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Home > News > July 2005 > 15-Jul-2005

Learning at work on the increase, says TUC survey

Trade unions are transforming the lives of tens of thousands of workers in England, according to new figures released yesterday ahead of the TUC's annual union learning fund (ULF) conference.

According to the figures, the number of people who accessed training at work via the union route in the last 12 months has risen by nine per cent to 67,000. Union learning representatives - union members tasked with helping their colleagues access training opportunities at work - have risen by 50 per cent from 8,000 to almost 12,000.

The figures, provided by all ULF projects and collated by the LSC and TUC Education, cover the last financial year to the end of March 2005. They reveal that there has been an increase in the number of learning agreements between employers and unions, with 278 new agreements signed involving learning reps and promoting union learning amongst the workforce.

Delegates at yesterday's union learning conference heard details of a new union academy that aims to open up learning to even more workers over the next few years.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "Union learning reps are bringing thousands of people back to learning where other approaches have failed. A recent TUC poll revealed that three in five workers said help and advice from a colleague at work with special knowledge would encourage them to pursue learning opportunities at work - a ringing endorsement for learning reps.

"We now need to push on to ensure that every worker has the chance to maximise their full potential and access the training they need. A union academy is the next step for the trade union movement to bring together the multitude of training opportunities unions already offer."

Skills Minister Phil Hope MP said: "The union learning fund has been a huge success that has made a difference to thousands of workers up and down the country. Never in the history of the trade union movement has its educational role been so important. The union learning fund, now with nearly 12,000 trained union learning reps, helped over 67,000 people back into learning last year through a huge range of ULF projects.

"We have increased ULF funding for this year and next to over £15 million, including £1 million capital funding to help unions contribute to the work of the new sector skills councils. To build on the success of the ULF we are now supporting the union movement's ambitious plan to develop a union academy. This will be a centre of excellence and catalyst for our national learning revolution."

Director of Skills at the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) David Way said: "The union learning fund continues to play a key role in ensuring that training is relevant and accessible to those employees who need it most. Nearly 70,000 individuals benefited from development opportunities in the last year and almost 4,000 new union learning representatives received training.

"These figures have grown significantly since last year and demonstrate just how much the scheme is valued by both employers and the learners themselves. The LSC is committed to working with all unions to ensure they can make the most of the fund."

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