Research by Wavehill commissioned by the Wales TUC shows that the Wales Union Learning Fund during 2020-21 supported increased participation, better equality of access and enabled workers to progress in both their own personal development and in their careers.
The Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF) is provided by Welsh Government to help support union led adult learning in the workplace. All Welsh workers have the opportunity to access the fund to take advantage of the support, advice and guidance and training offers provided through WULF projects.
In the same year that the equivalent programme in England (ULF) was removed by the UK Government, WULF delivered learning to record numbers of workers.
Over 8,000 people received support from WULF on 2020/21 and the a learner survey conducted by Wavehill showed that 98 per cent found the training useful. 91 per cent reported that the training was relevant to their job and 69 per cent reported the training had improved their work performance.
Welsh Government have made it clear that fairness must be key to economic recovery. This recent report shows that the WULF model has fairness at its heart. One example of this is the evidence of the impact of collective bargaining. Due to the pandemic, around 75 per cent of learning was undertaken online, yet still 41 per cent received paid release to learn.
In addition, over one in five WULF learners also received information and support on their workplace rights whilst engaging in WULF learning.
WULF continues to reach the parts that other learning and skills programmes cannot reach. Around half of the workers surveyed were new to WULF and had never engaged in the programme before.
87 per cent reported that the key result of their experience was increased confidence. Its unique approach and flexible funding model has encouraged good numbers of non-traditional and a-typical workers. For example, 11 per cent of learners were freelance and, of those, 65 per cent found new work as a result of WULF support.
The report shows that in-work progression is a key benefit of the model,both in personal development and career opportunities. Around a third of learners surveyed said they have already moved on to further learning since they undertook their original course, and a further 47 per cent reported that they are likely to in the near future.
However, this must result in improvements in job quality and pay. The survey shows that WULF has a clear impact here also, with 16 per cent of WULF learners reporting that the training led to a change of job role and 52 per cent of that group saw an increase in salary as a result.
This report highlights a continuing success story for the Wales Union Learning Fund. With a new tranche of projects set to start in April, Welsh Government have committed to supporting trade unions to deliver benefits to thousands of workers year on year until 2025.
Wales TUC General Secretary Shavanah Taj said “It is clear from this report that WULF really works and delivers positive outcomes. There are many challenges that need to be addressed in order to grow our economy in a way that leaves no worker or community behind, and creates good quality jobs. This report shows that the model that we have nurtured in WULF over the last two decades is ideally placed to support this ambition.
“Trade unions are tirelessly working to ensure that we make a just transition to a green economy, that we support workers, and are inclusive in how we develop their digital skills to cope with the rapid increase in new technologies and that we consistently seek to improve the wellbeing of the Welsh workforce. WULF underpins much of this work.
“I am particularly pleased to see that the ‘uniqueness’ of Welsh union led learning is evident and transformative. Significant numbers of WULF learners were given paid release to undertake learning and over one fifth received wider advice from their union on their rights at work whilst engaging in the programme. Showing that collective bargaining underpins workplace learning to make it fairer, more equitable and more sustainable, it’s truly a ‘fair work approach’ to skills.”
About the Wales TUC
The Wales TUC exists to improve the economic and social conditions of workers in Wales, regardless of if they are currently in a job or not.
Its mandate and purpose builds on the role of its individual affiliated trade unions. Workers join trade unions to represent their interests, and these unions affiliate to the TUC to establish a shared agenda, agreed democratically at a Congress held every two years and managed by the General Council which meets four times a year.
Around 400,000 people are trade union members in Wales. The vast majority of these people are members of trade unions which are affiliated to the Wales TUC.