to the success of hundreds of trades union learning projects across
the country the unions would play a key role in the government's
Skills Strategy to be unveiled this month.
Praising the work of unions at the annual Union Learning Fund
Conference in London, he said:
'New figures show that union learning is achieving success in both
large and small unions - and increasing its impact year on year.
There are now 180 learning centres open and tens of thousands of
members have taken part in learning. Their work is vital to our
productivity and underpins our drive to close the skills gaps holding
back our competitiveness.
'A key part of the drive for workforce development is the growing
network of Union Learning Representatives. 6,500 have now been
trained and we aim to have 22,000 in post by 2010. They are making a
huge contribution to learning and have rightly just won a legal
entitlement to paid time off, enjoying similar rights to shop
'Thanks to the Union Learning Fund, this new kind of activist is
helping unions reach the parts other organisations simply cannot.
Increasingly recruited from younger female members and ethnic
minorities - around one in six in the South East - they are improving
the quality of worker's lives immeasurably.
'In implementing our national Skills Strategy later this month I will
be joining up skills policies across Government. To reach the whole
range of the population and improve their skills for employability we
need the contribution of unions in workplace learning.
'I see a strong role for unions within skills strategy over the next
few years. Just as unions play a key role as social partners in
Europe, unions in this country will increasingly play their part in
policy development through partnership with Government and employer
'Unions are making their mark i n workplace learning and are
participating in several initiatives, including the ground breaking
Employer Training Pilots to support employers and in e-learning where
unions are helping remove barriers to employment and widen
'Union learning projects are especially successful at reaching
non-traditional learners such as shift and part-time workers and
people whose first language is not English. They succeed because they
know the people they work with. We need more help from unions to
reach our targets'
Mr Clarke highlighted a several unions and sectors where the
government's Union Learning Fund has been delivering successful
lifelong learning projects:
- Building workers - construction unions are helping members progress
from basic skills and IT to level 2 Construction Skills Certificate
Scheme, which gives union members a registration card showing they
have reached the required health and safety standard as well as
Level 2 accreditation.
- Rail workers - working together, rail unions created the Passport
to Learning Project to reachout to people working unusual shift
patterns, who previously had few learning options. These workers
now have access to IT courses and a range of other learning
- Nurses - ULF helps finance a learning zone where nurses can log on
for personal as well as professional development. Thousands of
union members are taking up this opportunity.
This Press Notice applies to England.
An extra £6m was announced in the recent budget for the
Union Learning Fund over the next two years; on top of the £11m
already in place for each year up to 2006. This extra funding will be
available to support more union projects and underlines the
government's commitment to the role of union activity in lifelong