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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 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 employees and employers. For example, four in five employees said they had developed skills that they could transfer to a new job and nearly two in three said the new skills they acquired made them more effective in their current job. Over two-thirds of employers said unions were particularly effective at inspiring reluctant learners to engage in training and development. Nearly half of employers highlighted that their staff were more committed as a result of unions facilitating training and development opportunities. The evaluation also highlighted that the 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. The evaluation also produced a number of recommendations, 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.