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Issue 7, July 2015


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. 

Unionlearn Annual Conference 2015

Unionlearn's ninth annual conference took place on Monday 6th of July at Congress House, London.  With a packed hall of over 350 delegates the event celebrated the achievements of union learning over the past year.

Chaired by Mary Bousted, General Secretary of ATL, the event heard from Frances O'Grady from the TUC, Mark Stuart from CERIC, Peter Horrocks from the Open University, Neil Darwin from Cambridge and Peterborough LEP, Ben Neild from the Marchmont Observatory and Tom Wilson, Director of unionlearn.

Six young apprentices took part in an informative panel discussion, Unionlearn Quality Awards were presented to Nottingham POA Learning Centre and Veolia Unite Learning Centre and the comedian Rhona Cameron injected some laughter into the proceedings.  There were number of exhibition stands, a presentation and book signing with the author Fanny Blake and eight workshops to choose from in the afternoon.

"There was a real buzz in the room, I enjoyed hearing from the apprentices and I liked the opportunity to network with people from a number of different organisations" said one delegate.

Find out more about the event and look out for the video of the conference which will be available soon.


ULR Survey Results

At the end of 2014 unionlearn conducted an online survey of union reps engaged in supporting learning at work.  The aim was to get an up-to-date picture of their activities in the workplace, including the main opportunities and challenges that they identified in promoting the union learning agenda.

The results are in and can be found in a new report which looks at among other things the characteristics of ULRs and union reps, training and support, sector breakdown and workplace characteristics and the impact of ULRs and union reps.

View the Survey of ULRs and union reps supporting learning and skills, 2014 on the unionlearn website.


Festival of Learning 2015

May and June have been busy months with reps and union projects setting up a variety of activities for this year's Festival of Learning , across the country. 

In Bournemouth the local RMT branch ran a series of IT courses to introduce members to computers, while in nearby Poole RCM members at the local maternity hospital ran a writing course.  FBU ULRs promoted dyslexia awareness training and assessments across the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, while Unison ULRs set up a Lunch, Learn and Fitness session at Newcastle Civic Centre.

The Unite/Veolia Learning Centre in Haringey won a regional award:

Whilst Kofi Amo won a tutors award for the work he has been doing with PCS members in Southend:

Union reps have helped to inspire others and show that they really do love to learn!  Well done to everyone involved in Festival of Learning 2015.  If you haven't already please let unionlearn know about activities that you were involved in, email:

For more information about Festival of Learning, visit the unionlearn, Campaign for Learning and NIACE websites.


Valuing the skills of older workers: How to do a mid-life development review

Unionlearn has launched a new practical guide to help support reps with the process of carrying out a mid-life development review.  The handy guide provides detailed information about the three stage model for carrying out a review, 1) Getting started, 2) One-to-one or group activities and 3) Reviewing, follow up and support.  The guide explains steps that can be made at each stage and includes some quick start ideas to help you get going.

Topics include information about the ULR role, what older workers want to talk about, how to identify transferable skills and how to get employers on board.  The guide also includes a checklist of activities which you can work through, discussion topic ideas and a resources section with information about the wide range of publications and websites available to help support the process.

Valuing the skills of older workers: How to do a mid-life development review can be downloaded from the unionlearn and Climbing Frame website.

OpenLearn Learner Guide

A new Open University online guide has been launched to point employees in the right direction for free learning in the workplace. 

The OpenLearn Learner Guide is a free 10-hour badged course which provides a gateway for facilitators and in turn employees, to a wealth of free resources and learning materials from the OU's OpenLearn pages.

OpenLearn offers around 11,000 hours of materials including interactives, videos, academic blogs and podcasts from OU courses on a wide range of subjects.

The new online course is intended for learning facilitators, such as ULRs to help them develop the skills to sign up to and navigate OpenLearn and introduce the platform's main features and resources.

For more information visit the Open University website. 

Making the case for learning

This new unionlearn publication takes you through the stages of setting up and developing a workplace learning project.  Grouped into four sections the guide looks at 'making the case for learning', 'getting started', 'building support' and 'moving on'.  Each section provides a useful 'things to find out and things to do' area, along with 'supporting information' pages. 

Information is included about becoming a union learning rep (ULR), negotiating a learning agreement and raising awareness in the workplace.  There is a quick project planner, information about conducting a learning survey and details about support and advice that is available from unions and unionlearn.  The guide contains a variety of case studies from a range of unions, which give practical real life examples of union learning at work.

Making the case for learning is available on the unionlearn and Climbing Frame websites.


Climbing Frame Feedback Survey 2015 

Take part in the Climbing Frame Feedback Survey for a chance to win a Kindle!

The union learning Climbing Frame is the website for ULRs and others that work with learners to help them in their role.  Every year we carry out a Climbing Frame Feedback Survey to hear from users of the website and see whether there are any opportunities for unionlearn to make changes to the website.  From previous survey feedback we have responded to requests and have introduced new Learning Themes, included more links, added the upload function and created the free Climbing Frame app.

This year we are keen to find out what you like, what you don't like and any suggestions you have to help make the website even more valuable to ULRs.  Whether you are an experienced Climbing Frame user or are new to the site we really value your opinion and want to know what you think.

Please complete the survey by Friday the 18th of September 2015 for a chance to be entered into a prize draw to win a Kindle.  The winner will be randomly selected and contacted via email.

If you haven't already registered on the Climbing Frame visit:  You can download the free Climbing Frame app from Google Play or the Apple Store.


Health Sector Learning Themes Update

Reps in the health sector are able to access 6 health sector Learning Themes in addition to the 20 unionlearn Learning Themes on the union learning Climbing Frame.  These Learning Themes were originally developed a number of years ago to help support reps in this vast sector and have recently been refreshed and updated incorporating some of the many changes that have taken place recently.

We have set out the new responsibilities of Health Education England (HEE), in particular concentrating on two key HEE programmes: 'Talent for Care' and 'Widening Participation'.  We have comprehensively revised and updated the information on Apprenticeships, with new material on Traineeships.  We have completely updated the section on the new European Union Professional Qualifications Directive (PQD) and set out its key implications for the health and social care sectors. 

Information is also available on the Care Certificate and the Skills for Health Bridging programme.  We have updated the material on partnership working between NHS employers and trade unions, with a new focus on Social Partnership Forum's united call on NHS employers to support trade union facility time in the service of effective partnership working.

To access the health sector Learning Themes register on the Climbing Frame and select that you are in the 'health' sector, For more information please contact Louisa Smith: 

Reading Ahead 

Reading Ahead is the new name for the Six Book Challenge, the initiative run by the Reading Agency.  The programme is designed to help people improve their reading skills and be fun at the same time.  It invites people to pick six reads and record, rate and review them in a diary in order to get a certificate.  The new name has been given to emphasise that reading isn't just about books - it's about newspapers, magazines, websites and much more. 

Visit the Reading Agency's resources page and website for ideas about how to run Reading Ahead in your workplace.


Supporting Learners into Higher Learning eNote

A new electronic briefing for reps (eNote) has been launched by TUC Education and unionlearn.  The eNote provides information about higher learning in the workplace to help reps work with learners, providers and employers.

Information is included on the benefits of higher learning for individuals, higher learning opportunities that are available and how you can help learners get ready for higher learning.  There is a section on working with providers and there is also information about getting support from employers. 

The eNote includes lots of higher learning advice, a quiz, top tips, activities and ideas for supporting learners and some videos from higher learners sharing their experiences and the advice they would give to those thinking of taking up higher learning.

To access this and the range of other eNotes register at: or contact Anna Kalsi:
Coming soon... An Introduction to becoming a ULR eNote.


North West ULR Forum, 4th September 2015, Manchester. For more information please contact Laura Robertson-Collins:

Supporting Learners Development Day, 24th September 2015, Bristol. Register today!

Supporting Apprenticeships events across the South West
South West Unionlearn and Weston College will be running a series of apprenticeship events across the region this autumn aimed at trade union reps and officers.  Details are being finalised, but three half day events will be held in Bristol, Weston-Super-Mare and Exeter and will focus on the following areas:
  • How to support workplace Apprenticeship schemes
  • Representing apprentices
  • Collective agreements
Dates and venues will be confirmed over the coming weeks, but for more info contact Rob Garrett (

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:

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 Quality Award is widely recognised as a prestigious measure of reliability and a sign of confidence for those going through the learning route.  

For more information about the unionlearn Quality Award visit the unionlearn website or please contact Paul Clarkson:


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