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Union Learning Fund

House of Lords written question – answered on 6th June 2011.

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Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird UUP

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Wilcox on 10 February (WA 88-90), what assessment they have made of the results of the Central Lancashire Business School survey on Union Learning Representatives' (ULR) activity, impact and organisation in which 54 per cent of respondents agreed that ULR activity had helped to close skills gaps; and whether the funding of £177,000 for the National Union of Journalists in 2009-10 to develop the skills of its ULRs to work with employers to encourage workers to participate in continuing professional development provided value for money.

Photo of Baroness Wilcox Baroness Wilcox The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

The Central Lancashire Business School survey on Union Learning Representatives' (ULR) activity in England demonstrates the increasingly important role that ULRs play in the promotion of training and skills development in many workplaces. The Government consequently remain committed to supporting the work of ULRs and the Union Learning Fund in helping to drive up workforce skill levels and the important contribution they make to improving management-union relations in the workplace.

The survey included responses from over 950 active ULRs, 78 per cent of whom reported that their activity increased the number of colleagues receiving training and 80 per cent of whom reported that their activity had helped workers with little prior experience of learning. Two thirds reported improved management-union dialogue and almost 60 per cent reported improved management-union relations. The survey also included responses from over 112 managers, 88 per cent of whom valued the contribution made by ULRs. Furthermore, almost 60 per cent believed that ULRs had helped raise basic skill levels as well as 54 per cent agreeing that ULR activity had helped to close skills gaps. A majority of managers also agreed that ULR activity had helped to improve management-union relationships. The survey's findings are all the more positive given the very challenging economic climate at the time.

The funding of £177,000 for the National Union of Journalist's (NUJ) Union Learning Fund project in 2009-10 produced a wide range of positive outcomes, the vast majority of which were above the project's original outcome profile. Through increasing the skills of the union's network of learning representatives the project was able to provide opportunities for 848 learners to improve their own skills. This included 277 learners undertaking information, communication and technology courses to improve their computer skills, 137 learners accessing literacy and numeracy training to improve their basic skills and over 350 learners participating in continuing professional development to enhance their existing skill levels. The project also developed an on-line learning centre which provides a bespoke careers advice service for workers in the industry, offering quality information, advice and guidance on career development and opportunities. This enabled the project's ULRs to offer structured information, advice and guidance on learning and skills to over 2,300 learners over three times higher than the profiled target of 650.

A key purpose of the funding awarded to the NUJ for this ULF project was to help develop the union's capacity to provide ongoing support on learning and skills development to workers in the sector by helping to pump prime initial activity. Since the end of this project the NUJ has continued the learning and skills work initiated by the project, including sustaining the on-line learning centre using its own resources.

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