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06 September 2004

Unions play increasingly important role in learning at work
Trade unions are playing an increasingly important role in the government's strategy to improve workers' basic skills. The government is supporting trade unions in encouraging workers to take up training and education opportunities through the workplace in several ways, including through the Union Learning Fund.

Learning and training - a trade unionist's guide sets out the latest government policy on learning and skills, describing the national skills strategy and the Skills for life initiative on basic skills. Developments such as the Employer Training Pilots - which aim to improve the skills of employees with poor qualifications - and new apprenticeships and foundation degrees to encourage the development of skilled trades, are also explained.

Since the Labour Research Department last published a guide to learning at work in 2001, the number of union learning reps has trebled to 7,500, and the TUC has a target to train 22,000 by 2010. There is also evidence that they are playing a key recruitment role for their unions.

Learning and training explains the legal rights to time off that learning reps now have, and provides advice from unions and the TUC on how to negotiate a learning agreement that clarifies how these will work in practice.

The framework of learning and skills provision is developing, with the creation of Sector Skills Councils that focus on meeting the training needs of industry. The TUC is urging unions to get involved with these Councils in negotiating sector skills agreements, which it sees as an important opportunity to revitalise collective bargaining at the sector level.

Learning and training - a trade unionist's guide will be a valuable resource for those already involved in workplace learning, giving examples of successful union projects and agreements, as well as for trade union officers and reps who wish to know how they can get involved in providing learning and training opportunities for members.

Notes to editors
1. Learning and training - a trade unionist's guide is published by the Labour Research Department, 78 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HF, price ?4.20 or ?10.95 for employers or commercial organisations. LRD booklets are also available on subscription at an annual cost of ?30.95 (?76.95 for employers/ commercial organisations). LRD publishes 10-11 booklets each year.

2. The Labour Research Department is an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded over 90 years ago. Around 1,800 trade union organisations, including 55 national unions, representing 99% of total TUC membership, are affiliated.

3. For press enquiries on this booklet contact Stephanie Peck on 020 7902 9825. To order copies of the booklet telephone 020 7928 3649.

4. Full information about all of LRD's services and publications is available on the LRD website at www.lrd.org.uk.

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