Benefits of union learning recognised in government report

A report commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in 2014 has just been published by the Department for Education (DfE) – and it highlights some of the positive benefits for workplace skills when unions are involved.

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) were asked to develop and test behavioural interventions to improve participation and completion of maths and English courses, which resulted in the report 'Improving engagement and attainment in maths and English courses: insights from behavioural research.'

The report highlights the way that unions can help workers with maths and English development and said:

We also saw union-supported learning, through learning centres and Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) as one of the few effective existing models of work-based support for maths and English.

The ULRs emphasised that in their view this was because of the peer element: ULRs are colleagues and friends, rather than managers, and therefore employees were more willing to come to them about this type of training.”

In particular the report mentioned:

A striking case study was reported by the manager of a union-run learning centre in a garbage collection depot on the south coast.”

It noted that:

Before the learning centre was established, nobody had thought that low maths and English skills were impacting the running of the organisation. However, over five or so years, the offer of maths and English was taken up by many of the drivers: only one or two at first, who then went back into their units and told their colleagues, who then went and did the training, and over time the skill-level of the entire workforce was raised, and this changed the entire way the depot ran.”

The report goes on to show how this help boosted staff confidence and skills:

As the drivers became more skilled, they were able to undertake multiple routes and complete their own paperwork, making the entire depot more productive and freeing up managers for other tasks.”

Unionlearn Director Kevin Rowan said:

It is heartening to have all the hard work of unions and Union Learning Reps recognised in this report. The report highlights how effective ULRs and learning centres are in supporting staff improve maths and English skills.

Unionlearn is pleased to be able to offer support and training to unions, through its Union Learning Fund projects, regular Supporting Learners events, learning campaigns and high quality resources that ensure reps are highly trained and perfect placed to support workers maximise their skills and employers develop their workforce.”

The full report can be found here.