As a former union education officer, I have seen the positive difference that union learning makes for working people across the country, and I am incredibly concerned by the Government’s decision to abolish the Union Learning Fund (ULF) from next March.

I taught shop steward courses for retail workers across Yorkshire on Health and Safety. These courses gave workers a sense of responsibility and ownership over their role in the workplace, and were proven to reduce workplace accidents. Other courses engage and empower employees in many different ways, and the value of this training and lifelong learning should never be underestimated.

Alongside the benefits to workers, the ULF benefits employers and the wider economy. For every £1 spent on the ULF, £12 is returned. The ULF delivers an estimated net contribution to the economy of more than £1.4 billion as a result of a boost to jobs, wages and productivity, benefitting workers, our economy and business.

For more than 20 years the Union Learning Fund has supported working people to access skills and training at work through their unions, helping up to a quarter of a million people access learning every year.

Surely the Government must see that the middle of a pandemic is not the right time to take away this vital funding, particularly at a time when the Government claims to be putting a greater emphasis on skills. All our efforts should be on rebuilding the country and ensuring people have the opportunity to upskill and retrain for the sectors we will be relying on after the pandemic.

I have long called for investment in the skills of working people and those seeking work. They are, and always have been, the greatest asset in our economy. It is only by making the most of all their potential that we can truly recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and achieve a lasting and shared prosperity.

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