Trade unions need to be on an equal footing with company managers in developing education and training policies if the Government's lifelong learning goals are to be achieved, says a new strategy report for industry published this week.
Exclusion of unions from education in the workplace means that groups who need most help, and whose needs have traditionally been ignored, will continue to be denied access to learning, it warns.
The report issued jointly by the Trades Union Congress and the TEC National Council offers a guide for their members on lifelong learning. At the same time the two organisations launched nationally their series of "Bargaining for Skills" projects. These are projects providing trade union representatives with key information and skills to assist them in negotiating agreements with management and in working with them to deliver high-quality learning opportunities. So far, 11 projects across the country have been established.
According to the new guide: "The inclusion of unions in planning and delivering learning locally will help meet the challenge of widening participation in learning advocated by the Kennedy report, Learning Works. Union involvement can help to secure greater equity by helping those whose needs have been traditionally ignored to access learning and to improve their life chances."
To meet lifelong learning targets there needed to be both an increase in supply of, and demand for, education and training. Employer "push" for training and employee "pull" for learning could be maximised through unions working with management.
But it could only be done if union representatives were included in the dialogue on lifelong learning strategies and issues around the organisation of work and management of change.
"This means equipping them with the knowledge, skills and the confidence to engage in this dialogue on an equal footing with managers and to act as full partners in developing the workforce and enhancing career opportunities for members. The association of unions with lifelong learning in addition to traditional union issues such as employment rights will provide an important spur to their members to take up such opportunities."