Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says:
“Learning and re-skilling will be at the heart of helping the country recover from the economic impact of this appalling pandemic. With new technology already changing the world of work, which has been accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis, this was always going to be a high priority.
“So, I am absolutely stunned that the Government announced, out of the blue, that they are going to end the Union Learning Fund next year. This unique scheme brings lifelong learning into many workplaces, pooling the resources of employers, education providers and trade unions.
“Union Learn reaches the people other schemes do not, with brilliant lay union reps supporting, guiding and mentoring workers back into education. Many learners start with few or no qualifications and have gone on to engage with higher level education, like apprenticeships.
“I urge the Government to reconsider and ask workers to engage with the TUC campaign to reverse the decision.”
Reverse the cuts to union learning petition: https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/uk-gov-don-t-cut-union-learning
Usdaw member Jodie works at Tesco and met union learning rep Sue Sowe at a “check out learning” day in 2017. Jodie wanted to know about courses that might help with the questions her children ask about their homework. Sue suggested that Jodie start with the National Numeracy Challenge. Jodie also felt that her digital skills could be improved, so Sue signed her up to the Get Online with Usdaw course. In 2018, Sue suggested that Jodie take a level 2 customer service course. This helped her confidence grow, so she signed up to a level 2 apprenticeship in IT, which helped her get a new job as an admin clerk in the store. Her manager said that the apprenticeship showed Jodie’s commitment and made her an excellent candidate for the role. She passed the apprenticeship in November 2019 and is now enrolled onto the Tesco Retail Apprenticeship course.
All these opportunities were made possible through the Union Learning Fund. Sue said: “Some people enquire, make a start and then just grow and grow. I am so pleased to have been able to help Jodie achieve what she wanted to do.”
Full text of the letter to Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP, Secretary of State for Education, from Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary:
“Usdaw is deeply concerned at the Government’s shock announcement that it intends to withdraw all funding for the Union Learning Fund from the end of March 2021.
“As you are aware, the Union Learning Fund is a £12 million government investment in adult learners. It helps a quarter of a million British workers every year, to improve their skills and employability.
“Usdaw members in particular will be adversely affected by this decision, given more than 17,500 each year access learning and skills with the help of ULF. Last year, 45% of those benefitting had no previous qualifications and 62% did not have a level 2 qualification.
“The Government has spoken of the importance of helping people to improve their basic maths, English and digital skills. In the last 3 years Usdaw's ULF projects have enabled 27,000 members improve precisely these skills. However, with this decision, it is withdrawing funding from workplace organisations who support and assist hundreds of thousands of workers to access that training every year.
“The evidence that the Union Learning Fund delivers for British workers is extensive; independent research has shown that nearly 70% of workers who previously had no qualifications achieve a qualification when they engage with projects supported by the Union Learning Fund. In addition, nearly half of those who already have entry level qualifications improve their level of qualification. These are measurable outcomes that improve the lives of real working people.
“The same research shows that for every £1 invested in the Union Learning Fund, there is an economic return of £12.30. This translates as a benefit to the exchequer of an estimated £3.57 per £1 investment through increased tax, NI and VAT receipts.
“Year on year Usdaw's ULF project generates enormous support and investment from employers totalling more than £5.6million levered-in contributions in 2019-20.
“Improving the basic skills of the UK workforce is crucial to training and retraining for the future. This has never been more important than at the current time when the UK economy and workforce is facing serious challenges posed by the Coronavirus crisis. I urge you to reconsider your decision to withdraw Government funding for UnionLearn.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
Union Learn: https://www.unionlearn.org.uk
Funding for union learning is devolved. The proposal to end government funding for union learning applies only to England.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion