The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has joined the TUC in calling on the government to reverse its decision to scrap funding for a lifelong learning programme, allowing retiring and injured firefighters to expand their skills and employment prospects.
The new campaign, Save Union Learning, launched by the TUC today (Monday) aims to persuade the government to drop proposals to end the Union Learning Fund (ULF).
The FBU’s Union Learning Fund projects, funded via the ULF is “one of the most effective programmes allowing workers to expand their skill set”, the FBU says, with a “lucrative return on investment” for the Treasury and employers. (See Note 1)
Learners are able to benefit from a range of programmes covering subjects including fitness and nutrition, digital skills, and health and social care.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:
“At a time when the country is on the brink of mass unemployment, and when ministers themselves are talking about the need for upskilling and retraining, it would be ludicrous to cut one of the most effective programmes allowing workers to expand their skill set.
“For twenty-two years, the Union Learning Fund has provided crucial training and guidance to thousands of firefighters. For injured and retiring firefighters, it’s a vital means of gaining new skills with courses offered in digital skills, health and social care, and fitness and nutrition.
“The programme makes life changing improvements to learner’s income and huge productivity benefits for employers, all while providing a lucrative return on investment for the Treasury.
“Scrapping the fund would blatantly place partisan politics over sensible policymaking and the needs of the economy. If the government has any care for the needs of working people, they’ll reverse this decision immediately.”
Note 1: Each £1 spent on the FBU’s projects generates £6.93 for learners and £2.63 for employers, leading to £2 in returns to the Exchequer. The total annual economic contribution of the project is in excess of £32.7m, giving the Treasury £9.4m back from its £4.7m spend. A study by the University of Essex showed that access to the programme increases wages by £16.5m and earnings by £3.7m, while increased productivity benefits employers by around £12.4m – Projected return on investment and economic figures from April 2019 – April 2022 from an independent University of Exeter impact report: Dean, A., Neild, B and Stevens, H. (2020). Impact Study: FBU. Round 20 (Year 2) Union Learning Fund Project. Marchmont Observatory, University of Exeter.
For more information, go to www.fbu.org.uk