Professor Helen Rainbird

Professor Helen Rainbird

Emeritus Professor of Human Resource Management

Contact details

Birmingham Business School
University House
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Helen Rainbird joined Birmingham Business School in October 2004. She has researched and written extensively on the intersection between industrial relations structures and processes and workplace learning policies and practices in organisations and has worked on a number of European projects on training institutions.

Helen retired in December 2013 but continues to be a member of the Global Value Chains Research Cluster.




Helen Rainbird worked at the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick (1983-89,) and the ESRC's Industrial Relations Research Unit, University of Warwick (1989-1993), before taking up a Readership and then Professorship at University College Northampton.  She joined Birmingham Business School in October 2004. She has researched and written extensively on the intersection between industrial relations structures and processes and workplace learning policies and practices in organisations.

She has a long-standing interest in training and development practices in the public sector and, in particular, the role of union/employer partnerships on learning in supporting the expression of employee voice and access to learning.

She has worked on a number of European projects on training institutions and practices and has an interest in comparative research methodology. Helen Rainbird retired in December 2013. She continues to be a member of the Global Value Chains Research Cluster.

She was a member of the ESRC’s Research Grants Board, from September 2008 to 2010.


She was co-editor of Work, Employment and Society with Professor Michael Rose (University of Bath) 2005-2007. She has been a member of the editorial board of Sociologia del Trabajo since 1994 and associate editor of the International Journal of Training and Development since 1995.


Group: Organisations, Work and Employment


Helen Rainbird's research interests lie at the interface of industrial relations and workplace learning. She has a long-standing interest in the training and development needs of low paid workers andin the role of trade unions as advocates and negotiators of learning.


Her current interests are in the implications of global value chain analysis for labour and skills.



(with J.Heyes) 'Mobilising resources for union learning: a strategy for revitalisation?' Industrial Relations Journal, 2011, 42, 6.

(with P. Ramirez) 'Bringing social institutions into global value chain analysis: the case of the Chilean salmon industry' Work, Employment and Society, 2012, 265: 789-805.

(with P.K. Robinson) 2013 'International supply chains and the labour process' Competition and Change, 17, 1; 91-107.

(with E. Leeson and A. Munro) ‘Is regulation good for skill development? Mediating actors and workplace practice in adult social care in England’, International Journal of Human Resource Management, 2011, 22, 18.


(with P. Ramirez) ‘Making the connections: bringing skill formation into global value chain analysis’, Work, Employment and Society, 2010, 24, 4;699-710.


(editorial, with M. Rose) ‘Work, Employment and Society,1997-2007: becoming a sociologically oriented, international,multi-disciplinary journal’, Work, Employment and Society 2008, 22, 2:203-220.


(with M. Rose) ‘Work, Employment and Society, 1997-2007: la segunda década’ Sociología del Trabajo, 2007, 61, otoňo.


‘Can training remove the glue from the “sticky floor” of low paid work for women?’ Equal Opportunities International, 26, 6, 2007.


(editorial with M. Rose) ‘The new editorial team. Work,Employment and Society: new technology, new organization …..collegiate continuity’, Work, Employment and Society, 2005, 19,2:453-457.


(with A. Munro, L. Holly and R. Leisten) ‘Power at work:reflections on the research process’, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 2004, 7, 4:289-304.


(with A. Munro) 'Opening doors as well as banging on tables:an assessment of UNISON/employer partnerships on learning in the UK public sector' Industrial Relations Journal, 2004, 35,5:419-433.




(with A. Munro) 'Workplace learning and the employment relationship in the public sector' Human Resource Management Journal,2003, 13, 2:30-44.




(with A. Munro) 'Job change and workplace learning in thepublic sector: the significance of new technology for unskilled work',New Technology, Work and Employment, 2002, 17,3:208-219.




(with Jim Sutherland) 'Conflitto o collaborazione con idatori di lavoro? Sindacati e processi di formazione in Gran Bretagna' Quaderni Rassegna Sindacale. La Contrattazione del Sapere, 2001,2:85-100.




(with A. Munro and L. Holly). '"My ladies aren't interestedin learning": Managers, supervisors and the social context of learning',International Review of Education, 2000, 46,6, 515-528.




'Skilling the unskilled: access to work based learning and the lifelong learning agenda' Journal of Education and Work, 2000, no.2:183-197.




(with A. Munro) 'The new unionism and the new bargaining agenda: UNISON-employer partnerships on workplace learning in Britain,British Journal of Industrial Relations, 38,2, 2000:223-240.




(As a member of the Research Network 'Emploi-exclusion')'Rapports entre formes d'emploi et temps du travail. Une comparaison europeene' Sociologia del  Lavoro, Speciale VII Journees de Sociologiedu Travail. Temps, Statut et Conditions du Travail, 1999, 74-75:124-132.




'Review essay: continued vocational training in Europe' Comparative Labour Law and Policy Journal, 1998, 19,2: 331-341.




'La formation continue en Grande Bretagne' Revue Formation/Emploi, decembre, 1994:13-49.


 'The changing role of the training function: a test for the integration of Human Resource and business strategies?' Human Resource Management Journal, 1994. 5,1: 72-90.




(editor, with A. Fuller and A. Munro) Workplace Learning in Context, London, Routledge. 2004:1-314.


(editor, with C. Bernier, A. Jobert and J. Saglio)Formation, Relations Professionelles et Syndicalisme a l'Heure de laSociete-Monde, L'Harmattan, Presses de l'Universite Laval, Canada,2002:1-254.


(editor) Training in the Workplace.  Critical Perspectives on Learning at Work. MacMillan, Basingstoke, 2000:1-293.


(editor, with P. Ainley) Apprenticeship. Towards a New Paradigm of Learning. Kogan Page, London, 1999:1-211.


(editor, with A. Jobert, C. Marry and L. Tanguy) Education and Work in Great Britain, Germany and Italy. Routledge, London, 1997:1-309.


Training Matters. Union Perspectives on Industrial Restructuring and Training. Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1990:1-189.


co-author with Karen Evans, Phil Hodkinson, Lorna Unwin,Alison Fuller, Heather Hodkinson, Natasha Kersh, Anne Munro and Peter Senker) Improving Workplace Learning, London, Routledge. 2006.1-210.




(with J. Heyes) ‘The state, business and training’ in Coen, D., W. Grant and D. Wilson, Eds., Oxford Handbook of Business and Government, edited by Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2010.


‘Vocational education and training in the UK’, in Bosch, G., and J, Charest, Eds., Vocational Training. International Perspectives. New York and London, Routledge. 2010:242-270.


(with J. Heyes) ‘Vocational education and training’ in Gold, M., Ed. Employment Policy in the European Union:  Origins, Themes and Prospects, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan. 2009:188-209.


'"A new and modern role for trade unions"? Assessing partnership approaches to lifelong learning' in M. Martinez Lucio and M.Stuart, Eds., Partnership and Modernisation in Employment Relations.London, Routledge, 2005.


(with A. Munro and P. Senker), 'Running faster to stay in the same place? The intended and unintended consequences of government policy for workplace learning in the UK' A. Cumming, N. Bascia, A.Datnow, K. Leithwood, D. Livingstone,  Eds., International Handbook of Educational Policy, Hingham, MA., Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2005.


(with A. Munro) 'The workplace learning agenda: new opportunities for trade unions?' in G. Healy, E. Heery, P. Taylor and W.Brown, Eds., The Future of Worker Representation, Basingstoke, Palgrave MacMillan, 2004.


(with A. Munro and L. Holly) 'Exploring the concept of employer demand for skills and qualifications: case studies from the public sector' in C. Warhurst, E. Keep and I. Grugulis, Eds. The Skills That Matter, Palgrave, 2004: 91-108.


 (with E. Keep) 'Training' in P. K. Edwards, Ed. Industrial Relations: Theory and Practice. 2nd Edition. Blackwell, Oxford.2002:392-419.


'No rights, just responsibilities: individual demand for continuing training' in Evans, K, P. Hodkinson and L. Unwin, Eds.,Working to Learn. Transforming Learning in the Workplace. Kogan Page,London, 2002:212-232.


(As a member of the 'Working to Learn' Group) 'Six challenges for the future' in Evans, K, P. Hodkinson and L. Unwin, Eds.,Working to Learn. Transforming Learning in the Workplace. Kogan Page,London, 2002:233-240.


'The contribution of workplace learning to a learning society', in W. Richardson and L. Unwin, Eds., The Learning Society and the Knowledge Economy.  NACETT's sponsored lecture series, Coventry,Learning and Skills Council, 2000:71-86.


(with L. Holly) 'Workplace learning and the limits toevaluation' in H. Rainbird, Ed, Training in the Workplace. CriticalPerspectives on Learning at Work. MacMillan, Basingstoke, 2000:264-282.


(with J. Sutherland) 'Unions and workplace learning:conflict or cooperation with the employer?' in H. Rainbird, Ed, Trainingin the Workplace. Critical Perspectives on Learning at Work. MacMillan, Basingstoke, 2000:189-209.


(with E. Keep) 'Towards the learning organisation?' in S.Bach and K. Sisson, Eds., Personnel Management in Britain. ThirdEdition. Basil Blackwell, 2000: 173-194.


(with E. Krzeslo and C. Vincent) 'Deconstructing thequestion: reflections on developing a comparative methodology forresearch on union policy towards vocational training' B. Burgess and C.Pole Eds. Cross-cultural Case Study Research. Studies in QualitativeMethodology vol. 6, JAI Press, London, 2000: 67-82.


(with C. Vincent) 'Training: a new item on the bargainingagenda?' in P. Leisinck, J. Van Leemput and J. Vilrokx, Eds., TheChallenges to Trade Unions in Europe. Innovation or Adaptation. EdwardElgar, Cheltenham, 1996:139-151.




(with E. Leeson and A. Munro) Skill Development in the Social Care Sector: An Assessment of Institutional and Organisational Capacity. Final Report. Birmingham Business School, April, 2009.


(with E. Leeson and A. Munro) A Social Care Workforce for the 21st Century. Practitioner pamphlet. Birmingham, University of Birmingham/Edinburgh Napier University.