richly deserved retirement.

unionlearn director says Britain's Got Talent...

...But it’s not necessarily to be found on stage, in a TV studio or on the pages of the media.

unionlearn's Liz Smith on Ofsted success

Union learning reps were singled out as providing ‘outstanding peer support’ by Ofsted in a recent inspection report for U-Net, unionlearn’s network of learning centres.

Batten down the learning hatches at your peril

There’s good news and there’s bad news. A recent survey conducted by Business Smart International found that over half the managers surveyed (51%) expect to reduce off-site training.

Newcastle hosts Supporting Learners event in October

Unionlearn will be holding a regional Supporting Learners event at Newcastle this October.

Why Britain needs to make use of its talent

These were John Denham’s words at TUC Congress in Brighton this year as he took to the stage and spoke passionately about skills in the workplace and the Government’s increase in apprenticeships. He promised support for all young people and highlighted the role of unionlearn and union learning reps, calling them "best friends in the workplace - colleagues that can advise, support and even coerce you into doing the right thing."

Time to Train - Looking forward to the upcoming TUC Congress

Skills take to the fringe - not Edinburgh, but Brighton - as trade unionists gather for the annual TUC Congress next week. As delegates from all over the UK meet debate and discuss issues of social justice and the world of work, skills will be firmly on the agenda. Top of the list will be the Government’s consultation - Time to Train, which John Denham announced at the unionlearn annual conference in June. The Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills will join TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady, and John Cridland, CBI Deputy Director General at a fringe event on the proposed right to request training, chaired by unionlearn Board Chair and CWU General, Secretary Billy Hayes. Debate is sure to be very informative, energetic and rigorous and I am looking forward to hearing a robust exchange of views. The debate comes in the week when the TUC will be making a submission to the Time to Train consultation, through which the Government is seeking opinions on a proposed new right to request time off for training. We are hoping that this will help those working for the third of bosses who refuse to train their staff. Congress is always a great time to focus on presenting our message to one of our core audiences – the trade union movement itself and the unionlearn stand at Congress goes from strength to strength. It reminds me, as delegates visit it in ever increasing numbers, just how year on year, unionlearn has gained more recognition in terms of trade unions and the education and skills worlds, and that recognition has come from all areas. We are proud to say that we are working with Quick Reads to find new authors for a Quick Reads collection of short stories to be published in 2010. We will be launching this competition at Congress and then the search will be on for up to twenty new authors of short stories. Focusing on the theme of work (what else?) we are looking for trade union members to put pen to paper and tell us all about their own personal experiences of the world of work. We already know that people have travelled amazing journeys in their quest for learning, and that learning has changed people’s lives beyond all recognition – so now it’s time for them to tell everyone!

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