Presenting the award for the 2015 Union Learning representative at the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Union Learn NI Conference in Belfast on Wednesday, the Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry congratulated the winner Carmina Kaszoni, an employee of Moypark, Ballymena, for her dedication and support in encouraging her colleagues to participate in learning.
Dr Farry said: “Union Learning reps are playing a crucial role in steering employees towards enhancing and upgrading their skills and abilities and are fast becoming a cornerstone of the Trade Union movement. They ensure that workplaces are not only conducive to lifelong learning but are professional and effective as learning environments for both employers and employees.
“We need to raise the skills levels of the whole workforce to ensure we are equipping people with the qualifications, aptitudes and abilities they need to achieve their full potential.
“The need to invest in skills is the central message of my Department and it lies at the heart of everything we do. Through the Union Learning Fund we are offering thousands of workers across Northern Ireland a chance to re-engage in learning.”
There are currently 11 union learning projects operating in workplaces across Northern Ireland, funded through the Department for Employment and Learning’s Union Learning Fund. These projects are aimed at improving workplace skills as well as providing a second chance for people to gain qualifications in literacy, numeracy and ICT. They have also helped to train and support Union Learning Representatives, establish learning centres and facilitate learning agreements with employers.
The Minister continued: “Skills play a vital role in performance. In fact research shows that firms in the UK that do not invest in training are, on average, twice as likely to fail. So, if employers want to increase their productivity, introduce new technology or improve customer service, they need to up-skill their current workforce. Working in partnership with your Trade Union to encourage learning in the workplace can help deliver that goal.
“Last year, Union Learning Representatives brokered learning opportunities for over 2,000 people, with almost 1,000 improving their Essential Skills in literacy, numeracy and ICT. No matter what stage you are at in your career, skills are vital at all levels throughout everyone’s working life.”
Welcoming the Minister to the conference on behalf of NICICTU, Mark Langhammer said: “I am pleased to pay tribute to the work and spirit of the Union Learning Reps and those workers who have taken this opportunity to acquire knowledge and skills.”