Research into union learning

A key objective in unionlearn's strategic plan is to commission research on union-led learning and disseminate its findings within the union movement and academic community. A number of high quality research papers have already been published.


Research Paper 01 - Union learning, union recruitment and organising

This research paper presents the findings of a national union survey conducted by the Working Lives Research Institute on the dynamic between union learning and recruitment and organising.

Research Paper 02 - Organising to learn and learning to organise

This research paper by the Scottish Centre for Employment Research examines the relationship between learning and union organising in three very different workplaces.

Research paper 03 - A collective learning culture

A qualitative study of workplace learning agreements by Emma Wallis and Mark Stuart Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change; Leeds University Business School.

Research Paper 04 - Training, union recognition and collective bargaining

This report explores the potential effect of trade unions on training provision in the British workplace. It does this through an analysis of linked employeremployee data from the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS). 

Research Paper 05 - From voluntarism to post-voluntarism

This paper traces the history of union involvement in training from the neo-corporatism of the 1960/70s, through the voluntarism of the 1980s/90s, to the present "post-voluntary" era, as described by Gordon Brown when Chancellor of the Exchequer. It concludes that, although that there has been significant capacity building in unions under New Labour, the lack of significant collective bargaining over training limits delivering the broad union learning agenda at the workplace.

Research Paper 06 - Estimating the demand for union-led learning in Scotland

In countless project evaluations and reports the success of union learning has been well documented. However, only union learning reps seem able to enthusiastically tell you about the potential of union learning. For the first time in the UK that potential has been quantified and is set out in this research paper.

Research Paper 07 - Migrant workers in the labour market

This report highlights a series of issues related to the question of qualifications and the recognition of skills. The experience of migrants in the UK varies in relation to their different communities, histories and ethnic and cultural dimensions and this report is but a snapshot of some of the issues and initiatives emerging in relation to skills-related issues.

Research paper 08 - Integrating union learning and organising strategies

Research commissioned by unionlearn and suggests that unions are increasingly promoting a relationship between learning and organising at national union level. The research which was carried out by the Working Lives Research Institute is based on a survey of national officers of selected unions and case studies based on their workplaces and branches.

Research Paper 09 - The impact of the ULR: A survey of ULRs and their employers

This report presents the views of both ULRs and managers on the impact ULRs have had on the levels of employee participation in training. It also identifies the factors that are associated with the ability of ULRs to influence participation in training.

Research paper 10 - Learning representative initiatives in the UK and New Zealand

This research paper, written by Dr Bill Lee and Professor Catherine Cassell compares and contrasts ULRs in the UK with learning representatives in New Zealand through the use of case studies. 

Research paper 11 - Unions and Skills Utilisation

This authoritative paper by Francis Green sets out the need for greater policy focus on the utilisation of skills and how it is linked with High Involvement Work Practices (HIWPs)

Research Paper 12 - Union Learning Representatives: Activity, Impact and Organisation

This report provides a detailed analysis of unionlearn's 2009 survey of union learning representatives (ULRs) and their managers.

Research Paper 13 - Co-investing in workforce development

Collective Learning Funds (CLFs) are union-led initiatives to stimulate co-investment in the personal development of the workforce to make such learning affordable. They have been piloted by unionlearn to test different models in different contexts. The pilots involved increasing funding and in-kind contributions from employers and providers, obtaining greater support from unions and enhancing employee commitment.

Research paper 14 - Learning Journeys - trade union learners in their own words

This report explores, in the words of the learners themselves, the extent to which union learning facilitates equality and diversity in access to learning and precipitates further personal development, job progression and/or employability for learners. It finds that union learning provides a second chance for workers who have had negative experiences of compulsory education, addressing what they feel is an educational deficit and who may subsequently become 'serial learners'.

Research Paper 15 - The context, content and impact of union learning agreements

Unionlearn has commissioned research on learning agreements and analysed  281 learning agreements and surveyed  415 employers. The research found that the content of learning agreements covers statement of principles, commitments to partnerships, creating a learning culture and setting out the employer, ULR and union roles. Learning committees were another essential part of learning agreements with around three quarters making a reference to establishing one.

Research Paper 16 - The role and impact of unions on learning and skills policy and practice: a review of the research

Unionlearn has commissioned 15 research papers and an in-depth evaluation over the last five years. The research is focussed on the role of unions in learning and skills policy and practice.

Research paper 17 - Making skills work

This report is structured around three case studies highlighting best practice in how unions can negotiate with employers in a way that optimises the use of existing and newly acquired skills as well as maintaining their role in supporting the workforce to acquire and update skills.

Research Paper 19 - Under-representation by gender and race in Apprenticeships

While there has been a policy focus on addressing under-representation in Apprenticeships, particularly by gender, over many years, it is apparent that progress is slow. There is a continued need to focus on inequalities to ensure that: