Midlands unions and local business group urge government to keep Union Learning Fund

23 Nov 2020 12:30 PM

Midlands unions and local business group urge government to keep Union Learning Fund

TUC Midlands and Make UK recently joined forces to call on the government to reverse its decision to scrap the Union Learning Fund.

The call comes as the government is set to announce its comprehensive spending review on Wednesday 25 March.

Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson recently proposed to axe the £12 million annual union learning fund from spring 2021.

“Enormous contribution”

TUC Midlands Regional Secretary, Lee Barron said union learning had made an “enormous contribution” to improving access to skills in the local area.

Union learning projects in the Midlands include projects to increase Maths and English skills, deliver apprenticeships, support mid-life career reviews and deliver digital skills training. 

A local and national success story 

Union learning is a rare success story in adult learning. It’s open to both union members and non-members.  

Union learning reps get people on to courses who would not previously have considered learning, help them stick to the course and progress, and broker time-off with employers to train.  

This practical support is a “crucial help” that makes paper entitlements to free learning a reality for working adults who need to improve their skills.   

The independent review of the Union Learning Fund showed unions excel at supporting less confident learners, and at persuading those with few or no qualifications to take up the training opportunities open to them.

Seven in ten learners said they would not have taken part in learning or training without union support. This rises to around 8 in 10 of those with no prior qualifications.

Union learning helps get reluctant adult learners the basic skills they need to progress – and in many cases helps working people get their first ever qualifications. 

TUC Midlands Regional Secretary Lee Barron recently said:

“From basic skills to helping people learn English to retraining for the jobs of the future – union learning transforms lives.

“And it has made an enormous contribution to the Midlands, offering invaluable support for typically hard-to-reach learners.

“Union learning is a local and national success story. Over the past 20 years, it has a fantastic track record of getting people back into learning and has helped millions gain qualifications – including here in the Midlands.

“That’s why unions and business in our region are urging government to rethink this decision and save union learning.”

Charlotte Horobin, Make UK Midlands & East of England Region Director, recently said:

“These are incredibly challenging times for manufacturers and their employees here in the Midlands. If we are going to build back better then the protection of key, high value skills within the sector is an absolute must.

“The Union Learning Fund is a key element of not just retaining people but also re-training them if necessary, especially in an era where digital skills are going to be ever more important.”

Simon Goulbourn, Boots Logistics Operations Manager at Beeston, recently said:

“Our Boots Learning Centre is an absolutely fantastic and invaluable asset.  It provides our Boots colleagues with the opportunity to improve their life skills such as Maths, English, IT and as a result improve their career and personal prospects. 

“Boots has a long heritage of improving the lives of colleagues and our leaning centre carries on that tradition.  When the Coronavirus pandemic hit we had to relocate and at no point was there a view that we should shut it down, we had to find new and safe ways to continue the fantastic work. 

“Our commitment to the Learning Centre remains steadfast because we at Boots understand the value of the opportunity that it provides for our colleagues.”

Neil Chapman, USDAW ULF project worker, Boots Beeston, recently said: 

“The Usdaw / Boots Learning Centre was set up in 2005 with the help of ULF support and on site agreements between Boots and Usdaw.

“Usdaw Union Learning Reps have worked tirelessly over those 15 years, supporting learners through their learning journeys, helping to keep people on courses and acting as a first point of contact. As a result, learners have gained qualifications that have led to progression within the company and many agency workers who taken courses have gone onto gain fulltime employment as result.

“Fundamentally, our network of Union Learning Reps are at the heart of what we do and reach out to colleagues that traditional methods don’t always do. The work of our learning reps, combined with our negotiated agreements is a true recipe for success.”

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