The Union Learning Fund (ULF) for Northern Ireland was established in 2002 to promote activity by trade unions in support of the government’s objective of creating a learning society. The ULF recognises the role that unions play in engaging adults who have been disadvantaged or excluded from education.
The ULF supports union learning projects to transform the lives of their members in developing skills, achieving qualifications and promoting lifelong learning opportunities within the workplace. The Fund currently supports 12 union learning projects in over 80 workplaces throughout Northern Ireland.
The Fund has helped thousands of workers on their learning journey with the support of dedicated Union Learning Reps (ULRs). ULRs work voluntarily to make a real difference within their workplaces, local communities and working in partnership help to improve productivity within their businesses, industries and wider economy.
The ULF is managed and administered by ICTU, under an agreement with the Department for the Economy, which directs the level and type of learning activity that should be supported by the Fund.
The trade union movement has a long and proud history of providing education for working people. Since their creation, trade unions have campaigned for better schooling, for work-based and broad social education and training. Union Learning Reps (ULRs) are at the forefront of efforts to improve the skills of the workforce, they are the key to union learning.
Union Learning Representatives are appointed or elected trade union representatives focusing on the learning agenda in the workplace.
ULRs have been instrumental in championing the importance of training and development. ULRs work very hard to boost the image and strengthen the organisation of their union within the workplace
All ULRs are given initial training for their role through courses provided by ICTU or individual unions.In order to carry out their role, ULRs in recognised workplaces have a statutory right to paid time off to train.
ULRs don’t just engage learners, they offer information, advice and guidance, carry out initial assessments of skills, link learners up with providers, arrange flexible provision for shift workers and plan next learning steps.