In recent years, the development of a new role for trade unions in promoting learning and training in the workplace and community has had a significant impact on increasing involvement, interest and enthusiasm for learning and skills among employees and employers.
In particular, the role of the Union Learning Representative (ULR) has been key in raising awareness about training and skills with workers at all levels of industry; including those who need to improve their basic maths and English skills and the many employees who may benefit from simply refreshing or updating their existing skills.
The ULR is a relatively new category of union activist. They are elected representatives of the branch, just like shop stewards and safety reps. Once elected, or appointed, these union representatives are trained in offering members information, advice and guidance (IAG) on learning needs, issues and opportunities. Throughout industry, ULRs have demonstrated that they can complement and add value to employers’ efforts to engage workers in learning and training activity.
As ULRs are trusted by their members, they can often encourage workers who would otherwise be embarrassed about admitting their learning needs to their employer, to participate in training. Additionally, they can help employers win the trust of the workforce and ensure that all workers have equal access to learning and training opportunities both inside and outside the workplace.
The work of the ULR mostly involves face-to-face meetings and other direct contact with their fellow workers. They also work through UCATT with employers and training providers (such as the TUC or a local college) to identify learning needs and training opportunities available.
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