Union Learning Fund

The union learning fund (ULF) supports union learning projects to transform the lives of their members in developing skills, achieving qualifications and promoting lifelong learning opportunities within the workplace. The fund has helped hundreds of thousands of workers on their learning journey with the support of over 26,000 dedicated Union Learning Reps (ULRs) who work voluntarily to make a real difference within their workplaces, local communities and working in partnership help to improve productivity within their businesses, industries and wider economy.

The ULF was established in 1998 to promote activity by trade unions in support of the objective of creating a learning society. Its primary aim was to develop the capacity of trade unions and ULRs to work with employers, employees and learning providers to encourage greater take up of learning in the workplace.

The scope of the ULF has gradually broadened over the last 15 years as union capacity has grown and government strategic objectives have changed and unions have been encouraged to work on improving access to work and to work in the community.

The Fund has supported more than 50 unions in over 700 workplaces and remains a flagship mainstream government programme - regarded as pivotal by unions, the Government, employers and partner organisations in the learning and skills world.

The ULF has enabled workers to access a wide range of learning activity in innovative ways with the support of dedicated ULRs. ULF projects have strengthened union engagement with employers through the establishment of workplace learning centres and the signing of learning agreements, including securing employer commitment to the government's Skills Pledge.

The ULF is managed and administered by unionlearn, the TUC’s Learning and Skills Organisation, under an agreement with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which directs the level and type of learning activity that should be supported by the Fund.

This year, BIS is moving the process of applying for funding into a more contestable framework where unionlearn will bid for funding based on the programme of work that it is offering. A key part of this funding is the ULF and unions are invited this year to put in bids that will then go through a selection process that will be based on what unionlearn and BIS have agreed are the types of activity that will achieve the outcomes and outputs that should be funded through public funding.

The Union Learning Fund Prospectus 2015/2016 has now been published.

Key priorities

Round 16 funding is available for the financial year 2015-2016 commencing 1st April 2015 up to 31st March 2016.

To support the strategy for raising skill levels the following key themes and priorities for ULF projects supported in 2015-16 have been agreed. They will focus on:

  • Priority 1: Engaging disadvantaged learners and workers with few or no qualifications
  • Priority 2: Equality and Diversity
  • Priority 3: Young People and Progression
  • Priority 4: Stronger Learning Infrastructure, Workforce Development
  • Priority 5: Sustainability, value for money and mainstreaming of union learning activity

Further information on each of the five priorities is available in the Round 16 prospectus along with key dates linked to the application process.