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Major Culture Change in Training for Workers

09 August 2005
Note: Speech to be delivered at launch at 6pm tonight. Full text on www.union.org.nz

Major Culture Change in Training for Workers

A new project to help more workers into training and education is the start of a major culture change involving workers, companies and state enterprises, Council of Trade Unions secretary Carol Beaumont said today.

The Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, launched the Learning Representatives project at Parliament this evening. Learning Representatives has been developed by the Council of Trade Unions, working with Business NZ and is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission.

Under the scheme, a learning rep is elected by colleagues on a worksite to help them get ahead with learning and training at work. They are then trained to advise co-workers on opportunities for learning, work with management on company training plans and promote training that will build a career for workers.

“This is the beginning of a culture of life-long learning; an area where New Zealand lags behind both Europe and Asia,” Carol Beaumont said in a speech at the launch.

“No-one any longer can afford to have the view that work is what happens when you’ve finished education,” she said. “This is particularly so when we know that 80 per cent of the workforce of 2015 is already working today, so if we want to upskilll the workforce we need to have a solid focus on learning at work.”
The Learning Representatives scheme is modelled on a successful UK programme which has seen thousands of workplace learning reps trained and thousands more workers assisted into training and educational opportunities.

In New Zealand the project mirrors the scheme of elected health and safety representatives. Part of the rep’s job is to involve their colleagues in workplace health and safety.

“The learning representatives, like health and safety representatives, are important because they will have the confidence of their workmates, will understand the issues of their peers, and will therefore be able to promote learning that has a wide range of benefits both for individuals and the industry,” Carol Beaumont said.

“The Learning Representatives programme can tap into workers’ aspirations and use the motivation of opportunity, personal growth and sometimes a second chance at education, to the build the culture change we need.

“And for employers there is now ample evidence that comprehensive training programmes lead directly to higher workplace morale, lower absenteeism, lower staff turnover, higher productivity and effective working relationships.”

The project is creating the learning workplace – where innovation and ideas are encouraged and participation is rewarded, she said.

“We are looking towards a shared commitment to productivity and growth, workers and unions as social partners with government and business in economic and social development, decent work, high skills, high wages and secure jobs.”

ENDS

See http://www.learningreps.org.nz/

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