Unions and skills around the world: why governments should do more to build union capacity

4.15 to 5.45 pm, 28 February 2017, Room 639, UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL

Presenter: Tom Wilson


The paper reviews how trade unions engage with skills across the world. It finds that union engagement takes a surprising variety of forms, covering every aspect of skills, including apprenticeships, basic skills to HE, confidence building, lifelong learning, appraisal, bargaining, CPD, community outreach, work organisation, job design, needs analysis, funding – and of course union rep and officer training. In many countries, union work on skills is increasing, reflecting the growing importance of skills to workers in an increasingly technical and digital economy; and the expectations of workers in countries with rising living standards. Most countries involve unions via social partnership of some kind, locally and/or sectorally and nationally. There is strong evidence that union involvement encourages more (and better quality) sustainable employer and employee investment. Unions also have a distinctive skills agenda, focusing on equality, career progression, a wider range of skills, and social dialogue. However, Union involvement is patchy; capacity and willingness is as important as legal rights. Union impact on skills is most effective when backed by government, providers and employers.

Tom Wilson is a Visiting Fellow of the University of Wolverhampton and an Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Employment. He is a consultant to the Trade Union Advisory Committee of the OECD and works with the EU, the ILO and the ETI on skills and training. After a career in Trade Unions, Tom retired as Director of Unionlearn (the Learning and Skills arm of the TUC) in 2015. He is now working freelance, most recently with unions in Hong Kong, Malta, Baltimore and Turin, the ILO trade union education centre.

The seminar is free to attend, but prior registration would be helpful: please contact  to book a place.