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The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.

Union learning – a success story

The Union Learning Fund was set up in 1998 and has been supported by governments of all parties. It increases access to learning and training in workplaces, brokered by unions. In 2019-20, it supported 200,000 learners – both union members and non-members.

These learners undertake a wide range of learning and training related to work, including basic literacy and numeracy, ICT skills, ESOL, apprenticeships and traineeships, vocational training, and ongoing professional development.

Union learning gets working people into skills training they would not otherwise have access to. That’s because union learning reps are trusted by their colleagues and by employers. And all union learning is directly relevant to the workplace, tailored to workers and supported by government funding.

The Union Learning Fund is subject to regular independent evaluation. The most recent evaluation (2018) found:

Skills growth

  • 68% of learners with no previous qualifications got a qualification

  • 47% with entry or level 1 qualifications got a higher qualification

  • 80% said they gained skills that could transfer to a new job


Employer benefits

  • 53% of employers saw an increase in employees gaining qualifications

  • 77% said that union learning had a positive effect on their workplaces

  • 68% said unions could reach and inspire reluctant learners to engage in training


Value for money:

  • For every £1 spent on the Union Learning Fund:

    • workers gain £7.60 through better pay

    • employers gain £4.70 through higher productivity

    • the Exchequer gains £3.57 from welfare savings and revenue gains

  • The Union Learning Fund 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

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