Usdaw is urging the government to “think again” on ending the Union Learning Fund (ULF) in England, after it was announced that all funding will be withdrawn from the end of March 2021.
The withdrawal is set to be made despite the government budgeting £12m a year for the ULF until March 2022.
Union members from across England are now writing to their MPs asking them to support local learning centres and lobby the Chancellor to find in his Budget on 3 March the £12m a year needed to fund the UFL.
According to Usdaw, many members have been disappointed with the replies they’ve received from many Conservative MPs, which “do little to address our concerns”.
Around 200,000 workers are supported each year into learning or training with union support through the ULF.
The fund facilitates “important lifelong learning projects” that help workers back into education to gain qualifications in core subjects such as Maths, English and IT. According to USDAW, union learning also successfully supports many government flagship schemes in the workplace such as apprenticeships, traineeships and the new Kickstart scheme.
Paddy Lillis, Usdaw general secretary, said: “While we welcome the government’s plans to invest £2.5bn through the National Skills Fund, our concerns are about how effective that investment will be and who it will reach? In our experience, union learning is uniquely able to engage and support thousands of ‘disadvantaged’ learners.
“Most had few, if any, qualifications and would never have considered attending a college, or signing up for an on-line course, if it were not for the support and encouragement of Union Learning Reps in the workplace.”
He added: “If the Government is serious about ‘levelling up’, they must understand that workplace learning provides a vital pathway to the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, as outlined in their recent white paper, and is a proven way of engaging employers as well as employees.
“The world of work is changing rapidly and we understand it is more important than ever for workers to develop new skills, but making level three qualifications available does not address the issue for those who don’t have a level one or two qualification.”