UNISON is to show its continuing commitment to adult learning today (Tuesday) by reaffirming two separate partnership agreements with the Open University and the WEA.

The agreements with the two learning organisations are due to be signed later today at the union’s headquarters in London.

UNISON’s relationship with the Open University first began in 1997. Since then around 7,000 public service employees who belong to the union have enrolled upon a wide range of accredited courses, right up to degree level. Many of the learners have also been able to take advantage of UNISON’s bursary and grant scheme to help with their studies.

In addition, hundreds of professional development workshops have helped learners build their skills and confidence in workplaces across the country.

UNISON and the WEA have been working together for many years, and signed an agreement to celebrate that relationship in 1996. This collaboration has successfully enabled people, many of them in low-paid, part-time work, who may have been failed by the education system to access higher skilled jobs through training.

Since the two organisations’ return to learn courses were launched in the late 1980s, thousands of people employed in the NHS, schools, police forces and local government have been encouraged to get back into the classroom.

UNISON’s head of learning and organising services, Teresa Donegan said: “Renewing these agreements today ensures that workers who left school without many qualifications don’t lose out in the education and training stakes. By continually opening up new learning opportunities, it gives lower paid staff across our public services the chance to brush up on their skills and apply for more senior, better paid jobs.”

The Open University’s Vice-Chancellor Peter Horrocks said: “The Open University is proud of its long-established links with UNISON, providing work-based learning that empowers and improves the skills of hundreds of people every year.

“The ability to learn and earn is not just key to tackling the UK's slow growth and low productivity, but it is also a vital engine of social mobility. We are delighted to cement our links with UNISON today.”

WEA’s chief executive Ruth Spellman said: “The partnership with UNISON has long been very precious to the WEA, symbolising the commitment of both organisations to improving the life chances of ordinary working people through education.

“Over the years we have worked together to deliver first class learning experiences and end results, shared best practice, and represented the interests of adult learners.”

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