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Home > News > May 2006 > 03-May-2006

Gordon Brown launches new union skills initiative

Chancellor Gordon Brown yesterday joined representatives from unions, employers and education for the launch of unionlearn, the TUC's new workplace learning initiative.

Speakers at the launch included the chancellor, education secretary, Ruth Kelly, and TUC general secretary Brendan Barber.

Individual learners and representatives who are already involved in union-sponsored learning schemes also attended the event, which was hosted by TV personality June Sarpong.

Unionlearn director Liz Smith said: "Unionlearn will deliver a new skills partnership between unions and employers. 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."

Unionlearn aims to provide support and advice on lifelong learning and workforce development across England and play a key role in meeting the Government's Skills Strategy. The TUC says is will focus on literacy and numeracy skills and Level 2 qualifications amongst the seven million adults in England who lack basic skills, as well as Continuing Professional Development. The initiative also aims to encourage greater employer support for training.

The project is a partnership between the Department for Education and Skills and TUC, and the Government has provided £4.5 million funding for initial costs. From April 2007, unionlearn will also takeover the management of the Union Learning Fund from the Learning & Skills Council.

Unionlearn will also provide support to workplace Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) whose main role is to raise awareness of learning opportunities and to help workers access suitable courses.

The TUC says there are currently 14,000 trained learning representatives in the UK. By 2010, unionlearn aims to have recruited 22,000 learning representatives, and is aiming to help 250,000 workers into learning each year.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "This is a great opportunity to showcase the crucial role of trade unions in boosting UK skills and productivity. 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."

The project will be delivered through the six English TUC regions, with Scotland launching its own similar initiative.

Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Education and Skills said: "I am delighted to wish unionlearn the very best of luck for the future. 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 union movement. And in turn I am confident that you will put trade unions at the very heart of the Skills Strategy - where it is right that they should be."

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