Sad day for union-led skills training

  • 01 Apr 2021

Despite a desperate campaign to save the Union Learning Fund which each year supported around 200,000 workers with skills training and career development, Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary, has pulled the plug on the £12m funding.

The Federation of Entertainment Unions’ (FEU) training project played a vital role in providing free workshops and webinars to union members working in the media and entertainment industries – one of the fast-growing parts of the economy worth more than £111bn to the UK.

This is an act of political vandalism. The Union Learning Fund was able to reach people in the labour market who had no access to training or basic skills. The FEU project provided a unique service for freelance creatives, developing members’ practical skills and the knowledge to run businesses as self-employed workers. It promoted wellbeing and helped learners overcome the challenges of working in isolation. The courses provided by FEU Training were nearly always oversubscribed – a testament to its popularity, reach and success. The project fulfilled all its government-set targets.

Freelance professionals are the very group that has been hit hardest by the pandemic, with work drying up virtually overnight, and many have fallen through the cracks of the government's Covid-19 aid packages. FEU Training had been their first port of call to get relevant government-funded training to stay afloat and establish a new career direction. Since lockdown, nearly 3,500 members benefitted from the training and support on key skills and Covid-relating issues.

The huge wealth of resources on the FEU’s website – including webinars and e-courses – will remain available on the FEU Training website. The Scottish and Welsh governments continue to support and fund union-lead training and learning.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“This is a very sad day. This vital training resource has enhanced the lives and careers of union members in the media and creative industries. How can the government claim to be putting reskilling workers at the heart of its economic recovery plans after the pandemic, while at the same time scrapping the Union Learning Fund? For a small sum of government funds, creative and media workers had access to industry-specific training from tutors with direct experience of the sector. We can only hope that governments to come will see sense and restore this important project.”

The Federation of Entertainment Unions represents more than 100,000 writers, journalists, musicians and  performers.

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