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Find Out & Fund It: A Guide for Union Learning Representatives

Gathering Information As a Union Learning Representative (ULR) you will be approached by colleagues in the workplace with all sorts of learning queries. For example you may be asked: “I want to learn French. How to I go about this?” or “There are a few people in my department who want to improve their computer skills” It is a good idea to keep a record of these conversations as this will help you to identify trends and interest in particular subjects. This may be in the format of keep a diary or you may wish to develop a computer database Another way of identifying demand for training is by making up a questionnaire. Again this needn’t be complicated—a simple “tick box” sheet (Examples can be found at When you have collected this information—you are then ready to review and identify any trends or interest in a particular subject area. Armed with this information—you have the basis for your event or workshop.

Working with your Trade Union Branch (Organising Around Learning) Another way of identifying training needs is by linking with your trade union branch. Ask your branch officers about workplace incidents. For example: A new computer system is about to be introduced in the workplace. In which case, what can you as ULRs do to help introduce this process? Alternatively there may be an increase in staff getting into trouble for not recording information properly. Therefore it may be helpful to organise some literacy classes.

Who provides this? Now that you have identified interest, you will now need to answer

the following questions: 

Is this something my employer should provide? For example—is this mandatory or compulsory training—health & safety, manual handling, induction training etc Is this something our trade union WULF Project can support? It would be useful to meet with your WULF Project Manager who will be able to advise on the scope of courses covered by their Project objectives. Most WULF Projects will be able to support work around essential skills (literacy, numeracy and IT). They may also be able to help with subjects like Communication Skills, Confidence Building, Job Application Skills etc Is this something we can offer from the Trade Union? In some instances, your trade union may be able to help with work-related issues. For example—an organisation experiencing a transfer of services may benefit from a briefing about the transfer of their working terms and conditions. Will I need to source a “traditional” learning provider? For example— staff wishing to attend Welsh lessons. In which case you will need to approach a local college or tutor to deliver this training. What’s a WULF Project? WULF = Wales Union Learning Fund This is a pot of money available through the Welsh Government. The funding is “tendered out” to trade union affiliates of the Wales TUC . Successful trade unions will develop workplace learning projects with an aim to support and compliment work based learning opportunities to allow people to function and progress in the workplace and in society in general

Funding Options In most instances, your employer will have a dedicated training budget and may be able to help fund learning opportunities that are workrelated. However, there may be instances where the workshop may benefit the business—but may not fall within their funding remit (for example: A confidence building course may generate many business benefits—but since this is not mandatory—may fall outside the employers responsibility to provide this) You may generate lots of interest around a subject which is not workrelated—for example: a group of workers may want to learn a European language or craft skills. With this in mind, it’s wise to be aware of the different funding streams available to support your event. These include: UNISON WULF Projects: As mentioned previously, the aim of such projects is to support and compliment work based learning opportunities. Workshops along the themes of literacy, numeracy, IT , job application skills and “soft skills” - i.e. Confidence building, assertiveness skills etc can usually be funded by the WULF fund. The ideal model is where ULRs work in partnership with their WULF Project—ULRs identifying need and working with the Project to fund workshops etc Essential Skills Wales/Regional Essential Skills Projects: Essential Skills Wales (ESW) is a Welsh Government funding stream specifically aimed at improving the essential skills of literacy, numeracy and IT. Regional Essential Skills operates on a similar basis. However, there are discrete differences: ESW leans towards workplace provision whereas Regional Essential Skills tends to operate more so in the community. Learning Providers: Some learning providers will have “core” funding which may be accessed. It’s best to speak to as many learning providers as possible and they will advise on whether “core” funding is accessible. It is worth noting that this type of funding is often dependant on ensuring minimum numbers at a class in order for it to be viable.

Finding a Venue Finding the right venue will make a huge difference to the success of your event or training course. When looking for a venue, consider the following factors:          

Are there any facilities for learners with disabilities? - i.e. Wheelchair access, hearing loops, software and equipment etc Is there car parking space? What public transport is available? Is it easy to get to? Is it safe? i.e. Consider lone travellers etc Is there a map and directions we could circulate? What is the venue capacity? How many learners can we include? What facilities are available? Will we be able to provide refreshments etc? What facilities will the tutor need? i.e. Flipcharts, projector, IT networks etc How much will it cost? What time is the venue available? i.e. Will this be an evening class or delivered during working hours. Who is responsible for access? i.e. Will we need a key or will a caretaker be on site to help

Learning Providers As ULRs you will build relationships with local learning providers. You will develop a mutual understanding of each organisation and this will help enormously when planning a learning event or workshop. When organising a workshop, you may wish to consider the following:    

Does the provider have a specialist subject area? i.e. Do they specialise in IT Skills etc What is their availability? Does this correspond with when the venue is available? What is their hourly/daily rate? Do they charge extra for travel expenses, development time etc?

It may be helpful to meet with the tutor before hand to ensure the following points are discussed: 

 

What is the target audience? i.e. A group of hospital cleaners from the same workplace or a mixed group of workers from different backgrounds. This will help the tutor modify the content of the workshop so it’s appropriate to the group What level is this pitched at? i.e. Is this a beginners group or intermediate level? Will the course be accredited? This will help the tutor to determine assessment methods, activities etc

The Connecting Learners Project is developing a Directory of Learning Providers and Networks. If you would like to contribute to this exercise—please contact Karen or Nicola Tel 01792 646640

Pre-course Information Ok—so we have a course idea, we have organised a venue and a tutor... Now all we need is some learners! You will already have an idea about the number of people interested in attending your event. (Remember your records and questionnaire results?) However to make the course cost effective and viable you will need to ensure that as many people as possible are aware of your activities. You may wish to consider sending information out to workers via email, your workplace newsletter or via computer networks such as organisations website, Facebook page etc Now is a good time to start up a “Workshop Register”. This will help you to record any interest in your course. It will also help you to decide if you have enough numbers for the course to go ahead. Assuming your course is viable, you will then need to make sure the learners have the appropriate information to join the course. It is good practice to send out “joining instructions”. These will include information about the venue, times and dates of the workshop, directions to the venue and any other useful information. If you are providing refreshments—it is advisable to ask the learners if they have any special dietary requirements. Likewise it is helpful to know if anyone requires support in respect of access etc.

Pre Course Information: Other points to consider Will the learner need to bring any resources—paper, books, pens etc? Does the course involve any commitment other than the taught sessions? (i.e. Any pre-coursework, exams, etc)

Resources/ On the Day Before your workshop takes place, it is a good idea to make a list of the resources and equipment you and the tutor will need:  Tutor resources: Flip-chart, marker pens, Post-it notes, writing paper, pens etc  Specialist Equipment: Computer, Projector, Screen, Wi-fi or Internet connection, DVD player etc  Refreshments: Tea, coffee, catering (if provided)  Posters to “signpost” the venue  Sign-In Sheet for students to register as they arrive  Any activity sheets/photocopying requested by the tutor

On the Day... It is good practice to arrive early at the venue. You will have time to display your posters so learners will know where to go. If your workshop is taking place at a large venue, it may be helpful to arrange to meet the learners in the reception area—so you can then accompany them to the class room. When the learners have arrived, you can help the tutor by circulating the Sign-In sheet. This will also act as your record of attendance and will help you build up a database of contacts for future events. You may wish to stay a while longer and offer refreshments etc and generally help the learners feel at ease. Remember: this may be the first step back into learning for some students. At this informal stage, there may also be an opportunity to talk to the learners about the role of the ULR and encourage like-minded people to join your group. Introduce the tutor and confirm any final arrangements in respect of locking up the venue at the end of the session. You may wish to ask the tutor to keep copies of the evaluation questionnaires etc.

How Did it Go ...? In the training and development arena, it is standard practice to evaluate learning activity. Evaluation helps us benchmark achievements against the aims of our courses, and allows us to improve and grow. If you have attended a training course recently, you are likely to have received an Evaluation Questionnaire. This is likely to ask the learner how they felt about the session and whether it met their expectations. (An example of an Evaluation Questionnaire can be found at As an organiser, it will help you find out more about the training venue—i.e. Was the venue appropriate? It will also give you an idea of how effective the tutor was—which will help you decide on who to work with on future projects. This sort of information will give you vital feedback which will demonstrate whether you have received value for money both from the tutor Celebrate Your Success By publicising your efforts, you are more likely to engage more learners at subsequent events. Successful ULRs will take photographs, video clips, collect quotes from learners etc—and share these via their networks. These may be shared in a variety of ways:     

Trade union website or newsletter Employer website or newsletter Facebook or Twitter pages Dedicated learning websites—e.g. Wales TUC Learning Services or Connecting Learners You Tube video clips etc

Support UNISON Learning & Organising Services (National) UNISON: Membership Development Team (Includes: Activists Education & Training, Workplace & Lifelong Learning, Equalities) UNISON House Custom House Street, Cardiff CF10 1AP Tel: 02920 729 414


Wales TUC Learning Services (Development Officers according to area across Wales, as well as dedicated Essential Skills Project Officers) Contact Linsey Imms (Project Worker) Tel: 02920 221 940 Email: Union Learn An online resource for Union Learning Representatives. Useful materials available to order or download. E-learning courses for ULRs and activists also available. Visit: **Please note: Union Learn is funded and managed in England—so be aware of possible differences in Welsh policies, funding streams, etc

This Good Practice Guide was developed by the UNISON lifelong learning project: Connecting Learners in the Third Sector in South Wales Connecting Learners is funded until the end of March 2013 and supports staff and volunteers between the areas of Pembrokeshire to Monmouthshire. Connecting Learners is proud to be hosted by Community Lives Consortium For further information contact: Karen Fisher (Project Manager) Tel: 01792 646640 Email: Nicola Bujega (Project Administrator) Tel: 01792 646640 Email:

Find Out and Fund It  

A reference guide for organising courses.

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