Tom Wilson is the director of unionlearn

It's not often unions find themselves being praised from the stage at a Conservative Party annual conference, but this week two ministers told the delegates in Birmingham how much they valued the contribution of unionlearn to learning and training in the workplace.

David Willetts, the universities minister, and John Hayes, the skills minister, must have known this may not have been the best way to engineer a standing ovation from the party faithful, therefore it was good to hear them happy to put their plaudits on record in this setting. The remarks also complemented two very constructive fringe meetings unionlearn held with City & Guilds and Mr Hayes as the guest speaker.

In the context of the skills review, the FE funding consultation and the looming cloud of the CSR, there was a lot to talk about. And it soon became clear that the central question is going to be "Who will pay what?". Mr Hayes said that his government needed to look at ways to persuade employers to make their contribution. With 10 million working people getting no training at all, I argued that it is vital that good employers should not be being undermined by employers who make savings by spending nothing. Companies should be required to publish their training budget as part of the annual report. This week's Ofsted report on work-related training is unequivocal in showing the benefits employers reap from having staff who are given the opportunity to improve their skills.

Suggestions from the platform of increasing the number of licenses to practice to a wider range of professions and trades, requiring companies to provide training beyond the minimum health and safety presently provided, and for access to loans for FE and part-time students and the introduction of individual learning accounts were all met positively by the minister, although he doubted that the economic situation would allow the government being able to make substantial contributions to ILAs. He did, however, hint that he would be looking at using tax breaks as an incentive to small and medium sized companies. And, as it happens, unionlearn published this week its toolkit to help union reps to establish collective learning funds to generate co-investment in training.

Mr Hayes said he had already given FE colleges greater freedoms to respond to the market and said he would be announcing further freedoms before Christmas. He said he wanted FE colleges to be responsible for more HE provision and that he wanted to look at ways to increase modular learning and credit-based learning, which are more suited to the rhythms of life of those in work. He also agreed with the platform that if he is to open up the market in learning and make the learner the driver, good quality information and guidance was vital for young people and adults; but, he admitted, the lack of money would not make this easy.

I was pleased to hear the minister supporting the work of Niace and informal adult learning. Mr Hayes is right to say that learning is all about social mobility and social justice. It is essential in these straitened times that those who need it the most, will not continue to lose out.

Tom Wilson is director of unionlearn, the TUC's learning and training organisation


Read other FE News articles by Tom Wilson:

FE gears up for the autumn conference season

How will government encourage employers to train amid funding shortfall?

Has FE met its Prince Charming or Prince of Darkness?

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page