Retail trade union Usdaw is appalled by the Secretary of State’s derisory one-word answer of “No” to an important question about saving the Union Learning Fund in today’s House of Commons Education Questions. Usdaw is now looking for the Chancellor to provide the £12 million funding needed to save this valuable scheme that reaches the workers other learning programmes do not.

Yvonne Fovargue MP (Labour, Makerfield) asked in the House of Commons:
“The Union Learning Fund has provided access to skills for over 200,000 workers, many of whom have few or no qualifications. Would the Secretary of State reconsider the decision to scrap this highly successful programme and fund it through the National Skills Programme?”

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary says:
“It is no surprise, but still shocking and deeply insulting, that the Secretary of State dismissed this question. He has not engaged with the trade unions, education providers and businesses that work together to deliver projects through the ULF and didn’t even consult before deciding to pull funding from hundreds of thousands of learners.

“In our experience, union learning is uniquely able to engage and support ‘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.

“If the Government is serious about ‘levelling up’, they must understand that workplace learning provides a vital pathway to the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. 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.

“We urge the Government to rethink scrapping union learning, build on its strengths and make it a key part of the future of learning in the workplace. We hope the Chancellor will recognise its value, which reaches the workers other schemes do not.”

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.

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