Tom Wilson is the director of unionlearn

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.

Following her as the new director will be quite some challenge but it’s a challenge I relish. Unions and learning are in my blood. My first ever paid union job was as a WEA lecturer, teaching a 10 week evening class on Psychology to a dozen shop stewards from the Reliant Robin factory in Tamworth, Staffs. Most weeks we had wives, husbands and friends along too – all crowded into a room above a pub.

Then I taught the TUC standard and advanced Health and Safety course at Solihull Tech College, which was actually the converted mansion of Mr Bird of the eponymous Custard powder, a good introduction to the world of FE. That was while moonlighting from a Postgraduate Industrial Relations course at Warwick University. Over the years since then I have worked for unions like GMB, for AUT, and for NATFHE; not very successfully defending the pay and conditions of Lecturers, Researchers, and Support staff in Higher and Further Education.

So now running unionlearn is a privilege. It is the biggest and best union learning organisation in the world. Training 58,000 reps a year and with three million website hits a month it brought learning to over a quarter of a million union members last year - in everything from literacy and numeracy to management and higher level learning. All for £30million a year, which in turn levers in a hundred times more from employers and unions.

The vast majority of commentators in the educational world, not just Labour or union supporters, are equally enthusiastic about union learning. Richard Lambert, head of the employers’ organisation the CBI said: "I'd like to pay tribute to those many union learning reps who do great work up and down the land in helping their colleagues to gain new skills and experiences." When he was shadow Trade and Industry Secretary, Alan Duncan said: "The workplace training programmes initiated by the unions are very impressive."

That view has been echoed by current shadow education ministers David Willets and John Hayes; by Lib Dems and by Plaid Cymru in Wales and the ruling SNP in Scotland. It has also been endorsed by leading employers such as British Aerospace, Arriva, Nissan, BT, Tesco, British Airways and hundreds more.

So it was disappointing to read journalist Edward Heathcoat-Amory claiming in the Daily Mail last month that the Union Learning Fund (ULF) was a £40million quango which funds union leaders pet projects so they in turn bankroll the Labour Party. Wrong on every count. The ULF gets £15million a year, it funds learning projects which are independently assessed, rigorously checked and warmly supported by employers because they help build the skills Britain needs. So all the money goes to improving the skills of Britain’s workers. It’s deliberately misleading to suggest that any of the ULF is recycled to the Labour Party.

Like the Open University, we want to see unionlearn grow to become a permanent and vital part of the learning landscape. It has a powerful case, with strong employer backing, to make to whichever party (or parties) form the next Government. Investing in the skills Britain needs, through union learning, makes sense.

Tom Wilson is the director of unionlearn, which helps unions encourage lifelong learning among members

 

Read FE News articles by former unionlearn director Liz Smith:

 

Moving on: workplace learning . . . and me

unionlearn director says Britain’s Got Talent...

 

Union learning boosted as training target is surpassed

 

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Educating yourself in Prison: an inside job

Educating yourself in Prison: an inside job

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 2 days ago

RT @NCFE: ‘For as long as humans have worked, and whatever industry they may have worked in, success has always been predicated on having t…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page