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March 2013

Connecting Learners Celebrates in Style

connecting Learners in the Third Sector in South Wales

The Connecting Learners Project was established in March 2010 with the aim of widening participation in learning in the community-voluntary sector. With a particular focus on the essential skills of literacy, numeracy and IT, we have been able to support 118 organisations between the areas of Pembrokeshire and Monmouthshire. We celebrated our achievements at an event held at the Village Hotel, Swansea where we met with colleagues and friends and reflected on the achievements of employers and learners . As a Welsh Government funded project, we were delighted to welcome Jeff Cuthbert, AM— Deputy Minister for Skills—who emphasised: “Raising the skills of the Welsh workforce is vital if we are to prosper as a nation.” The Deputy Minister added: “Gaining skills improves opportunities for career development, builds confidence and increases the value of the individual to an



Delegates were enthralled by learner stories and employer presentations. We were joined by representatives of the trade union movement: UNISON and the Wales TUC who spoke at length about the benefits of trade union led learning.

The real stars were the learners themselves and delegates were inspired by their stories about how they had overcome difficulties to access development opportunities.

Lead partner organisations delivered case study presentations and these

Gwenda Thomas AM included contributions from: Community Lives Consortium, RCT Homes and Bridge Mentoring Plus

Supporting staff employed in social care played a large part in the Project and we were pleased to welcome the Deputy Minister for Children & Social Services, Gwenda Thomas AM who addressed the delegates. The Deputy Minister affirmed “We need to ensure that people delivering frontline care have the essential skills to carry out their roles to the best of their ability in line with our ambition to increase the status and profile of the social care workforce in Wales.”

Hosting Organisation—Sector Leaders in Essential Skills We were pleased to see our hosting organisation Community Lives Consortium receive the Essential Skills Employer Pledge award at the Celebration of Learning Event. During the life span of the project, Community Lives has made a huge investment in supporting staff with essential skills needs. Supported by the Welsh Government’s Essential Skills in the Workplace programme, Community Lives has been able to encourage several staff to achieve qualifications in literacy, numeracy and IT. By building internal capacity, staff are also able to access support on a one-to-one basis from qualified staff and Union Learning Representatives. Inside this issue: My Learning Experience


Performing Better Together


Essential Skills Awareness


Spotlight on: Union Learning Reps


Helping Housing Associations


Partnership Working—Health & Social Care


A Special Thanks...


The Connecting Learners Experience We are committed to improving our service and want to provide the best opportunities possible for our learners and partner employers. With this in mind, we populated an online survey to review the work of the project and help shape future activity.

33% rated their experience Excellent with 67% saying it was Very Good

67% rated communication between Connecting Learners and their organisation as Excellent

Our learners said:

The Essential Skills & Dyslexia Awareness workshop helped me understand the issues people are dealing with and how to help overcome them. The Basic IT course: “Definitely more confident ... I am now a “black-belt” on my iPhone!”

We listened to feedback and are pleased to add the following workshops to our portfolio:

Introduction to Autism

Understanding Dementia


Mental Health Awareness

We also investigated Sector coverage and are delighted to welcome new partners on board from Powys & Ceredigion. As well as working with communityvoluntary sector organisations we look forward to including private and non-registered care/nursing homes.

Connecting Learners launches flagship programme: Performing Better Together One of the Project’s strengths was responding to employers’ and learners’ needs and reacting by offering suite of courses that were relevant in content and level of study. We were approached by RCT Homes in Pontypridd to help organise a course aimed at staff involved in the appraisal process. We agreed to commission Peter Green of PJG Consultants, who developed the Performing Better Together workshop.

The aim of the workshop was to enhance understanding of the appraisal process and to encourage participants to take ownership of their personal development by identifying their learning needs and to help them align their goals to the organisation. 51 learners attended the workshops and 96% of the attendees rated the session “Good” or “Excellent”. Nicola Marvelley, Staff Development Manager explained

that as a result of the workshop performance reviews have become more embedded in the organisation. The workshop has since been offered to other organisations as an example of good practice.

Check out RCT Homes presentation on our website:

Raising Awareness around Essential Skills The Welsh Government has invested £…. As part of their commitment to improve the essential skills of literacy, numeracy and IT.

Government strategy by introducing a number of initiatives which included our popular Essential Figures revealed that 25% of adults Skills & Dyslexia experience difficulty with reading Awareness workand literacy and a massive 53% shop. The workadmitting they struggle with numshop was debers. livered across “Thanks to you both for the effort 43 locations The Connecting Learners project you put into the Challenge and has actively supported the Welsh reaching learners that are so hard to with represenreach.” David Kendall—The Reading Agency tatives from 96 Page 2 organisations attending.

We were also pleased to provide active support for 6 organisations to access funding through the Essential Skills in the Workplace (ESiW) programme. The project was also able to engage with learners on this sensitive subject through a range of informal activities—the most popular being the Six Book Reading Challenge. An impressive 91 learners completed the challenge and several organisations benefited from the purchase and donation of Quick Reads. materials.

Spotlight On: Union Learning Reps The success of project like Connecting Learners depends largely on a lively and active network of Union Learning Reps (ULRs). ULRs are enthusiasts and advocates for lifelong learning. Through their own love of learning, they encourage others to take advantage of the wealth of development opportunities offered by the employer, trade union and the wider community. A fairly new role within the trade union movement, ULRs are entitled to paid time off to attend training and perform their role (Employment

Welsh Housing Association, Perthyn and Foothold Regeneration. There are also new reps in RCT Homes and Tai Calon Community Housing “There is a clear role for ULRs in raising awareness of issues and encouraging colleagues to improve their skills”. Roger Mc’Kenzie—Assistant General Secretary (UNISON) Inspiring Learning Seminar—2013

Act 2002)

who will soon to be complete their training.

The Connecting Learners project identified and supported 12 ULRs who work for: Community Lives Consortium, NPT Homes, United

We have seen exciting new initiatives introduced by ULRs at Community Lives which includes a Learning Loan scheme. Working with senior

management the ULRs negotiated this exciting new facility which allows staff to access funding for courses and have this deducted from their wages—therefore eliminating the financial barriers often associated with study. The facility has since been extended to include computer equipment inline with the Welsh Governments digital inclusion strategy. ULRs at NPT Homes have been busy drafting a learning agreement with their employer and have been involved in a learning needs analysis. The ULR at United Welsh Housing Association has organised an Autism workshop and our friends at Perthyn have developed an online information service for learners.

Helping Housing Associations Many housing associations across Wales now find themselves operating independently following the transfer of local authority housing stock. We had great pleasure in working with a number of Housing Associations including RCT Homes, NPT Homes, Monmouthshire Housing Association, Tai Calon Community Housing, Merthyr Valley Homes, Cadwyn Housing and United Welsh

Housing Association.

Did you know…?

officially opened by Jeff Cuthbert AM, Deputy Minister for Skills in October 2012.

Working with trade We were pleased to fund 63 union co lle ag ue s UNITE and UCATT, workshops and activities on we were proud to play The partnership has our part in establish- behalf of our friends in Housing also produced new ing a Learning Centre Union Learning Repreat Merthyr Valley Homes. The sentatives and workplace learning Johnny Owen Centre now houses a committees whose sustain the work suite of laptop computers and learnof Connecting Learners beyond it’s ing resources including a lending life span. library for staff. The facility was

Partnership Working in Health & Social Care UNISON has a long standing working relationship with the Open University and we were keen to exploit this during the course of the Connecting Learners Project. UNISON was successful in securing funding to allow learners access a number of Open University programmers FREE of charge. Students could chose from a variety of short courses ranging from Psychology to Management. We were also M A R C H 20 1 3

pleased to offer the K101: Access to Health & Social Care course. To ensure this opportunity was maximized we worked with Open University staff and organised a series of “Sign Up Sessions” where learners were able to sample study modules delivered at university level before committing to the actual course. We were pleased to see 16 learners at these sessions, and we were im-

pressed to learn that 32 students have since completed an Openings certificate and an amazing 40 learners achieving the K101: Access to Health & Social Care Qualification. Learners may continue to access FREE learning opportunities via the UNISON/Open University learning portal: flexilearn Page 3

Don’t Worry—We Will Soon Be Back…! We are pleased to announce that we have been awarded funding to carry on our work for another three years!!! And this time we are reaching even further: As of 1st April 2013, we will known as:

Connecting Learners in the Third Sector in South & Mid Wales and will welcome colleagues from Powys and Ceredigion. As well as our partners in the community-voluntary sector we will also be working with Private & Non-Registered Nursing Homes Keep up to date with all the latest news:


Connecting Learners South Wales

A Special Thanks to: During the course of Connecting Learners we have been pleased to support staff, employers and volunteers across the CommunityVoluntary Sector. Over the last three years, we have:

Engaged with 118 workplaces

Funded 115 workshops amounting to £30,000

 

Identified and supported 12 Union Learning Reps Jointly set up 5 workplace learning committees

Developed a work based learning pathway in Social Care

Peter Thomas—”Godfather” of Connecting Learners

“Moved with the times” and used Social Media to connect with learners…

Development Officers—Roger Jones, Mark Rees & Anne Jenkins

At times it was not easy! Like with many multi-stakeholder projects there were hurdles along the way. However as the statistics show, this was a successful project and would like to thank those who helped us achieve our aims:

Wales TUC Learning Services:

Learning Providers: Peter Green of PJG Consultants Workers (WEA)



Lifelong Learning Employment Training Swansea (LLETS) Caroline Firth—Dyslexia Tutor

UNISON Cymru Wales:

Developed 4 Best Practice Guides

Gareth John—Regional (Education)

Supported 266 learners through Taster Sessions

Helen Huelin—Regional Learning & Development Organiser

Funded 74 workshops addressing soft skills—eg. Confidence Building etc

Our hosting organisation Community Lives Consortium: Rick Wilson, Chief Executive

Thanks to the employer partners who had faith in our project and demonstrated how employers and trade unions can work together around a positive agenda.

Supported 205 learners to achieve qualifications

Helen Waters & the Staff Development Team

And finally—the learners themselves who made it all worthwhile.

Organised 20 Learning Road Shows

Finance & Administration Staff


And the many training providers who supported our project. Too numerous to mention!

Connecting Learners Newsletter  

End of Project Summary

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