From education to employment

Period of Growth Hailed by TUC Document

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has released its Education Annual Report 2005, in which it hails a “period of unprecedented growth” in trade union education.

The TUC Education programme annually provides training to more than a fifth of the country’s 220,000 union workplace representatives. According to TUC commissioned research, nearly four out of every ten participants in TUC Education left full-time education with no qualifications. Having gained new learning opportunities, figures showed that eight out of ten people who have received TUC training now feel confident enough to continue into further education and training.

Participation Rising

The TUC figures for student participation show a rise in course enrolment of 12.6% on the figures for 2003. This represents the highest number of participants since 1978. Amongst these 42,541 students, more than 1,000 union officers received training from the TUC. There has been a small rise in Women’s participation on the programme, although the report found that women’s involvement was much higher on the short course programme than on the longer courses.

The report put the rise in participation down to “a secure funding mechanism which gives government backing to key areas of work.” This, the report suggested, “underscores the reputation of trade union education as an important part of the adult curriculum in Further Education.”

A Need for Strong Workplace Training Support

However, the report acknowledged that the changing role of trade unions in the workplace had lead to difficulties in obtaining paid time off to train for some members, amid “a background of decline in industries with strong, traditional release arrangements.” Despite this, the evidence suggests that there is still a “continuing and steady demand” for the training on offer, and popular programmes such as the Access Programme are continuing to grow.

TUC Education already works with 76 Further Education colleges, and the report highlighted the importance of maintaining good relationships with educational establishments. “The accreditation of the TUC courses,” the report found, “is a continuing success with high rates of take up and achievement and growing evidence of progression.”

Short can be Sweet

The report also recognised the importance of short courses in the TUC Education programme, in areas ranging from health and safety to dispute resolution. During the Autumn and Winter 2004/2005, a review of the system of training for union officers was carried out by the TUC, using questionnaires and focus-groups across the country.

As part of its findings, this review recommended that the TUC officer training programme should be re – launched and extended to other union staff. Therefore, in 2006, the Union Profession Development Programme will be launched, in order to aid the development of officers and other union professionals, depending on their role within the union.

This year saw the completion of the first online version of the Union Learning Reps course and the Tackling Racism course, which were the result of a project funded by the Department for Education and Skills. After an evaluation of the project by Glasgow Caledonian University, the courses are being improved and more development in the area of online training is expected in the near future.

Widening Participation

The participation of women in the trade union movement has been an important theme for the TUC this year, and this summer saw the launch of the first ever national summer school for women officers. Sixteen women were able to take part in a series of courses and hear from guest speakers from the trade union movement. TUC Education is also developing training based around workplace equality. This includes specific courses on race, gender and disability, and a programme entitled “Challenging the Far Right”, which trained union reps to developed arguments and strategies to challenge racism and inequality in the workplace.

An online version of this programme is currently being developed. The TUC are also developing training on disability awareness, which will lead to the establishment of “Disability Champions”, who will negotiate change and promote good practise around this agenda.

Jessica Brammar

What can the TUC do next year to improve work based training? Tell us in the FE Blog

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