Delegates look to the future with debates on apprenticeships

Local government conference says apprenticeships are important, but must be properly funded and designed

Delegates to UNISON’s local government conference looked to the future first thing this afternoon, as they reconvened in Brighton with a series of debates on apprenticeships.

“Too often, reorganisations can be the last refuge of the scoundrel,” said Katie for the national young members’ forum as she introduced a motion on how apprenticeships are being changed.

Noting that apprenticeships could be used as an opportunity to treat employees as “cheap labour,” she explained that even retraining can be classed as an apprenticeship.

To illustrate this, Katie told conference that UNISON has 1,800 members who are apprentices, but “only 1,300 are young members (27 or under).

Delegates instructed the service group executive to “pursue working towards an effective bargaining and organising strategy to address these new models of service delivery and new employers”, together with other

Arlene Graham from Northern Ireland stressed the need to make sure apprenticeships in the public sector must be designed to the highest level.

For the national FE and sixth-form colleges committee, Simon Steptoe emphasised the union’s long-term belief that high-quality training is essential.

He said that government plans on apprenticeships had the potential to improve matters, but for that to happen, training and job opportunities would have to “properly regulated” and resourced.

Jane Barry from Derbyshire County called on the union to develop a charter on apprenticeship issues for branches to use when negotiating with councils.

Janice Ford from Eastern region praised the union for “already doing a lot” about apprenticeships, and she urged delegates to take the opportunity later in the week to meet members of the UNISON Learning team to find out more and access the resources that are available.

For the service group committee, Tina Roach, who told conference that she has worked in careers advice for years, noted that “well-funded and well-resourced apprenticeships will be welcomed by this union” and would boost the economy as a whole”.

Conference agreed a raft of measures to tackle the issue, including sharing best practice and organising a branch survey of apprentices in local government.