Headlines: September 14th, 2004

The TUC is publishing plans today for a Union Academy, which will commission courses from colleges, universities and other providers to give working people learning where and how they want it. The Education Secretary, Charles Clark, is expected to back the Academy, which will also play an important role in promoting social mobility and social justice and helping individuals to play a fuller part in public and civil life.In a consultation document the TUC has set out its vision to help employers meet skills needs, assist working people to get on at work and in their personal life and to spearhead a drive to overcome problems, such as the five million people with basic skills difficulties.

The TUC says that at the moment employers lose an estimated 10 billion pounds every year because of poor basic skills in the workforce The document says it is vital to assist working people to acquire the professional technical and communication skills that make high performance workplaces a reality. The proposed Union Academy will ensure training is tailored to the needs of individuals and employers.

A feasibility study into the proposal has been carried out by The Office for Public Management – an independent not-for-profit organisation. There is already strong backing for the idea from government, employers and organisations such as NIACE, the Open University, learndirect and City and Guilds. Charles Clarke is expected to confirm his support for the plan when he speaks at the annual Congress in Brighton this afternoon. He will highlight the Academy’s potential to raise the ambitions of thousands of workers who have been failed by the education and training system.

TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, said “By building on the grassroots work of union learning representatives, the Union Academy will deliver the training that employers and workers need.”