By Max Clarke

The £50 million Growth and Innovation Fund to boost investment and training and to help businesses develop the skills they need in order to drive economic growth, was announced this morning by Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable.

Commenting in response to the announcement is Tom Wilson, director of unionlearn, a union that focuses on encouraging adult learning among its members:

'Unions have a vital role in improving workplace training and skills. Union Learning Fund projects have encouraged four out of ten employers to make a financial contribution to union learning activities (the average investment was £23,000). However, many more provided contributions in kind, for example equipment, office space and time off for reps and employees. Bombardier Transportation, in the East Midlands, calculated that its in-kind contributions amounted to £80,000 a year. Training is crucial if the UK is to compete in the global economy and the Government is right to encourage companies to improve the skills of their employees.'

A survey by Leeds University showed that more than half of employers (55 per cent) said that their employees improved their qualifications, thanks to union-led projects. The survey also found that while four in ten employers state that learning activities would continue without external funding, more than a quarter (28 per cent) disagreed.