Introduction to the ULF

The Union Learning Fund (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 Union Learning Representatives (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 since 1998, 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.

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

Unionlearn’s main functions are to support unions to:

  • Become effective learning organisations and broker learning opportunities for their members.
  • Improve union engagement with and influence on learning and skills policy.
  • Engage effectively with employers, employees and providers to help support the most disadvantaged learners in the labour market; focusing on supporting maths and English learners and the take-up of high quality apprenticeships and traineeships that will contribute to the Government’s commitment to support the delivery of 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020, as well as promoting the Apprenticeship Levy and new employer-led apprenticeship standards.
  • Engage with employers to support them in developing new apprenticeship standards to replace frameworks.
  • Provide support and advice to apprentices and trainees and help resolve any issues.
  • Engage effectively with employers and other stakeholders to support the learning and skills developments required to tackle poverty and disadvantage and promote employment and the growth of the economy.
  • Engage effectively with employers to develop learning and skills strategies that address both organisational and individual skills needs.
  • Evaluate and provide an evidence base for the unique contribution that unions make to improving economic and social mobility through learning and skills.

and to effectively manage and administer the Union Learning Fund to:

  • Build union capacity to sustain work on learning and skills and embed it in union strategy and structure.
  • Maximise the union contribution to the development and delivery of the Government’s strategy to improve the skills of the workforce focusing on supporting maths and English learners and helping the creation of high quality apprenticeships including by promoting the Apprenticeship Levy.
  • Support union representatives, officers and Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) in raising demand for learning, especially among workers with low skill levels and with disadvantaged groups in the workplace.
  • Support unions and ULRs to stimulate the take up of learning, apprenticeships and traineeships, to provide high quality support to learners, trainees and apprentices, to promote and support learner progression and track their learners.
  • Support unions to offer a growing range of learning opportunities to a wide range of learners and assist them to engage with new forms of learning (on-line/distance learning) and establish union-led learning centres and union learning centres and support the network of centres already established.
  • Assist unions to work in partnership with employers to develop sustainable arrangements based on formal learning agreements and which tackle both organisational and individual skills needs.
  • Support unions in establishing effective partnerships with learning providers which ensure learning opportunities are customised, quality assured, relevant and delivered effectively with appropriate support given to learners.
  • Develop union capacity to engage in effective partnership working at regional and national level to help meet the skills needs of both the current and future workforce.
  • Support unions in developing projects and activities that help deliver the skills needs of both the current and future workforce and in managing their projects.
  • Guide unions on the requirements of public funding and the evidence and reporting requirements that they will need to meet.