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Are trade unions learning?

Sabina Siebert (Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 4 October 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to consider whether a university‐based conception of learning in the workplace might bridge the differences that separate the critics and advocates of workplace learning promoted by trade unions.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper discusses the role of work‐based learning in trade unions.

Findings

For trade unions the meaning of workplace learning is a contested area. Critics associate it with a corporate oriented policy of upskilling the workforce, premised on a simplified, firm‐specific notion of the human capital theory. In contrast, advocates of workplace learning promoted by trade unions consider it an opportunity to develop the basic and higher level skills of members while revitalising the movement. This paper proposes a way forward for union involvement in work‐based learning that tackles the concerns of radical trade unionists and fulfils the hopes of advocates, namely to work in collaboration with universities.

Originality/value

The literature on the role of trade unions in promoting workplace learning focuses on the tension between critics who challenge a unitarist and consensual view of learning, and advocates who believe that learning partnerships between employers and trade unions facilitate more conciliatory employment relations and create a positive learning environment for the members. This paper assumes a different perspective by proposing a way forward for union involvement in workplace learning, namely to work in collaboration with universities.

Keywords

Citation

Siebert, S. (2011), "Are trade unions learning?", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 91-94. https://doi.org/10.1108/20423891111128863

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited