Union Learning Fund

Department for Education written question – answered on 26th October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Balfe Lord Balfe Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to allocate a proportion of the National Skills Fund to projects that aim to directly engage learners in the workplace, replacing the current work undertaken by Union Learn, following the decision to cease funding for the Union Learning Fund.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The government has taken the decision not to continue to provide grant funding to Unionlearn in the next financial year. This decision should not be seen in isolation but as part of the department’s overall plans for improving the skills offer.

This was a difficult decision. However, we need to prioritise how we use our resources in these challenging times and have decided to concentrate on a number of major investments in further education. The government has announced it will introduce a £2.5 billion National Skills Fund to help adults get the skills they need. My right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, as part of his Lifetime Skills Guarantee, recently announced that for adults, who do not currently have a level 3 qualification, we will be fully funding their first full level 3, focusing on the valuable courses that will help them get ahead in the labour market. The offer will be funded from the National Skills Fund and offered from April 2021.

My right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, also recently announced digital bootcamps to support local regions and employers to fill in-demand vacancies by providing valuable skills. Adults in the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, and Liverpool City Region can now register their interest to take part in the digital bootcamps. In early 2021, the digital bootcamps will also be available in Leeds City Region, Heart of the South West, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. We are planning to expand the bootcamps to more of the country from Spring 2021 and we want to extend this model to include other technical skills training.

Further plans for the National Skills Fund will be announced in due course.

Alongside the National Skills Fund, the department has been working to provide further support in response to the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. In his Summer Economic Update, my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced investment of over £500 million to deliver a package of support for people to access the training and develop the skills they will need to go on to high-quality, secure and fulfilling employment. The Skills Recovery Package included:

  • Apprenticeships: A new payment of £2,000 to employers in England for each new apprentice they hire who is aged 24 or below and a £1,500 payment for each new apprentice they hire who is aged 25 and over, from 1 August 2020 to 31 January 2021.
  • Traineeships: £111 million to triple the scale and reform traineeships for those aged 16 - 24 (25 with an Education, Health and Care plan), with additional funding available to providers in 2020-21 to support 30,000 new places. We have also introduced, for the first time, payments of £1,000 per trainee for employers who offer new or additional work placements (up to 10 trainees).
  • Careers information, advice and guidance: £32 million over two years to help 269,000 more people of all ages receive advice from the National Careers Service.
  • Sector-based work academy programme (SWAP): £17 million to triple the number of SWAP placements in 2020/21, enough funding to support an extra 40,000 job seekers with additional training opportunities and the chance of a job.

In addition, the recently announced expansion of The Skills Toolkit means that people can now choose from over 70 courses, covering digital, adult numeracy, employability and work readiness skills, which have been identified as the skills employers need the most. These courses will help people stay in work or take up new jobs and opportunities.

The government appreciates the importance of adult education to improving people’s life chances. We will continue to explore options within adult education to aid the post COVID-19 recovery.

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