Unionlearn survey highlights the benefits of union led learning at work

Union led learning activities raise awareness of learning opportunities and increase workers interest in joining a union. These are just some of the findings the 2017 unionlearn survey of Union Learning Reps (ULRs) and union reps supporting learning and skills.

Unionlearn conducted the survey this spring to get an up-to-date picture of the workplace activities of ULRs and union reps, including the main opportunities and challenges that they identified in promoting the union learning agenda. 

The survey was undertaken online and nearly 1000 individuals responded, giving a good idea of how unions are supporting workplace learning and skills in 2017. 

The survey points to the fact that many employers see the benefit of union led learning, with nearly three fifths of ULRs and other union reps saying that their workplace had a formal learning agreement in existence, whilst three quarters felt they were given reasonable time off to conduct their ULR/union rep role and 85% said that they had reasonable time-off to undergo ULR/union rep training. 

This is not surprising as when the survey measured impact in terms of increasing access to specific types of learning and training, around a third of reps said that their activities had led to more individuals accessing a wide range of training, including:

  • Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
  • Training leading to vocational/academic training
  • Job-related training not leading to qualifications
  • Personal interest/leisure courses
  • Basic literacy and numeracy skills

This upskilling of staff is good for employers, but also has benefits for employees, their families and the wider community. 

The survey also highlighted the work that reps do to support apprenticeships, with an increasing number identifying the take-up of apprenticeships when compared to the 2014 survey. Over half of ULRs and union reps said that they were aware of the Apprenticeship Levy and nearly a quarter had conducted discussions with management and/or their HR department about its impact. 

Unionlearn Director Kevin Rowan said:

The 2017 survey shows the benefits that Union Learning Reps and union reps have – not only for colleagues and union members – but also for employers and workplaces.

ULRs receive high quality training from the TUC and unions, and work hard using their knowledge to provide information advice and guidance that can help employees find the best learning opportunities as well as organising learning activities that inspire colleagues to explore future development."

The full report of the 2017 survey can be found at https://www.unionlearn.org.uk/publications/survey-ulrs-and-union-reps-supporting-learning-and-skills