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Union education serves as a medium of empowerment

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Trade unions have been the bedrock of workers' rights and education, continually striving to enhance vocational skills and broadening horizons for members.

TUC Northern is hosting a major event in November to serve as an inventory of our achievements, and a manifesto for our future aspirations in union-led education.

Scheduled for the morning of 17 November 2023 at the HE Hub, Newcastle College, the event is open to workplace representatives, employers, and anyone keen on expanding learning in the work environment.

Our panel and presenters include David Blunkett, former Secretary of State for Education; Seema Malhotra, the Shadow Minister for Skills; Scott Bullock, Principal of Newcastle College; Union Learning Reps, learners, lecturers, policy makers and members of the business community.

During the late 90s and 2000s, trade union education played a key part in the overall drive to improve education standards around the country.

This period saw the creation of the Union Learning Fund (ULF), an initiative that underscored the importance of lifelong learning and bettered workers' lives across sectors.

This was more than a welfare policy; it was a symbiotic relationship benefiting both employees and employers.

Sadly, the ULF was axed in 2021, a move that defied economic logic and resonated as an unnecessary and ideological decision.

The withdrawal of the Union Learning Fund not only robbed employees of good opportunities but also negatively impacted employers.

With returns on costs of up to £11 for every £1 invested, including a two-fold return to the Exchequer, the move away from union learning harms the North East economy and continues to impact us year after year.

It's not just about the figures; it's about human capital, confidence, and community-building.

Case studies from the ULF era underscored the transformative power of Unionlearn in setting people on career paths they'd never envisioned, whether it was a supermarket checkout worker transitioning into an IT apprenticeship or train drivers learning British Sign Language.

Union education serves as a beacon of hope and a medium of empowerment.

It addresses immediate needs, such as raising awareness about workplace health and safety, and takes a long-term view by investing in vocational skills.

By doing so, it plays a pivotal role in reducing social inequalities, enhancing skills, and promoting a culture of continuous learning and development.

In the era following the revocation of the Union Learning Fund, there's a growing need to articulate the immense value trade union education brings to society.

With this event, we aim to rekindle the spirit of collective learning, celebrate our current efforts, and lay down the roadmap for the future.

Presentations will start at 10:00 am, with a break at 11:30 am, and the opportunity for networking during a provided lunch at 1:00 pm.

If you’re interested in joining us, and looking again at the value of trade union education, make sure to sign up at:

See you there.

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