From education to employment

Fringe meeting at Labour conference focuses on skills in service industry

A union has slammed “cowboy” employers who cut costs and “let everyone down”, pointing to the current skills gap in the UK service sector.

Graham Steele, Senior National Officer with the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) this week welcomed the end of the “era of cheapest is best in outsourcing”, which they say has emerged from compulsory competitive tendering policies.

Speaking to a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference earlier this week, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Healy, also welcomed the work of the 15,000 Union Learning Representatives (ULR), applauding the government’s £80 million investment into the Union Learning fund.

“This investment and the work of ULRs is paying dividends in the delivery of the joint skills project between the British Services Association (BSA) and civil services union PCS”, Mr Healy noted.

Mr Steele added: “With the service sector being one of the fastest growing in Britain, and with the sector having a big skills gap, it is time for unions and employers to get together to end this unacceptable situation”.

Also sitting on the panel was unionlearn Director Liz Smith, who congratulated the initiative between the two organisations. “It is challenging, has some risks, but is innovative”, she said.

“Firstly, standards in the service sector would increase substantially with a more highly skilled workforce. Secondly, skills are a vital investment in people and that lifelong learning is at the heart of the needs of the UKs economy.

“Thirdly, by increasing skills, unions and employers are working in partnership to create a higher performance workforce. To achieve these aims will need more government investment, for employers and unions to effectively use current investment, and to deal with issues of inequality”, she added.

And PCS Deputy General Secretary Hugh Lanning highlighted the project’s aim to spread good practice among employers in the service sector. “The project needed to maintain the support of government and to bring in the resources of the TUC”, he noted.

“We are seeking a skills standard for all employers to adhere to”.

Vijay Pattni.

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