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Unionlearn returns £13 for every £1 spent, says TUC-commissioned study

A UNION-LED workplace training scheme which the Tory government wants to abolish gives a return of almost £13 for every £1 it costs, a TUC-commissioned study revealed today.

The government plans to withdraw funding for the Union Learning Fund (Unionlearn), which enables 200,000 workers a year to acquire new skills and become more productive.

Unionlearn, which was founded in 1998, receives £12 million a year in public funding, which the government has announced will be withdrawn next year.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), which runs the scheme, says that the decision is “ideologically driven” by the government’s hatred of trade unions.

New research into the economic effectiveness of Unionlearn carried out by the University of Exeter revealed that for every £1 spent on union-supported learning and training, the economy gets £12.87 back.

The TUC said that Unionlearn is a “rare success story” in adult learning, open to all workers whether or not they are trade union members.

In the last year the fund helped 37,700 learners take up Level 2 training courses in English and maths.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Union learning transforms lives and brings huge benefits to workplaces and the economy. It is a rare success story in adult skills.

“Union learning has a fantastic track record of getting people back into learning and has helped millions gain qualifications over the last 20 years.

“It’s not too late for the government to change its mind.”

She said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s spending review, which will be announced tomorrow, provides an opportunity to reverse the decision to withdraw funding.

“I urge ministers not to turn their back on this brilliant learning scheme,” she said.

Report author Dr Andrew Dean of the University of Exeter said: “This analysis shows the significant economic and personal impacts the Union Learning Fund makes every year.

“With coronavirus hitting jobs in so many sectors there will be a real need for adults to re-skill, something [Unionlearn] is expert at doing.”

Employers which support the scheme include Tesco, Heathrow Airport, Tata Steel and Hinkley Point C nuclear power station.

A Department for Education spokesman said that the money would be redirected “to directly support further education colleges, other training providers and our new £2.5 billion National Skills Fund.”

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