RESEARCH COMMISSIONED by the Wales Trades Union Congress (TUC), and undertaken by Wavehill, shows that during 2020/21 the Wales Union Learning Fund supported increased participation and better equality of access, and enabled workers to progress in both their own personal development and in their careers. 

The Wales Union Learning Fund (WULF) is provided by the Welsh government to help support union led adult learning in the workplace. All Welsh workers have the opportunity to access the fund to take advantage of the support, advice, guidance and training offers provided through WULF projects.

In the same year that the equivalent programme in England (ULF) was removed by the UK Government, WULF delivered learning to record numbers of workers.

Over 8,000 people received support from WULF in 2020/21 and the learner survey conducted by Wavehill showed that 98 per cent found the training useful. 91 per cent reported that the training was relevant to their job and 69 per cent reported the training had improved their work performance.

Due to the pandemic, around 75 per cent of learning was undertaken online, yet still 41 per cent received paid release to learn.

Over one in five WULF learners also received information and support on their workplace rights whilst engaging in WULF learning.

Increased confidence was a key result of the experience, reported by 87 per cent of learners. Its unique approach and flexible funding model has encouraged good numbers of non-traditional and a-typical workers. For example, 11 per cent of learners were freelance and, of those, 65 per cent found new work as a result of WULF support.

The report shows that in-work progression is a key benefit of the model, both in personal development and career opportunities. Around a third of learners surveyed said they have already moved on to further learning since they undertook their original course, and a further 47 per cent reported that they are likely to do so in the near future.

However, this must result in improvements in job quality and pay. The survey shows that WULF has a clear impact here also, with 16 per cent of WULF learners reporting that the training led to a change of job role and 52 per cent of that group saw an increase in salary as a result.

With a new tranche of projects set to start in April, the Welsh Government has committed to supporting trade unions to deliver benefits to thousands of workers year on year until 2025.

Wales TUC General Secretary Shavanah Taj said: “It is clear from this report that WULF really works and delivers positive outcomes. There are many challenges that need to be addressed in order to grow our economy in a way that leaves no worker or community behind, and creates good quality jobs. This report shows that the model that we have nurtured in WULF over the last two decades is ideally placed to support this ambition.

“Trade unions are tirelessly working to ensure that we make a just transition to a green economy, that we support workers, and are inclusive in how we develop their digital skills to cope with the rapid increase in new technologies and that we consistently seek to improve the wellbeing of the Welsh workforce. WULF underpins much of this work.

“I am particularly pleased to see that the ‘uniqueness’ of Welsh union led learning is evident and transformative. Significant numbers of WULF learners were given paid release to undertake learning and over one fifth received wider advice from their union on their rights at work whilst engaging in the programme. Showing that collective bargaining underpins workplace learning to make it fairer, more equitable and more sustainable, it’s truly a ‘fair work approach’ to skills.”

* More information on the Wales Union Learning Fund here.

* Source: Wales Trades Union Congress