Page 1: Introduction
Trade unions play a key role in protecting the interests of their members. This includes making sure good quality training opportunities are provided for their members. Training enables workers to gain qualifications and progress within their careers. UNISON is Britain's and Europe”s largest public sector trade union. It has more than 1.3 million members with over 75,000 members under the age of 27.
UNISON members work in a range of sectors including local government, health, police and education. UNISON is involved with issues such as:
- raising its members” pay
- achieving safe, secure working conditions
- protecting job security
- influencing decisions in the workplace.
UNISON has also been closely involved in the introduction of apprenticeship schemes within the public sector. An apprenticeship is a nationally recognised training programme combining real work with learning and training. The training takes place both on-the-job and off-the-job. On-the-job training takes place at work. Off-the-job training takes place away from the workplace, e.g. at college.
At one time craft and technical apprenticeships, such as joinery, were common in public authorities. These have significantly reduced over the last 20 years. As a result, many public service employers are now faced with an ageing workforce, skill shortages and difficulty in attracting younger workers with relevant practical skills. In response to this situation, many of these employers are now developing their own apprenticeship schemes.
The UK government wants to have a major increase in the number of public sector apprenticeship schemes for young people. It needs to ensure that there are enough places available for every suitably qualified young person by the time the education and training participation age is raised in England in 2013. It plans to create at least 21,000 new apprentice places in the NHS, education and local government.
To support this plan, from November 2009, apprenticeship programmes are now covered by Act of Parliament. In 2009, 250,000 apprenticeships started. High quality training through apprenticeships gives young people the confidence and skill to take on important work roles. This not only benefits the businesses they work in but also allows the UK economy to grow.
This case study shows how UNISON is working with employers to support and develop high quality apprenticeship schemes for young people in line with government policy. One scheme with North Yorkshire County Council demonstrates UNISON's role in supporting its development and highlights what a young person should expect from an apprenticeship placement.