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Education and skills secretary Charles Clarke today said that thanks ...
Education and skills secretary Charles Clarke today said that thanks

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


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