“And in this regard I believe that you are the most successful movement for change in this country.” (Gordon Brown, Unionlearn launch, 2nd May).
Such critical acclaim burbling from the highest echelons of government can only precede something positive. Riding high on the success of the main launch at the beginning of May, the Unionlearn initiative is spreading throughout the north of the UK, bringing with it the message of hope; to provide a muse for the unspoken majority. “Unionlearn will deliver a new skills partnership,” explains Unionlearn Director Liz Smith. “For individual workers, it will bring opportunities to develop new skills and ambitions. For employers, it will demonstrate the benefits of a better-trained workforce and higher productivity. Unionlearn will place unions at the centre of skills development.”
Reaching the 7 Million
Funded conjunctively by the TUC and government, Unionlearn will target the approximate seven million adults within the UK who lack the basic skills in literacy, numeracy and the benchmark Level 2 qualification. “This is a great opportunity to showcase the crucial role of trade unions in boosting skills”, explains Barney McGill, Unionlearn Northern Regional Manager. Clearly exemplifying the aim of strengthening union membership and encouraging employer support for training, he enthuses: “Unionlearn will help to deliver a better-trained and more secure workforce. We now need employers to step up to the challenge of workplace learning as well, with more support for local schemes, time off to train and a decent wage for apprenticeships.”
This deliverance will be executed through the establishment of workplace learning centres, opening up opportunities for local workers in the form of numeracy and literacy courses, essential language skills to combat the rising tide of globalisation, IT courses and continuing professional development. Speaking about the Liverpool Unionlearn launch, scheduled for Tuesday 16th May 2006, Director Liz Smith was confident for success, saying: “This is an exciting new initiative for the local economy.” The launch, held at a construction site by the Kings Waterfront, showcases a partnership between construction giant Bovis Lend Lease and building union UCATT. “We are delighted to be working in partnership with UCATT and Unionlearn to raise awareness and promote learning in the workplace,” says Lyn Farrer, Bovis Regional Manager.
Their project will result in a learning centre to be set up on the site in the near future, clearly depicting the course Unionlearn is keen to take with country. This is a direction that has already come to fruition. In the North East alone, there is evidence that over half of the people who engage with a Union Learning Representative continue to study for at least two courses to improve their skills set. “This is a great opportunity to demonstrate the important contribution played by trade unions”, explains Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary, of the Manchester Unionlearn launch.
Scheduled for Tuesday 16th May 2006 also, it is to be held at the Mechanics Institute, a poignant commemoration for this auspicious event. “Over 135 years ago when the first TUC met in Manchester [at the Mechanics Institute], apprenticeships and skills were top of the agenda. With Unionlearn, we are a step closer to delivering on that goal for local workers.” North West Regional Manager for Unionlearn, Dave Eva was similarly effervescent in praise for the work of Unionlearn: “Our work is about delivering opportunities for both trade union members and local business. Unionlearn proves beyond doubt that investing in skills benefits everyone”.
The launches are scheduled for the following dates: Manchester, on Tuesday 16th May 2006, The Mechanics Institute; Liverpool, on Tuesday 16th May 2006, The Kings Waterfront development; and Durham, on Wednesday 17th May 2006, Ramside Hall.
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