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Supporting Learners

Sources of help for union reps

Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

unionlearn Supporting Learners Network One of your most important activities to help you support learners effectively is to use the network for: signposting members to a range of services and information they can use themselves or to learning opportunities as a resource and back-up for you as a union rep to help you to find and sort out information or to help you with specialist enquiries. These are the network organisations that are likely to be most useful to you in supporting learners: other ULRs and union reps, project workers, staff and websites unionlearn website, centres and staff the unionlearn learning and careers advice service workplace learning centres, including learndirect provision other learning and training providers nextstep face-to-face services

A new adult careers service? employers sector skills councils (SSCs). Your regional unionlearn team is in contact with a range of providers including SSCs and nextstep. You will find contacts for regional offices on the unionlearn website


The Leitch Review of Skills and the more recent Implementation Plan have proposed the merging of learndirect Careers Advice and nextstep into a new adult careers service, which will work closely with Jobcentre Plus and with learning and training providers to make a less complicated and modernised menu of services available to adults in England. It will not be fully operational until 2010– 11, but aspects of the new service will be trialled in 2008. This guide will be revised to bring you up to date with changes in the network as the new service develops.

unionlearn learning and careers advice service

08000 92 91 90

Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

unionlearn learning and careers advice service What does the service do? The service is operated for unionlearn by learndirect Careers Advice. learndirect Careers Advice is an impartial service and is separate from the learndirect course provider. There is a dedicated telephone number for union reps and members to access the service, and a portal from the unionlearn website. Advisers have received training about the role of ULRs and other union reps and about the possible requirements of union members.

On the website, people can: email an adviser search for a course ask an adviser to check the equivalent of their overseas qualifications find out about jobs and careers match their skills and interests to job types get help with writing a CV

It is a free, impartial, confidential service that helps people to develop new skills, improve their job prospects or change jobs. On the telephone helpline 08000 92 91 90 (free from a landline), people can:

get help with making decisions find out about funding, childcare and other forms of support promote any courses they are running.

call from 8am to 10pm, seven days a week There are other useful links, including: book a call back at times to suit the caller returning to work or learning after time off speak to an adviser for information and advice on courses, jobs, paying for training or finding childcare

help with the cost of learning dealing with redundancy

have a longer interview and develop an action plan with a careers coach

help and advice for ex-offenders

speak to an adviser in their own language.

help with reading, writing and maths help for people with disabilities a guide for overseas workers working in the UK.

(calls are free from landlines)


Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

Who can use the unionlearn learning and careers advice service?

How does learndirect Careers Advice work with unionlearn and trade unions?

All unionlearn staff, union staff, TUC Education tutors, union representatives and union members can use the service. ULRs or course tutors can call on behalf of a member or group of members.

Learndirect Careers Advice has an agreement with unionlearn and operates the unionlearn learning and careers advice service. This means that all advisers are briefed and trained so that they know what unions and union reps do in the workplace, and some advisers have a specific role to play in supporting ULRs and others.

How do I contact the unionlearn learning and careers advice service?

Union reps can: search the course database

Call free from a landline on 08000 92 91 90. search the job profiles A portal from the unionlearn website will take you to the learndirect Careers Advice website, with links to resources to help you to advise learners.

ask questions on behalf of members support members in using services themselves.

The service can be accessed in different languages. These are available to all adults, not just union members.



0800 093 1116



0800 093 1115



0800 093 1119



0800 093 1114



0800 093 1333



0800 093 1555



0800 093 1444



0800 093 1118


unionlearn learning and careers advice service

08000 92 91 90

Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

nextstep information and advice service

What does nextstep do?


nextstep offers free, confidential, impartial information and advice about learning and work. Services are offered face-to-face, and all services have a website and a telephone number.

information on CD-ROM

discover their learning needs make decisions about what learning or training to do

get employed improve their career prospects find out what support is available.

printed information, such as leaflets audio-visual materials, such as videos

nextstep can help people to:

gain new qualifications

nextstep can give people:

verbal information through face-to-face meetings or telephone helplines. It also gives information about: work and learning opportunities available locally practical ways to get ahead, such as how to apply for jobs and how to plan a career where to go for information about benefits transport and free services for learning and work.

(calls are free from landlines)


Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

Who can use the nextstep service?

Advice nextstep will give people (subject to eligibility): personalised information, which may mean referral to other services help to use decision-making tools help to link personal interests and skills to job and career needs

The nextstep service offers free information on learning and work to anyone aged 20 or over. Free face-to-face advice is available for those who have less than five GCSEs or have not yet achieved an NVQ Level 3 qualification. In some local areas nextstep is able to provide extra services to people not in this group.

help to identify skills needs and referral if needed to get help with reading, writing or maths help to understand information about the job market advice about financial support advice about services available if you are made redundant advice on ways to search and apply for jobs, including writing CVs and interview skills advice on ways to progress in a career.

How do I contact nextstep? has a page with information about and links to local services. The unionlearn learning and careers advice service telephone helpline 08000 92 91 90 (free from a landline) will provide contact details for local services.

How does nextstep work with trade unions? There are nextstep services in all 47 LSC areas and currently they all work differently with unionlearn and with trade unions. Your regional unionlearn office will have links with local nextstep contractors.


unionlearn learning and careers advice service

08000 92 91 90

Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

Learning and training providers What support do providers offer to learners? Colleges and other providers of learning opportunities, including workplace learning centres, may offer support to learners through their tutors or student services in a range of ways: clear information about learning opportunities in leaflets, brochures, on websites or through open days and other face-to-face activities the chance to discuss their needs and available options with tutors, information or careers staff access to impartial and objective help to make decisions, with signposting or referral to other services if appropriate access to learning support and other specialist services, and referrals if appropriate help with decisions after a course has ended. Learners and potential learners should be able to access help and information before they choose a course, when they have started it and during the course, and when they are finishing and moving on. A good provider will provide these services in a way that is impartial and centred on the needs of the learner, not of the institution. Many colleges and learning providers are matrix-accredited (see Guide 3: Supporting Learners: Role and skills of the union rep for information about the matrix quality standard), although this may apply only to their information and careers services, not to their tutors. Providers are usually members of local IAG and other networks and will be able to make informed referrals.

(calls are free from landlines)

Some programmes and courses have achieved the unionlearn Quality Award. This means that they have shown that they meet the needs of learners in unions. Your unionlearn regional office will be able to provide you with details of accredited providers.

Who can use providers’ services? Learners and potential learners.

How do I contact the providers? Most colleges and learning providers have a telephone enquiry number and a website. If you have trouble finding the contact details for local providers, contact the unionlearn learning and careers advice service or staff at your local nextstep office who will be able to find these for you.


Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

How do providers work with unions? This will be different for each provider. You may be working with them in your role as a broker of learning opportunities, to arrange for them to deliver courses to union members. You may not know what IAG and learner support services they can offer. They may also have an information base and resources that you as a union rep can use. Ask about the following: IAG and learner support services learner support policies leaflets for learners about services on offer, including web-based services how to contact information and careers staff whether there is a resource base or information centre you can use what the course tutor’s role is in supporting learners. They may not know about your role as a union rep, so you could arrange to visit them and tell them about what you do.


unionlearn learning and careers advice service

08000 92 91 90

Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

Sector skills councils (SSCs) How do the sector skills councils offer Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) services? In order to fulfil their Sector Skills Agreements, SSCs have been developing IAG services to support the work of careers advisers and others in the field. Their aim is to give people access to up-to-date knowledge of industries and jobs across the UK economy. Each SSC is doing this in a different way, but the main activities are to provide: labour market information (LMI), including sector trends and skills shortages, through publications and websites job profiles and careers information, in publications, websites and DVDs information about qualifications requirements telephone helpline services, some of which are operated by learndirect Careers Advice email enquiry services face-to-face guidance newsletters and other bulletins for careers advisers events and CPD workshops for careers advisers careers websites with facilities such as advice on CVs, interview techniques and links to other services skills passports to recognise and record practical experience and achievements initiatives to help under-represented groups to find work in the sector.

(calls are free from landlines)

Who can access their services? Anyone who is interested in the work of SSCs can use their websites or contact them.

How do I contact an SSC? A full list of SSCs and their contact details is available on the Sector Skills Development Agency website Each SSC has a different approach to promoting careers in their sector so you will need to contact those that are most relevant to your members. The National Guidance Research Forum website has collected LMI together, and will also soon give you access to an online learning resource to help you to develop skills in sourcing and interpreting LMI and working with employers. The SSCs have an IAG Network, and the contact for that is currently Sue Fairest sue.fairest@ She will be able to put you in contact with colleagues in other SSCs who have responsibility for careers and IAG. Your regional unionlearn office will be working with SSCs in your area and will have local contacts.

How do SSCs work with trade unions on IAG? Unionlearn has developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and joint action plan for working together on IAG with the SSCs through the Skills for Business Network. SSCs want to work with unions, and particularly with ULRs and other union reps to ensure that information and resources are shared as widely as possible.


Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

Train to Gain

Where does Train to Gain fit in the unionlearn network for supporting learners? Train to Gain involves many of the organisations who are part of the unionlearn network and introduces another intermediary in the workplace, the skills broker. There is a protocol in place between TUC and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) which sets out the way in which skills brokers should work with union reps to negotiate with the employer to promote learning and training in the workplace. It is important for union reps to understand the IAG aspect of Train to Gain so that they can ensure that union learners are getting the support they need.

What IAG is available to learners through Train to Gain?

Employees on Train to Gain programmes should receive IAG support at three stages: before the training, at a general information session for individuals or groups and in one-toone sessions if required by the employee ongoing support while on the training programme when finishing the training, through a one-to-one session with an IAG provider, to review the experience and agree next steps.

Who has a role in IAG arrangements in Train to Gain? The LSC has identified the following people: the skills broker

Train to Gain aims to support employers and to help them to achieve their business objectives. Skills brokers are responsible for raising the awareness of employers and promoting the benefits of IAG. They may be involved in signposting at the stage of identifying training needs. There are also regional protocols – please contact your unionlearn regional office for details. The central process in Train to Gain is training employees, who need support to ensure that they are on the right training programme and can achieve the outcomes of that training so that they can improve their own productivity, employability and progression within their organisation.


the employer (especially the supervisor or line manager) the employees undertaking the learning the training providers involved in delivering and assessing the learning (all must be matrix accredited) nextstep and other IAG providers additional people supporting individual learners (including ULRs).

unionlearn learning and careers advice service

08000 92 91 90

Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

What does this mean for union members? It should mean that they receive impartial support while they are on Train to Gain programmes, and can then return to their union rep for further help when they have completed these programmes or if they want to take up other opportunities that cannot be funded through Train to Gain. The skills brokers should identify union reps and work with them to further agreements with employers and to support employees.

(calls are free from landlines)


Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

Specialist and other agencies There are many agencies in your area that will be able to provide specialist services for members. These will always include: the library

The following list gives you some examples of specialist agencies that may be able to help. They may have local branches.

British Dyslexia Association

the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). The unionlearn learning and careers advice service www.unionlearn/ free landline telephone number 08000 92 91 90 will be able to provide you with information about specialist agencies and be able to signpost you to them as and when appropriate. helpline 0118 966 8271

MIND (Mental Health Charity) helpline 0845 766 0163

RNIB – Royal National Institute for the Blind helpline 0845 766 9999

RNID – Royal National Institute for the Deaf helpline 0808 808 0123

SKILL – National Bureau for Students with Disability helpline 0800 328 5050


unionlearn learning and careers advice service

08000 92 91 90

Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

The union learning Climbing Frame What is the Climbing Frame?

Learning themes

The union learning Climbing Frame is a tool for union reps that holds summary information about a range of learning themes and opportunities that can be updated and continuously developed. It also signposts members to relevant learning opportunities whatever their skills levels.

The learning themes provide on-screen information about learning opportunities for members. In addition there are external links to relevant websites and internal links to PDF files of key documents contained within the Climbing Frame. The Climbing Frame will support union reps and update them on a broad range of learning themes and issues.

The Climbing Frame has a holistic approach that recognises that union learners have aspirations, skills and experience that can help them move towards personal goals as well as work and career goals. The union learning Climbing Frame has been designed as an online tool and can be accessed at where there is a link to the Climbing Frame information page. It has two main sections: learning themes and union learner management.

If your own union has a Climbing Frame it will have: a bank of generic learning themes which provide the national information for that area of learning; these themes will be written and updated by unionlearn; customised learning themes for each union, covering union-specific information; these themes will be written and updated by individual unions. Generic learning themes include:

How can union reps use the Climbing Frame?

information and signposting

Union reps can use the Climbing Frame to:

supporting additional learning needs

obtain up-to-date information to help in discussions with members

learning and organising

Skills for Life trade union education

work with learners to develop an individual action plan gather information about learning needs which can support negotiations with employers.

ICT personal development and leisure higher education. Customised learning themes – will be compiled with each individual union and will provide an opportunity to bring together all the learning opportunities on offer through the union, both in the workplace and through partnership arrangements.

(calls are free from landlines)


Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

Union learner management The learner management section of the Climbing Frame enables union reps to construct a personal Climbing Frame with individual learners to help identify and access learning pathways. The union reps can: add a new learner and create union learner details record edit or delete union learner details create a personal Climbing Frame with each learner review the Climbing Frame of a specific learner. Records of each meeting are stored and can be updated after each discussion. At the end of each session a personal climbing frame and an action plan can be printed for the learner to use as they wish.

Data collection function The Climbing Frame also includes a data collection function which will enable information to be aggregated into regular reports to demonstrate overall learner profiles at both local and national levels. These reports can be used by union reps when negotiating with employers.


Learn more about Climbing Frames TUC Education is integrating information about the Climbing Frame into the TUC learning reps basic training programme and there will be a specific Climbing Frame module that ULRs will be encouraged to attend as their unions develop and launch their own Climbing Frames.

unionlearn learning and careers advice service

08000 92 91 90

Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

unionlearn materials and publications What resources are available? You can download or order flyers and posters about the unionlearn learning and careers advice service to use in your workplace. See There are also a range of case studies about supporting union learners to give you some ideas. See the Supporting Learners area on the unionlearn website. You can download other useful publications including a pack about the matrix standard. Unionlearn also provides a wide range of general materials and publications that can be ordered online by visiting freebooks. Here are some of the resources that are currently available but it is worth visiting the website from time to time so that you know about new resources that will help you to support learners: Examples of offers from partners include: Sector Skills Councils: An Information Pack for Trade Unionists

Quick Reads holiday competition flyer

Learning and careers advice service leaflet

Open University leaflet

ULR Information – Z card

New Horizons magazine

unionlearn Quality Award – Information for ULRs

BBC RaW Bookends (Pair) Don’t forget to check your own union’s website to find out about any learning resources that are available for union reps.

The Learning Rep magazine Labour Research bulletin unionlearn’s annual report: One Year On Train to Gain leaflet

(calls are free from landlines)


Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

advice-resources What does advice-resources do? advice-resources provides a range of resources for people working in Information, Advice and Guidance services in the UK. You will find many of the resources useful to you as a union rep and to the members you work with. The resources are available online and on CD-ROM and are completely free of charge. New resources are being developed, including training resources about working with employers, guides for working with exoffenders and with older workers and for those working in HM Prisons. Here is a selection of those which are currently available some of which you can access directly from the unionlearn learning and careers advice service through the portal on the unionlearn website.

Directories Funding Directory This is a free, fully searchable database of noncharitable sources of funding to support education and learning. Sources include adult learning grants and career development loans.

Tools Skills and Interests Assessment A resource that is quick and easy to use, which can help members to identify their key skills and interests and to link these to a range of relevant career options. This free tool asks users a series of straightforward, step-by-step questions based on their current skills and interests and then generates a list of jobs that could be for them. It is suitable for all levels, including pre-Level 2 and users with little IT knowledge.

CV Builder This free resource covers all that is needed to create a CV and an application form and to write a covering letter. It includes tips, templates and activities and is ideal for those who lack confidence or career experience and might have difficulty selling their skills in order to get a promotion or a new job.

Adult Decision-Making Readiness Tool This interactive online questionnaire helps members to assess skills and make decisions. It generates a full report that can be printed so that you can discuss it together.

National Learning Directory This has details of more than 950,000 courses and learning opportunities from 10,000 providers and is free to all, funded by the LSC. It holds information on all kinds of learning, from short community-based activities through to degrees and distance learning.

Job profiles A free online database providing detailed profiles for over 700 occupations, including hours, income, training and the working environment.


unionlearn learning and careers advice service

08000 92 91 90

Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

Guides and Fact Sheets Asylum Seeker and Refugee Guides These are two free downloadable guides, one for asylum seekers or refugees available in nine languages and one for those who are helping them. The guides cover topics such as immigration status, rights and entitlements, learning English, training and education, volunteering, employment and requalification.

Disability Awareness This is an activity-led guide for advisers and provides an introduction to learning difficulties and disabilities. It will help you to understand how a learner can manage their disability in work, education and training, and tells you how you and your centre can comply with the Disability Discrimination Act. It is available online as free downloadable PDF files.

LMI Matters! A free toolkit providing an explanation of Labour Market Information (LMI) that can help people to make informed choices about jobs, careers and learning programmes. It is available as a booklet or it can be downloaded free online.

(calls are free from landlines)


Supporting Learners: Sources of help for union reps

Who can use the advice-resources service?

How do I contact advice-resources?

The general resources are free to all. There are additional resources available to nextstep and learndirect Careers Advice advisers, which you can access for your members by contacting the unionlearn learning and careers advice service. They include:

The website address is, and a link is available via the unionlearn learning and careers advice service portal on the unionlearn website uladvice.

Funderfinder – People in Need

How does advice-resources work with trade unions?

A database of charitable trusts that provide financial support for individuals.

UK NARIC This benchmarks qualifications from all over the world and can help people to find out what their overseas qualifications and experience mean in the UK.


Unionlearn has an agreement with advice-resources. This means that new resources can be developed which are needed by union reps, and existing resources reviewed to ensure that this dimension is covered. A guide to working with trade unions is being developed to help IAG providers understand the best way to do this.

unionlearn learning and careers advice service

08000 92 91 90

Unionlearn’s Supporting Learners series of guides is part of a community programme called Equal – a European Social Fund initiative which tests and promotes new means of combating all forms of discrimination and inequality in the labour market. The GB Equal Support Unit is managed by ECOTEC.

Published by unionlearn Congress House London WC1B 3LS Tel 020 7079 6920 Fax 020 7079 6921 Photographs: Mark Thompson; Simon Weller; gettyimages; GR Digital User. Design: Print: Sumfield & Day

All unionlearn publications may be made available for dyslexic or visually impaired readers, on request, in an agreed electronic format or in accessible formats such as Braille, audiotape and large print, at no extra cost.

Supporting Leaners Guide 02: Sources of help for union reps to support learners  

Information about local network organisations , the services they offer and how they can work with you

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