The Union Learning Fund (ULF), a programme that finances adult workplace training, generates almost £13 for the economy with every £1 spent, research has found.
According to a new report from the University of Exeter, the country gets £12.87 back for every pound that goes into ULF, while the public purse benefits from an extra £3.60.
Most of the economic benefits (£7.56 on every £1) comes from the boost education gives to participants’ wages and career prospects; £5.31 is generated by higher skill and productivity levels among the workforce.
The research found that the ULF has “an established track-record of training large numbers of learners and in particular, supporting those adult learners who are ‘hardest to reach'”.
It was also recognised that the ULF moved quickly to help the government respond to the constraints and additional pressures faced by a workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite this, the government recently announced it would slash spending on the fund and redirect it towards new initiatives.
Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, which coordinates ULF, described the programme as “a rare success story in adult skills”.
“Union learning transforms lives and brings huge benefits to workplaces and the economy,” she said. “If ministers want to level-up productivity and skills across the regions, they need to engage and support hard-to-reach learners … it’s not too late for the government to change its mind.”
The ULF is open to all workers in unionised workplaces, regardless of whether they are a member of a trade union.
Describing the programme as “expert” at upskilling adults, report author Dr Andrew Dean recommended that government should not only continue funding ULF, but up its support.