2016 Evaluation of Union Learning Fund and unionlearn

2016 Evaluation of Union Learning Fund and unionlearn

In June 2015, the Centre for Employment Relations Innovation and Change (CERIC) at the Leeds University Business School, in collaboration with the Marchmont Observatory at the University of Exeter, were commissioned by TUC/unionlearn to conduct an evaluation of the Union Learning Fund Round 15 (2012/13 to 2014/15) and Round 16 (2015/16), and also the support role of unionlearn. The full report – Evaluation of the Union Learning Fund Rounds 15-16 and Support Role of unionlearn - and a separate volume of statistical appendices were published in October 2016.

The evaluation looked at the impact of the ULF and unionlearn from a number of perspectives and drew on findings from two key surveys. A survey of 2,550 learners took place in January-March 2016 and this included a follow-up of 228 learners previously surveyed in early 2015. A survey of 385 employers took place at the end of 2015 and this was compared to data from a similar survey undertaken by CERIC in 2010.  Interviews were also conducted with 22 union officers and 12 non-union national stakeholders.

The evaluation identified a wide range of positive impacts of engagement in union learning for both employees and employers and these key finding are set out below. In addition, an analysis based on a methodology developed by the government highlighted that ULF learning and training 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. Importantly, the research also showed that nearly half (46%) of non-union members that took up the offer of training and development via the ULF subsequently went on to join a union. There was also a boost to wider union activity by over half of those who had engaged in learning and training via the ULF.

The evaluation also produced a number of recommendations to improve operational aspects of the ULF, including improving and integrating project monitoring, reporting and project evaluation systems in order to better track outcomes and assess overall impact over the longer term.

More detail on the key findings are highlighted below:

  • Over two-thirds (68%) of learners with no previous qualification and just under half (47%) of those starting with Entry level or Level 1 qualifications got a qualification at a higher level as a result of ULF support
  • More than three in four (77%) employers said that engagement in the ULF had a positive effect in their workplaces, with over two-thirds (68%) saying unions were particularly effective at inspiring reluctant learners to engage in training and development and 53% saying ULF led to an increase in the number of employees gaining qualifications
  • Union learning stimulates demand for further learning. Three quarters (76%) of individuals reported that they had become more enthusiastic about learning and nine in ten (91%) that they were interested in further learning
  • Four in five (80%) employees said they had developed skills that they could transfer to a new job, while two in three (62%) said the new skills they acquired made them more effective in their current job.
  • One in five (19%) said they had gained a promotion or increased responsibility and one in 10 (11%) gained a pay rise. These type of outcomes were greatly boosted when an employee engaged in successive episodes of union learning. For example, employees who completed at least three episodes of union learning, compared with those completing only one episode of union learning, were: 
    • 3.6 times more likely to get a new job with their current employer
    • 2.7 times more likely to receive a pay rise
    • 5.7 times more likely to attain promotion
    • 3.4 times more likely to report that they could do their job more effectively 
  • Nearly half of employers (47%) said their staff were more committed as a result of their engagement in union-led learning and training and 44% said that the ULF led to improved employment relationships in the organisation
  • The evaluation found that for every £1 invested in the ULF, there is a return of £12.30, with £7.60 going to the worker taking part in the training, and £4.70 going to the employer. On this basis it is estimated that learning and skills supported by 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
  • The evaluation also estimated the return to the Exchequer (e.g. through reduced spending on welfare benefits and other factors resulting from the boost to jobs and wages). This analysis found the return to be £3.57 for each £1 spent on the ULF
  • Twenty per cent of learner surveyed were not union members before they engaged with learning or training via the ULF. However, almost half (46%) of these learners subsequently went on to join a union
  • There was also a boost to union activity among union members that engaged in ULF learning and training.  A third of all those that engaged in union learning reported becoming more active in their union. This particular impact was greatly boosted when an employee engaged in successive episodes of union learning. For example, employees who completed at least three episodes of union learning, compared with those completing only one episode of union learning, were:
    • 11 times more likely to become more active in their union; and 
    • 26 time more likely to become a union learning representative

To access the evaluation, go to: https://www.unionlearn.org.uk/publications/evaluation-union-learning-fund-rounds-1516-and-support-role-unionlearn