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• Unions & schools hail “enormous contribution” made by union learning in improving access to skills in North and West Yorkshire
• Funding for careers project at local schools at risk

The TUC in Yorkshire & the Humber and Aegis the union have today called on the government to reverse its decision to scrap the Union Learning Fund, which would end a much needed careers training project at schools across Bradford, Keighley, and Skipton.

The call comes as the government is set to announce its comprehensive spending review today.

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

“Enormous contribution”

Brooklands Community Special School in Skipton, Parklands School in Bradford, and the Keighley Apprenticeship Hub, have all benefitted from Union Learn funding that Aegis has channelled into schools to support access to workplace opportunities at Skipton Building Society.

Aegis Assistant General Secretary Brian McDaid, who lives and works in Skipton, said union learning had made an “enormous contribution” to improving access to skills in Bradford and Skipton.

“We are proud of the work that Union Learn funding has made possible at Brooklands school, supporting post 16 career and learning opportunities for students.

“Now with the threat of Union Learn funding being withdrawn, this is another example of the detriment it will cause, not just to our workplaces, but also our local communities.

“In this particular example, it will remove valuable experience and access to workplaces for students who may not receive the same level of support elsewhere.”

Brooklands School said:

“We received support from a member of the Aegis team for 6 months where they were able to come into school and deliver lessons to pupils in Post 16 about work-based learning opportunities in the large organisations such as Skipton Building Society.

“This branched out from there to become learning about how to fill out a CV, how to dress appropriately for work, what to say at interviews and even what interviews are.

“The work that was done for our young people was absolutely invaluable as they were getting a massive input from a sector that would be otherwise closed off to them.

“Hearing it come from someone who is not a teacher or member of staff meant they got first-hand knowledge of what was expected of them in the outside school world.

“We cannot be any more grateful for the work that was done with those young people and truly appreciate what Aegis provided for us.”

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.

7 in 10 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 Regional Secretary Bill Adams 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 in Bradford and Skipton, 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 North and West Yorkshire.

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


Editors note

- About the union learning fund and Unionlearn: the Union Learning Fund helps union members and non-members alike. It is funded by the Department for Education and can only be spent on learning and associated activities, not on other trade union activity. The TUC has produced this short briefing note with all the key information on the Union Learning Fund.
- New official data on employee access to training: The latest official data on employee access to training was published by the Department for Education recently (Employer Skills Survey 2019, Thursday 15 October). It shows that the proportion of employers not providing any training at all increased from 34% in 2017 to 39% in 2019; and the proportion of employees not getting any training increased from 38% in 2017 to 40% in 2019. 

- The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.


TUC Press Office:

Gareth Forest (Lewis)

0113 200 1075
07810 374976

Out of hours:

Bill Adams
07867 788856

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