Tax relief should be made available to learners who pay their own course fees, argues a new report presented this week to the Trade Union Congress in Manchester.
The report also calls for the current £3.5bn claimed by businesses in training-related tax relief to have strings attached.
The Future for Union Learning, published by unions21, proposes that individuals who cover the costs of learning or training should benefit from tax relief up to a ceiling of the basic rate of tax. It also suggests that companies should only be allowed to claim tax relief on training if they can prove they are raising the skills, and improving the qualifications of their employees.
In addition, the report also argues that it should be mandatory for employers to publish details of their training programmes in their Annual Reports.
The paper recommends an entitlement to Level 2 for all, and the creation of skills and learning accounts, with subsidised loans and equal support for part-time learners.
Tom Wilson, director of unionlearn, said: “Fighting poverty, low pay, unfairness and inequality at work are the foundations of trade unionism, whether by confronting employers or by campaigning for a fairer society. The very first trade union banners gave equal prominence to the three words: Educate, Agitate, Organise and today, when 10 million people receive no training at all at their workplace, unions have as great a role to play in education as ever.
“Learning is humanising; it helps reasserts human values above material values, the value of thinking, listening and working together. It is the key to well-being and happiness.”
The TUC faces tough times as it prepares to fight the coalition government’s swathe of cuts to jobs and public services. unionlearn believes they still have a part to play in negotiating with employers to improve the standard of skills and training provided to the workforce, increasing future employability.
In 2009/10 some 250,000 workers were involved in training delivered through their union, supported by unionlearn. More than half of employers say that their employees have improved their qualifications thanks to union-led projects.
(Pictured: unionlearn director Tom WIlson)