This report is structured around three case studies highlighting best practice in how unions can negotiate with employers in a way that optimises the use of existing and newly acquired skills as well as maintaining their role in supporting the workforce to acquire and update skills. 

The first case study is BAE Systems’ Military Aircraft and Information division: it describes an 18-month change programme comprising a transformation of skills acquisition and working practices in respect of employees working in the production line for fighter aircraft that led to major productivity gains and improvements to job satisfaction and industrial relations. 

The second case study is Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: it describes how the employer and unions’ commitment to avoiding compulsory redundancies during a period of imposed efficiency savings led to a strategy of redeploying staff across the organisation using skills audits and other measures, including linking skills acquisition to skills utilisation . 

The third case study is the Norse Group, a holding company bringing together facilities management and care providers: it describes the way in which a small scale union Skills for Life project grew over time and led to a company-wide partnership between the employer and unions on all aspects of skills acquisition and skills utilisation which has supported rapid commercial expansion, increased union membership and improved industrial relations. 

Drawing on these case studies, the report examines the potential for unions to position themselves to build their role in influencing workplace practices, business strategy, and skills acquisition. The report also reviews recent developments in the policy discourse on skills utilisation.

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