Catherine has spoken in a Westminster Hall debate to argue against a Government decision to cut funding from March 2021 for the Union Learning Fund.
The fund, which was set up in 1998 by the then Labour Government, was designed to support the objective of creating a ‘learning society’. It enables trade unions and their representatives to provide advice, guidance and support in order to help workers access learning opportunities to improve their skill levels.
The Government informed the Trade Union Council last month that it plans to withdraw the funding.
In the debate, Catherine said:
“One of the most powerful tools that we have to help workers through the uncertainty and navigate the swirling tides of economic change is education and training. We need to be able to help workers throughout their working life to retrain, to reskill, and to update their capabilities so that they can take on new jobs.”
“It is crucial to the economy to ensure that we have the workforce to meet skills requirements and develop the UK’s competitive edge in key industries in an increasingly uncertain and onward-developing world….Digital skills in particular are necessary in modern workplaces of all kinds, and in all fields.
“There has been the most significant shift to digital working in our lifetime in just the last few months, and in my local authority in Newcastle learning zones have been set up so that staff can get online—many for the first time—so that they can continue to provide services. It is union learning reps who have provided the human support to make it possible and support people with digital skills.
“Lifelong learning is more important than ever and the union learning fund is particularly, and uniquely, well equipped to support those workers who might not otherwise be engaged with workplace learning, ensuring that everyone can get access to the opportunities and that no one is left behind.
“I urge the Government to listen to hon. Members and to reconsider the decision—and to continue the vital union learning fund.”