WGGB members joined the campaign to save the English Union Learning Fund, including FEU Training
FEU Training logo

WGGB called on its members to join the campaign to get the Government to reverse its intention to pull the plug on the English Union Learning Fund (ULF), including the FEU Training project, which each year supported around 200,000 workers with skills training and career development.

Despite the concerted campaign, the Government abolished the English Union Learning Fund in March 2021 – read our announcement, which includes details of provisions for WGGB members, who are still able to access online FEU Training content.

FEU Training offered members of WGGB, and other entertainment unions living in England, a range of free workshops, webinars and online resources to help with their careers as professionals and to acquire business skills. The Federation of Entertainment Unions represents more than 100,000 writers, journalists, musicians and actors.

Statement from the FEU General Secretaries on the scrapping of the Union Learning Fund (November 2020, prior to the abolition of the English ULF)

The Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU) represents people working in the media and entertainment industries – one of the fast-growing parts of the economy worth more than £111bn to the UK.

The majority are freelance workers who have very little or no access to training or help with career development. This is why the FEU Training project has been an essential resource for our members, providing an extensive training programme that teaches the practical skills and the knowledge to run businesses as self-employed workers. It also promotes wellbeing and helps learners overcome the challenges of working in isolation.

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 has been their first port of call to get relevant Government-funded training to stay afloat and establish a new career direction.

This Government has put reskilling workers at the heart of its economic recovery plans after the pandemic. The FEU has the greatest reach to the creative freelance population and union learning has a proven track record of engaging working people in skills training they would not otherwise have access to.

The vast majority of our participants say that they cannot access and/or afford crucial business skills training.

Since lockdown, nearly 3,500 members have benefitted from the training and support on key skills and Covid-relating issues – not only allowing them to develop essential skills but also helping them to stay connected and sane.

According to an independent impact study:

  • The economic contribution of this project is approximately £13m
  • The return on investment from the project means that every £1 invested generated a total economic return of approximately £7.70 of which £4.52 accrues to individuals and £3.18 to employers
  • Subsequent returns to the Exchequer from this learning is approximately £3.8m or 2.20 for each £1 of ULF spent by Government
  • Learners will benefit from over £7.6m through approximately £6.4m in higher wages and £1.2m in improved earnings.
  • Employers will benefit through increased worker productivity to the value of around £5.4m

This is why we, the general secretaries/deputy general secretaries of FEU unions, are devastated to hear that the Government is to end the Union Learning Fund (ULF) from March 2021. In 2019-20, the ULF was worth £12m. It supported more than 200,000 learners in workplaces across England – both union members and non-members. For every £1 spent on the ULF, there is a return of £12.30: £7.60 to the worker, £4.70 to the employer.

This decision will undermine key Government skills and retraining priorities at a crucial moment for our economy in a vital part of the economy. The TUC and FEU unions believe this decision is counterproductive and must be reversed.

Philippa Childs, BECTU
Paul W Fleming, Equity
Michelle Stanistreet, National Union of Journalists
Horace Trubridge, Musicians’ Union
Ellie Peers, Writers’ Guild of Great Britain