From education to employment

TUC and Government Partnership to Build Skills Delivery

“Today, the British economy has just 9 million highly skilled jobs. By 2020, it will need 14 million highly skilled workers”¦”

And so, another budget speech unwrapped and digested; the Labour Party parading their achievements as though unshackling the earth from gravity, their failures swept underneath the carpet of Mr Cameron’s war room. Yet, however grandiose their claims of renovating Britain may be, there can be no discounting the significance of the above quote.

Later on today, Gordon Brown MP, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will headline a sparkling line up of education and union heavyweights to unveil Unionlearn, the new Trades Union Congress (TUC) workplace learning initiative, to address that very issue.


The Unionlearn project is a bespoke partnership between government and the TUC, in order to deliver on the skills promises constantly being asserted by Her Majesty’s finest. Unionlearn will provide support and advice on lifelong learning and workforce development across England, focusing on numeracy and literacy levels essential for a well-structured workforce.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase the crucial role of trade unions in boosting UK skills and productivity”, comments TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber. Addressing Unionlearn’s objective to encourage greater employer support for training, Brendan Barber said: “Employers need to step up to the challenge of workplace learning, with more support for learning reps, time off to train and a decent wage for apprenticeships.”

Significant Funding Needed

Targeting the seven million adults currently languishing underneath the often controversially quoted Level 2 qualifications, the initiative is not cheap. Indeed, the government has already provided a start-up of £4.5 million. However, Unionlearn can look forward to that blissful day in April 2007, when they take over management of the £14 million Union Learning Fund from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC).

And, of paramount importance as reported at FE News, this funding under the umbrella of Unionlearn will provide more support for the pivotal roles of the Union Learning Representatives. By 2010, Unionlearn hopes to have recruited an extra 8,000 representatives to reach 22,000, in their frontline quest to achieve a better educated and skilled workforce; raising awareness and hopefully reaching 250,000 workers.

Building on Accomplishments

Ruth Kelly MP, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, clearly appreciates the energy, drive and accomplishments of union learning. “You have an unprecedented opportunity to build on your previous successes and contribute to our drive to promote adult learning, putting learning at the very heart of the unionmovement.”

Yet these sentiments will fall on ears already attuned to the nation’s skills requirement. As Unionlearn director Liz Smith explains: “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.”

The televised event will include an audience of more than 500 people involved within the spheres of union learning and education, hosted by television personality June Sarpong. Guest speakers include the Chancellor Gordon Brown, Education Secretary Ruth Kelly MP and the TUC’s General Secretary Brendan Barber.

“Employers rightly tell us their greatest long-term need is a skilled, flexible labour force”¦”, explains Gordon Brown in his budget speech. And with the unveiling of Unionlearn, that is exactly what they are finally getting.

Vijay Pattni

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