BECTU policy for lifelong learning in the workplace

13 August 2001


"All workers should be entitled to accessible and appropriate training and support to assist them to develop skills and knowledge and to realise their full potential at work and in life."

BECTU believes that training in all its forms is indispensable to sustain and develop a world class workforce for the cultural industries. Furthermore BECTU considers the development of skills and knowledge to be central to the work of a trade union. These skills are the necessary tools which will allow our membership to remain employable and economically active, will break down the barriers to work and increase access to work for traditionally under represented groups in the community.

This policy will assist BECTU lay members and staff to mainstream training and development into the work of the union at all levels, and through this to achieve positive learning outcomes for the membership.

BECTU.... the power to influence the training agenda

As the major trade union in the cultural industries BECTU is well placed to influence the training agenda in the sector. In fact the union has been at the forefront of many of the major lifelong learning developments affecting our industries. A key aspect of this work has been our involvement with the National Training Organisations that cover the sectors in which we organise.

The Union supports the concept of a national network of sectoral NTOs, which are industry, owned, led and focussed. We believe that a pre-condition for the success of NTOs is the full involvement of the relevant trade unions in all aspects of policy making and in particular the identification of skills needs, development of qualifications and standards and funding interventions.

BECTU recognises the value in working with the Learning and Skills Council in England and their counterparts in Wales, Northern Ireland and in Scotland. Furthermore BECTU will seek to work with the devolved government and industry agencies in all the regions and nations of the UK in order to develop the skills of our membership.

Working with employers for learning outcomes

BECTU takes the view that training and development of the workforce is ultimately the responsibility of the employer. The Union believes that the most effective way for employers to deliver training is through working with unions at a local and national level. To this end BECTU will actively seek to reach agreement on lifelong learning issues with the employers and employers groupings that we deal with. These agreements should aim to contain, but not be limited to the following:

  • A broad policy statement which sets out the background, the scope and the aims of the agreement
  • Details of how the Union and the employer will work together to promote and provide lifelong learning opportunities
  • Details of time off arrangements and facilities for workers undertaking training and for Union Learning Representatives
  • Targets for hours per annum, per worker for undertaking learning
  • Information on annual investment of company on training, actual and projected.
  • Agreement on minimum funding per annum per worker for training
  • Details of how opportunities for training and development will be accessed by non traditional learners, in particular under represented groups and casuals/freelance/contract staff
Funding - who pays?

A skilled workforce is a prerequisite for the success of our industries, and skills have a cost. A lack of strategic investment by certain employers over a number of years has resulted in significant skills shortages and few opportunities for structured career development for workers. Particularly in industries where freelancing and casual working are the norm, employers find it easy to escape their responsibility to invest in skills. It is neither equitable nor economically sustainable for this investment to remain optional. As such, BECTU believes that the appropriate funding mechanisms for maintaining and developing skills should be based on the introduction of statutory compulsory training levies, which could then be used to support structured training.

Notwithstanding the employers' responsibilities to resource and facilitate training, BECTU acknowledges and appreciates the benefits that public funding opportunities can bring. BECTU will continue to identify and research the various European, National and local funding sources with a view to maximising training and lifelong learning opportunities for members.

Union Learning Representatives

BECTU believes that the development of a network of learning representatives is essential if we are to influence the delivery of lifelong learning in the workplace and embed best practice in training and development in all aspects of our work with employers. BECTU strongly encourages all its branches, including freelance branches, to elect union learning representatives appropriate to divisional/sub divisional and sectoral/occupational needs. In order to develop the skills of these representatives the Union will ensure that support and, where appropriate, training are made available to these lay officials.

Basic and key skills

In attempting to identify some of the root causes for the lack of a training culture in certain sections of the cultural sector workforce, there is a tendency by both employers and workers to concentrate on specific vocational training needs and to ignore the broader learning needs. In the Moser Report, commissioned in 1998, 7 million adults in the UK were found to have poor basic skills, the essential 'building block' skills that everyone needs to achieve at work and in life - communication, IT, literacy and numeracy. BECTU believes that NTOs, employers and training providers should ensure that basic and key skills training needs do not present a barrier to learning for any section of the workforce, and BECTU will campaign to make certain that these needs are adequately addressed in all local and national lifelong learning policy.

Standards and qualifications

In order for vocational training to be relevant and appropriate to industry needs, it must be underpinned by industry owned and agreed standards and qualifications for people in work. BECTU strongly supports the work of National Training Organisations in the creation, development and promotion of standards and qualifications for the cultural industries. In particular BECTU has an important role to play in maintaining the currency of the standards, and in promoting and educating the membership, to increase understanding and uptake.

In particular BECTU recognises the difficulties faced by freelance and casual workers in gaining qualifications, due to the nature of their employment, and the Union is committed to campaigning for adequate resources to widen access to the qualifications for all workers.

BECTU acknowledges that in certain circumstances the workforce may be required to attain a variety of skills covering a number of complementary areas of work. However, the union emphasises the continuing need for specialist skills and competencies for all grades, and will promote the take up of relevant professional qualification in order to maintain standards.

Training for lay representatives

Just as employers are responsible for training and developing the workforce on whom they depend, so BECTU takes responsibility for the development of the skills of its vital network of lay officials. To this end the union will seek to promote and provide appropriate development opportunities through courses, seminars and briefings, on a national, local and divisional basis.

Careers advice and guidance

BECTU believes that access to information, advice and guidance on training and careers development is essential, in order for workers in the cultural industries to make informed choices regarding their working lives.

Further and Higher Education

BECTU values the relationships we have with key training providers and agencies in the Further and Higher Education Sector, and recognises the benefits that they bring in terms of raised profile and increased recruitment potential amongst students and new entrants. The Union will continue to build and maintain these relationships, as well as fostering new connections, in order to influence education provision, as it affects our industries, and provide valuable links between students and industry.

Access and diversity

BECTU recognises the strong link between acquisition of skills and access to work in the industry. In order to achieve an industry which is truly representative of the diverse nature of the community it serves, it is crucial that training and development opportunities be made available and actively promoted to all sections of the community.

Last updated 2 October 2001