§ Lord Judd
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What is their assessment of the relative strength of relevant education and training in the workforce of Britain as compared with that of other relating nations in Europe and beyond; and what role they seek to persuade companies and employers in the private and public sectors to play in this respect. [HL960]
§ The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone)
International comparisons suggest that the UK performs favourably in comparison with other advanced countries at higher skill levels. We compare less favourably, and need to make improvements, at intermediate skill levels and in adult basic skills.
Our aim is to drive up the skills of the workforce by working in partnership with employers. Through initiatives such as Investors in People and the Union Learning Fund we are focusing employers' attention on the benefits of skill training and employee development. We will be consulting on how to give statutory backing to union learning representatives and we are working with national training organisations to test new voluntary ways of funding training.
The new Learning and Skills Council will have a key role in persuading and engaging employers to invest in the skills and development of their employees. The council will set up, with industry, clear targets for improving the skill levels in the workforce and will consult on its workforce development strategy in June 2001.
§ Baroness Blackstone
Trade unions have a vital role to play in supporting the Government's lifelong learning and workforce development agenda, including through their involvement with the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs).
John Monks has been appointed to the LSC's National Council and as Chair of its Adult Learning Committee, Tony Chandler (Unison) and Bill Connor (USDAW) have also been appointed to the Adult Learning and Young People's Learning Committees respectively. At the time of the main announcement of local council members in November, all 47 of the LSC's local councils appointed members with trade union experience.58WA
We are also setting in place other arrangements to enable trade unions to work closely with the LSC on workforce development and lifelong learning. We shall provide funding from April 2001 for TUC Learning Services activities that will complement and contribute to the department's learning priorities. In addition, the Union Learning Fund, which has supported many successful union-led learning projects, will transfer to the LSC from April 2002.
There is a trade union representation on all RDA Boards. In addition, we expect the RDAs to consult the regional TUC Councils, as key regional partners, on their plans for economic development and regeneration. The regional TUC Councils are also represented on the Regional Assemblies, which are consulted on the RDAs' strategies.