Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton

Skills Minister Anne Milton MP took the opportunity of a speech to union learning reps at unionlearn’s annual conference to praise the work of unions in promoting workplace learning.

Speaking to a packed Congress Centre the Minister highlighted the importance of a skilled workforce for the continued wellbeing and prosperity of the country.

The Minister pointed to unionlearn being a success story that provides a vital route to education for many thousands of people each year, with unionlearn supporting over 220,000 learners - something that sets it apart from other organisations.

Anne Milton praised the work of union learning reps and said the reason so many learners were supported was: “…largely down to the union learning reps. Volunteers who give up their time and effort to encourage others and make them aware of the training opportunities open to them”.

The Minister highlighted the role of the new National Retraining Scheme in tackling the challenges facing workplaces due to developing technology and new skills needed in the future.

The Minister explained: “The aim of the National Retraining Scheme is simple – to produce the best programme of learning and training for people in work and returning to work in the changing world. To do this the Government, the CBI and the TUC all have our parts to play.”

She stressed that it was vital that people have the skills needed in order to take advantage of new job opportunities in a changing world. And that it is important that people are offered retraining or upskilling while they are in work and have the confidence to do something different.

“That’s where Unionlearn comes in and why we regard it as an external partner in the national retraining scheme. The Department is working with unionlearn to see how we can use unionlearn’s unique expertise to deliver the best programme of learning and training for people in work.”

The Minister pointed out that the Union Learning Fund prospectus has just been released, and that she wants the DfE and unionlearn to work together to get the best value for money and the best results.

Encouraging unions to propose projects that are innovative and high quality the Minister announced: “What is different is this year is that we will look to support projects that run for more than one year.”

“We want to see projects that are innovative, that try something new, or different, or address a new opportunity. We would support these as pilot projects. We accept that anything new and innovative does carry risks but in a fast-changing world sometimes you need to take that risk.”

Highlighting the importance of longer projects the Skills Minister said “Multi-year projects will allow us to better support the tried and tested projects that we know deliver quality training and skill to meet the needs of workforce and industry.”

“Funding over several years should help secure better economies of scale and allow better outcomes. So better value for money and better outcomes for individuals.”

Unionlearn Director Kevin Rowan welcomed the Ministers speech at the Conference and said:

“It was very encouraging to the hear the Skills Minister address a room full of union learning reps and remind them of the excellent, and unique, role they are playing in supporting workplace learning.”

“It was also very encouraging to hear that the DfE will be looking at multi-year project funding going forward. This is something that unionlearn has been calling for and we agree with the Minister that it will mean an opportunity to offer increased value for money, and more importantly allow unions to support even more learners, and improve skills in more workplaces, up and down the country.”

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