From education to employment

Chancellor Backs TUC Learning at Work Film Launched Today

In a bid to increase the awareness of what is being done to bring workers into learning at work, the Trades Unions Congress (TUC are today launching a film highlighting the work trade unions are doing to encourage workers to take up learning at work.

This new film, entitled “This is What We Do”, has the full support of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown MP. Indeed, he appears in the film itself, lauding the work that unions are doing to get people on to workplace learning programmes and thus bring up the general skill level amongst the workforce, a topic close to his heart.

The Chancellor introduces the film and explains why he thinks the role of the advocates, and the 12,000 union learning representatives, is so crucial in transforming the lives of thousands of working people. Union learning reps are the specially trained union members who are charged with the task of their colleagues gain access to learning opportunities at work. This learning can range from essential skills such as reading and writing through to nationally recognised qualifications.

The Film and Skills for Life Advocates

The short film highlights the work of three trade union “skills for life advocates” talking frankly about the work their unions are doing to make it more common for people to be found learning at work. “This is What We Do” will be launched at a TUC learning and skills policy network event at the Bonnington Hotel, central London. The speakers at the event include the Skills Minister Phil Hope MP, TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances OGrady, and one of the featured advocates, Valerie Broom from Unison.

The film is aimed at pointing out just how important a role these advocates play in the trade union movement, people who have pledged to support learning in the workplace. The advocates featured in the film are the bakers” union chief, Joe Marino, Unison West Midlands Regional Secretary, Valerie Broom, and Amicus Deputy General Secretary, Ed Sweeney. The film features the advocates in their daily roles showing how learning at work is an integral part both personally and in the work of their union.

Joe Marino is filmed speaking at his union’s annual conference explaining the way in which the new learning agenda is integral to the future of the trade union movement. Ed Sweeney is shown visiting a finance company where the lives of the staff have been transformed thanks to the work of the local union learning representatives, who have offered training at work schemes to all the staff. The Unison advocate Valerie Broom is filmed calling in at a local school where the school kitchen staff have signed up for skills for life training in key areas such as reading and writing. One of the staff featured has since gone on to become a full time Unison member of staff.

Brown, Hope and O”Grady Welcome Film

The Chancellor will welcome the launch of the film, and is expected to say: “The work of union learning reps is crucial to giving everyone the chance to develop the skills they need in the modern workplace. I know first hand the difference the reps make to peoples lives – people who never had a formal qualification but are now learning vital skills in areas such as reading, writing and computer skills. The foundations have been laid and now skills for life advocates and union learning reps need to ensure that all union members, and potential members, in every workplace, in every town, in every region of this country are given the opportunity to learn at work and gain new skills and qualifications to equip them for the future.”

The Skills Minister Phil hope MP will echo these sentiments, saying: “The union learning fund has exceeded all expectations, becoming an established part of the lifelong learning agenda and benefiting thousands of people in the workplace through union-led learning projects. Unions have shown that they can put together a wide range of innovative projects. The Government is working with unions to take workforce development into a new era and sustain it through new long-term projects.”

The TUC Deputy General Secretary, Frances O”Grady, actually signed up herself as the first TUC skills for life advocate in the summer of 2004, and spoke of the deep commitment to the opportunities this programme offered. “The learning at work agenda is opening up a whole host of opportunities to a new generation of workers,” O”Grady said. “Many may have struggled at school and been put off learning for life. The skills for life advocates play a vital role in ensuring that everyone in the union movement fully understands the new learning revolution that is sweeping our workplaces.

“The advocates are a real boost for the 12,000 union learning reps in the country who are helping their colleagues access training, often for the first time in years,” O”Grady continued. “This new film is another useful tool in our campaign to open up learning opportunities at work to everyone who wants them.” Skills Minister Phil hope also had words of praise for the work of union reps, and stated the commitment of the Government to both union reps and the skills agenda.

“Union learning representatives are uniquely placed to understand the needs of the workforce”, he said. “The Government is committed to increasing their numbers in the workplace to give lower skilled adults the confidence, motivation and support to return to learning. Union learning reps have an impressive track record reaching those that are hardest to reach. By working in partnership with employers and learning providers they are changing the learning landscape, benefiting many thousands of people while doing so.”

Jethro Marsh

Have union reps touched your life? Tell us in the FE Blog

Related Articles