The purpose of this paper is to open up discussion about the relationship between trade unions and workplace learning.
The paper is based on an analysis of a series of case‐studies of restructuring in the European steel industry, incorporating interviews, observation and documentary analysis.
The paper argues that trade unions often fail to address the significance of workplace learning for members, because they address workplace learning as a service. This approach fails to exploit opportunities and possibilities to extend workplace‐learning provisions, and thereby meet the wider learning and employability enhancing needs of members. The outcome is that trade union involvement in skill formation and workplace learning is marginal, and contributes to the perpetuation of traditional sector practices and regressive learning provisions.
The paper focuses on a discussion of trade union involvement in workplace learning in the European steel industry. The implications for workplace learning practices more generally, are limited to industries where trade unions (and companies/industry) organise in relation to training and learning agendas in similar ways – and in relation to industries undergoing similar process of restructuring and “modernisation”.
The paper provides a critique of trade union service approaches to learning agendas and highlights for policy‐makers gaps in current learning provisions within industry.
This paper makes an original contribution to debates concerned with trade union involvement and participation in workplace learning. It focuses on workplace inequities in training provision, and the implications for the future of unions and the employability prospects of workforces within the European steel industry.
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