Over two-thirds of employers have failed to provide any training for their workforce while 8.5 million employees did not receive any training in the past year.

In a speech to the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) conference yesterday, Liz Smith, Director of unionlearn, outlined the TUC's vision for greater government involvement to plug the UK skills gap.

Speaking to the conference, she said: "The TUC believes that there is a need for more government intervention. Unions would like to see a statutory entitlement introduced for all employees to paid educational leave. We would also like to see many more learning agreements between unions and employers to help to deliver such an entitlement. That is why we have called for training to become a core bargaining issue in union recognised workplaces- just like pay and conditions".

Arguing that the Department for Education and Skills" (DfES) agenda has narrowed from creating a "united society" to simply occupational and basic skills training, she said: "These are of course essential. But we need a strategy that covers the broad definition of lifelong learning set out in "The Learning Age" "“ recreational and social as well as vocational", she added.

Outlining the effectiveness of the Union Learning Representatives (ULRs), she continued: "A key to stimulating employee demand for lifelong learning is through union learning reps. They are part of a family of learning champions or advocates involved in collectively stimulating the demand for learning".

A recent survey by ULF York Consultancy has revealed that some 81% of ULRs have encouraged their colleagues to think about learning; 61% have promoted learning to the employer; 41% have arranged opportunities with training providers, while one-third have actually set up learning centres in the workplace.

However: "ULRs however still do not have enough time to carry out their roles. Almost a quarter say that lack of facility time is a major problem and 16% blamed lack of employer support. The Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) is conducting a review of facility time for union reps as a whole and the TUC will be making the case for more facility time for union reps as a whole including ULRs".

"One of the reasons for the establishment of unionlearn last May was the need to provide a more coherent framework to train and support ULRs. Our objective is to have 22,000 trained ULRs in 2010 opening up learning opportunities to 250,000 union learners in that year", she added.

"The potential of learning champions whether at the workplace or in the community to open up learning opportunities to the workforce and the community as a whole is huge. Unionlearn will maximise this potential".

Vijay Pattni.

More in FE News:

4th September 06 - 6 Million People Have Literacy Problems

4th September 06 - 8 Million Workers Denied Training


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