Supporting learners in the workplace
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Issue 1, September 2014


Welcome to the Supporting Learners Newsletter from unionlearn.  This electronic publication has been produced to keep you up to date with news, developments and resources that will help support learners in the workplace. 

In this bumper first edition we highlight some of the many unionlearn resources which are available and update you on some of the projects which we are currently working on.


Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) help open up learning opportunities for union members and also support them during their learning. They also help to develop a learning culture in workplaces.

ULRs support learners in diverse ways such as:
  • providing learners impartial information and advice on their learning needs and options
  • conducting a learning needs survey
  • helping colleagues source funding for learning
  • ensuring that those employees with literacy and numeracy needs receive the encouragement and support required to improve those skills
  • helping members access ESOL courses
  • encouraging the older workforce to take up ICT courses
There is a Supporting Learners section on the unionlearn website and a Learning Theme dedicated to Supporting Learners on the union learning Climbing Frame website.
Unionlearn Strategy for Supporting Learners
Unionlearn have produced a three year Strategy for Supporting Learners which includes information on the background to this area of work, a description of the unionlearn Supporting Learners Model and key achievements to date.  The strategy outlines the main Supporting Learners themes and priorities for unionlearn for the coming months.
The union learning Climbing Frame

The union learning Climbing Frame is the free website for ULRs and others that work with learners which has been designed to help support learners and promote learning in the workplace.  

The Climbing Frame contains a wealth of information within the 'Learning Themes' on topics such as 'Personal Development and Career Planning', 'Functional Skills', 'Apprenticeships' and 'Progression for reps'.  There are 20 unionlearn Learning Themes which are available to all users.  

There is also a 'Learner Management' area on the website where a ULR can store information from sessions with learners.  They are able to help learners set goals, create actions and record achievements.

The Climbing Frame also features a discussion forum, case studies and a useful links section.  ULRs can store their own notes, upload documents and record their own learning, ULR activities and progression.

There is a free Climbing Frame App which includes some of the key features of the website and being accessible from a phone or tablet makes it easy to use wherever you are.

If you haven't already registered for the Climbing Frame visit: or email Louisa Smith:

To download the Climbing Frame App visit the Apple Store or Google Play.
Supporting Learners eNotes

ENotes are a great resource provided by TUC Education to help reps keep up to date on key workplace issues. Each eNote is a self-contained module that contains a mixture of text, video and quizzes. They last between 20 and 45 minutes and can be returned to as many times as you like.

Unionlearn with TUC Education has developed a number of eNotes.  The Supporting Learners eNote guides reps through the process of supporting learners and provides lots of useful information on learning opportunities along with top tips.  The Climbing Frame eNote is comprised of five mini modules which highlight key functions of the website and explains how users can effectively use the tool to record and plan learning activities.  The Supporting Mid-Life Development eNote covers key aspects you should consider when planning a Mid-life Development Review.  It explains why the reviews are important, what you need to consider and how to support colleagues and help them plan for their future.

Other eNotes which may be of interest to you include: Apprenticeships, Bargaining for Skills and coming soon an eNote on Higher Learning.
To access the free eNotes register at: or email Anna Kalsi:

Higher Learning at Work

Unions work in a range of ways to help members access higher learning opportunities.  Unionlearn has a strategy for developing pathways to higher learning for union members, and has strategic agreements with a number of higher institutions to take this forward.  Some of these agreements include discounts for union members.

Regional projects have undertaken work with universities to make local opportunities more accessible to union members.  Resources and joint arrangements have been created by unionlearn with these partners to help ULRs and other representatives.

The unionlearn website has a specific section entitled Higher Learning at Work which is useful for union members, representatives and working adults interested in progression to higher learning, including apprenticeships.  It includes information about types of qualification available, providers and workplace support.  It also contains a number of case studies and links to other useful websites and resources.
The Learning Rep
The Learning Rep e-magazine is essential reading for any union rep involved in learning. The e-magazine is published three times a year and is filled with information and news about union’s learning and skills work. The Learning Rep also contains features on key skills policy issues, guest contributors from the world of learning, information about new training publications and the latest news about the activities of union learning reps and other related projects.
To receive a copy of the Learning Rep e-magazine click on the link to subscribe:

To provide any news stories or articles for the Learning Rep please contact Yusuf Dadabhoy:
Citizen Maths

Citizen Maths is a new, free and open online course for adults who understand the basics of numeracy, and now want to deepen their grasp of maths, for instance by working to achieve a Level 2 maths qualification, such as GCSE Grade C or above. The course includes a series of short instructional videos by two very experienced maths teachers, to give learners the feeling that they are in a one-to-one tutorial with a skilled teacher.

Citizen Maths is open for registration now, the course launched on the 12th September 2014, although learners can still join in on the course after the start date. Because the course is brand new and running the first time feedback is welcome on how the course will fit the unions’ maths support either directly to unionlearn or using the feedback options inbuilt to the course. Getting started page guides learners to think whether the course is for them and directs to the registration.

Citizen Maths is an Open Online Course developed in collaboration between Calderdale College, CogBooks, the Institute of Education, and OCR, with funding from the Ufi Charitable Trust.
Supporting Learners Guides

The Supporting Learners Guides are an essential resource for any union reps involved in supporting union learners in the workplace. The guides look at providing effective information and advice to learners, mentoring and coaching as well as details about the network organisations that are able to offer help when supporting workplace learners.

The four guides can be ordered or downloaded from the unionlearn website and can also be found on the union learning Climbing Frame.
Supporting Mid-life Development
Change in the workplace affects everyone and everyone needs support in managing change. Different age groups may have different needs regarding their future career development, learning new skills and refreshing existing skills, or combining personal aspirations with work.  ULRs can help by supporting colleagues of all ages to review their personal and work development. Unionlearn has developed a model to help ULRs and other reps support their colleagues by offering them a Mid-life Development Review. 
Unionlearn has produced a range of resources to help reps offer Mid-life Development Reviews to colleagues of any age who want to identify their skills in order to move on or make a new start. These include questionnaires, quizzes, workshop presentations, factsheets and handouts. All of these can be used with individuals one-to-one or in group activities or workshops. You can download all of the resources from the union learning Climbing Frame which has a Learning Theme on Supporting Mid-life Development and also a dedicated section for 'Supporting Mid-life Development Resources'.

Unionlearn were involved in a Mid-life Career Review project with NIACE which finished earlier this year.  An evaluation report entitled 'Mid-life career reviews: Helping older workers plan their future' was produced at the end of project.  The report highlights project activities, case studies, project successes and challenges and the importance of the ULR role.

For more information about Supporting Mid-life Development please contact Jane Warwick:
The unionlearn Quality Award

The unionlearn Quality Award was launched in 2007 and has been achieved by providers for over 180 courses, programmes, careers advice and information services, and Apprenticeships.  

The key aim of the award is to signpost ULRs to organisations that are committed to, and work successfully with, unions. The Quality Award is widely recognised as a prestigious measure of reliability and a sign of confidence for those going through the learning route.  

We are launching a streamlined Award, making the assessment process simpler, ensuring the criteria remains current, whilst maintaining the integrity and rigour of the achievement.  The changes will include a revamped Quality Award for employers that demonstrates high quality delivery of their Apprenticeship programmes.  Watch this space for more information coming soon.

For more information about the Quality Award visit the unionlearn website or please contact Paul Clarkson:
Technicians Pathways moves to phase two

Unionlearn Technician Pathways project continues to promote the trade union role in delivering professional registration for technicians working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The project explores how unions working with professional bodies can enhance technicians’ access to Continuous Professional Development (CPD).

Technician Pathways project has now been approved for further two years’ of funding from the Gatsby Foundation. The current phase of the project is due to end in September 2014.

Please get in touch to discuss how you would like to see the technician agenda taken forward, email Kirsi Kekki: or call Kirsi on 020 7079 6953.

As part of the unionlearn project the TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Science Council in unionlearn conference on the 23rd of June 2014. The Science Council’s Chief Executive Diana Garnham was the other signatory. The MoU describes how unionlearn and the Science Council will work together and share information to increase technician registration and access to continuous professional development.

There are still hard copies available of the Technician Registration Toolkit – A resource for union negotiators and reps. The toolkit makes the case for union involvement, explains the benefits of technician registration and helps to understand the application process.  For copies please email Kirsi Kekki:

The National Numeracy Challenge

Unionlearn is working in partnership with a number of organisations to explore different ways of learning maths.  On top of information being available from the unionlearn website there are now some online tools which you might find useful.

The National Numeracy Challenge Online is for adults at all levels from Entry up to Level 2 – a confidential, easy to use site to assess and improve everyday maths skills in bite-sized steps, while building confidence along the way. It is a web-based assessment tool that everyone can use to check their own level of numeracy with no time pressure, moving on if needed towards a programme of further personal learning. There is no cost to access the Challenge Online.

Unions have an opportunity to gain their own unique link to the Challenge Online to find out information on usage. The data is completely confidential and identifies the numbers participating and progress, but not the individual. There is also a specific union learning reps’ Challenge Champion workbook which can be requested from

National Numeracy is an independent charity that focuses on adults and children with low levels of numeracy.

Supporting Learners Case Studies
We are looking for some new Supporting Learners Case Studies to highlight the fantastic work and achievements which ULRs and learners are involved in.  If you have a story which you think would make an interesting case study then please let us know. Whatever your story, you could help to inspire others.  For more information please contact Yusuf Dadabhoy:


Midlands ULR Conference: 25 September 2014, Birmingham.
For more information
contact Surjit Chohan: 

Yorkshire & The Humber ULR Network Event: 23 October 2014, Leeds.
For more information
contact Mark Ball:

Wales ULR Conference: 20-21 November 2014, Ewloe. 
For more information contact Linsey Imms:

If you have any events you would like to promote in future issues of Supporting Learners News and/or on the union learning Climbing Frame website please email Louisa Smith:

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