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Mid-life career reviews

Helping older workers plan their future Evaluation report


Contents

Introduction

2

The role of the union rep

5

Benefits to individuals, ULRs and employers

6

What are the issues for working people at mid-life?

8

The details of the unionlearn pilot project

11

Engaging employers

14

Working with partners

17

Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model

18

Mid-life development review resources

23

Project challenges

25

Project successes

27

The future: a sustainable and effective model for ULRs

30

Appendix 1: Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model

32

Appendix 2: Individual case studies

38

Appendix 3: Workshops and events to introduce and promote the project to ULRs and other reps

42

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Mid-life career reviews

Introduction: the Mid-Life Career Review Project Society and the workforce are ageing: In 2010, 21 million people in the UK were over the age of 50. Workers over 50 are unemployed longer than younger workers (43 per cent out of work more than a year compared to 26–35 per cent of younger workers). During January–March 2012, 65.5 per cent of people aged 50–64 and 8.7 per cent of those aged 65 and over were in employment. Seventy-six per cent of people over 65 believe the country fails to make good use of the skills and talents of older people, and 65 per cent of them believe age discrimination still exists in the workplace. By 2034 the state pension age will rise to 68 for both men and women – and at present only 38 per cent of working age people are contributing to a non-state pension. Sources: Mid-2010 Population Estimates UK Office for National Statistics, 2011; Labour Market Statistics, Office for National Statistics, May 2012; One Voice: Shaping our ageing society, Age Concern and Help the Aged, 2009

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Introduction

Employers are not necessarily aware of the implications of the demographic profile of the workforce. Older workers may be disadvantaged in the workplace and may also be low-paid, low-skilled and have little or no access to promotion, training or skill development. Yet they are an important resource and efforts need to be made to keep them in the workforce and to make the most of their potential. Employers need to assess their working practices to address issues such as: opening up training and promotion routes to everyone in the workforce; flexible working arrangements to help workers with caring responsibilities, and pension and retirement planning. This will facilitate effective succession planning and to ensure that a skilled workforce is available to meet future business needs. In this context of an ageing society and an ageing workforce, with no statutory retirement age and an increase in the state pension age, unionlearn has been a partner in the Mid-Life Career Review Project. In the summer of 2012 John Hayes, then Minister for Skills, announced that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) would be funding the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE) to develop and pilot a mid-life career review process. The project commenced in June 2013 and finished in March 2014. The project involved 18 partners and the target was to work with 2,500 individuals to test and evaluate different mid-life career review models, and to develop resources to support the process. The target has been met and exceeded, and the project has laid the foundations for future work.


Helping older workers plan their future

Unionlearn played a pivotal role in the project by engaging 15 unions, more than 45 ULRs and 770 workers in mid-life career review activities. Unions worked with more people than the other project partners and were able to demonstrate the impact and reach of ULRs in the workplace, and how their involvement can meet the needs of working people. The project fitted well with the strategic aims of unionlearn and specifically the Supporting Learners Strategy, and with broad agendas such as active ageing, extending working life, intergenerational strategies, personal financial planning, healthy workplaces and equality and diversity. This is the backdrop to unionlearn involvement in the Mid-life Career Review Project. Working people need to re-think their plans for life, learning and work and to re-assess their financial position. They need current information, expert advice and time to talk things through and focus on themselves, to deal with their lack of confidence, insecurities and fears about the future. For working people, prevention of drop-out from the labour market is crucial, since if jobs are lost, the chances of returning to work after 55 are very low. Employed people, whatever their age, are not getting attention soon enough to prevent job losses, redundancy or early retirement. Many of them are not aware that they can receive help and do not have access to the services they are entitled to. Age discrimination in the workplace, although illegal, is a serious issue. Older workers need to be supported, and targeted by agencies which can help. Early intervention may prevent people from leaving the labour market prematurely. A mid-life development review process can contribute to and provide a focus for these interventions, and is particularly valuable if unions, employers and specialist agencies work together.

The National Careers Service (NCS) targets unemployed people and young people, and has not been strongly marketed, so many adults are not aware of NCS services. People aged 50 or more were a priority group for the service, but this is not currently the case. However, working adults at risk of redundancy continue to be a priority, so many people at mid-life may find themselves eligible for careers advice and other support. The level of NCS funding does not provide an incentive for providers to see employed older people. Access to services for working people, particularly the working poor and others disadvantaged in the workplace, is a big issue. Union Learning Representatives (ULRs) working in partnership with the NCS, employers and other organisations can help to address this issue by delivering mid-life development reviews. Different approaches are needed for working people at mid-life and beyond, approaches that are holistic, intergenerational and engage families and colleagues as well as individuals. There should be strong links between career guidance and financial guidance and also links with the health and well-being agendas. The word ‘career’ has been used in the NIACE project, and has been used in a very broad sense to equal learning through life, work, progression and development. The term is controversial for working people, particularly when applied only to certain types and levels of paid work. Many people do not see themselves as having a career, so unionlearn is now using the term ‘supporting mid-life development’ to describe on-going work in this area. The term ‘midlife’ is also controversial but it does seem to allow for the varied perspectives people have on their lives, and this pilot has demonstrated that adults of all ages can benefit from a development review, although the priority issues may be different as they get older.

Introduction

3


Mid-life career reviews

Many working people found the mid-life career review a valuable reflective tool to take stock of their skills, knowledge and experience, regardless of their age. This intervention can be an important preventative measure in helping mid-life and older workers remain in the labour market by supporting them to update their skills and progress in their current workplace or to make a career change. In France everyone has the right to a mid-life career review at the age of 47. Unionlearn would like to see a similar right implemented in the UK, and is working with project partner The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) to campaign for this. Unionlearn would like to see people have the right to a mid-life career review when they reach their 50th birthday. This birthday is an important milestone in people’s lives and would be an appropriate transition stage for them to take stock, consider options and move forward in a positive way. This successful project has shown there is both a need and a demand for this process, and, to a large extent, learning opportunities and skill development can address these needs. There is no lack of aspiration among working people but a lack of intensive, experienced support to motivate and encourage them. The project has shown the need for good quality advice and guidance on a broad range of topics, co-ordinated in this project under the heading ‘career’. The profile and awareness of the importance of careers advice and guidance has lessened recently and could be re-launched under this banner alongside the campaign to have the right to a review of working life. One of the achievements of the project has been to stimulate the peer support role in these initiatives. In the case of unionlearn, this is the central role of the trade union representative working together with a range of experts to develop effective holistic approaches.

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Introduction

This unionlearn evaluation report This report is based on a qualitative and formative evaluation process underpinning the unionlearn pilot activities. Feedback has been given by the evaluator throughout the project, to shape the direction of the pilot. The report aims to describe the unionlearn model, to identify the challenges and successes of the project, to highlight examples and case studies of effective practice, and to outline the way forward. The report draws on a range of source material, including: monthly reports to NIACE; records of midlife reviews on the unionlearn Climbing Frame; evaluation forms from events and feedback from those who attended; an employer engagement survey; a final survey of ULRs who took part and workers who participated; interviews with ULRs and employers; filming sessions with ULRs; meetings and telephone conferences with the regional coordinators for the project and the unionlearn Supporting Learners Working Group; and discussions with the Service Manager and the Climbing Frame Development Officer at Congress House.


Helping older workers plan their future

The role of the union rep

The central focus in the unionlearn pilot project has been the role of the union learning rep (ULR). The project built on the strong and well-established role and training of ULRs. “Facilities time at work is being cut. Learning for learning’s sake gives me confidence and a sense of achievement to discover, explore and boost my existence. But I do not have money to learn any more. The career review is very relevant and a good way to move forward. It gives me a focus to move on and take action. I want to be able to help others do the same. It was helpful to have a strategy or skeleton to build on. I have had the chance to think about my skills and strengths. Do away with procrastination and talk to the National Careers Service! I want to help others to make the most of their experience. However, I found the timescale for the project too short considering workloads.” Evelyn Mills, PCS, DEFRA

While they have played a pivotal role, most ULRs do not hold professional qualifications in advice and guidance, and have not been expected to be experts in everything. Knowing their limitations, and who in the network to contact for specialist help, is an important part of their peer support role. Important elements of this role were confidence building, motivation, continuous support, networking, providing access to free services and to learning opportunities. ULRs provided a reflective space and an atmosphere of trust to allow workers to discuss openly their career options, hopes, fears, and aspirations without feeling uncomfortable.

“It is a union role and there are elements of confidentiality that go with that role. Traditionally you go to your union rep if you want advice about terms and conditions of employment. ULRs are seen as a trusted intermediary with their peers, and people were very open about their personal lives in the Mid-Life Career Review Project. We are not asking union learning reps to be experts but to be there to provide that reflective space for their peers in order to be able to signpost them and support them in the areas and issues that are important for them at that stage of their life.” Jane Warwick, Supporting Learners Development Officer, unionlearn

The unionlearn model for supporting mid-life development is explained in more detail in Appendix One. This includes more detail on the role of the ULR.

The role of the union rep

5


Mid-life career reviews

Benefits to individuals, ULRs, and employers There were three main groups of beneficiaries for the unionlearn pilot of the Mid-Life Career Review Project. The benefits for individuals were that they could: identify transferable skills and knowledge identify training or learning needs identify new or flexible roles or promotion opportunities at work think about a career change consider the right time to think about retirement consider ways of passing on skills and knowledge to younger workers

Peter Amphlett, UNITE, Royal College of Midwives

The benefits for the ULRs and other reps were that they could:

build confidence and motivation

reach people who may never have had help in planning their career or their learning

create a personal and professional development plan

help those people and their families to plan for the future

improve IT skills through use of the Climbing Frame and other web-based resources.

help those people to become more confident in making decisions about learning and work

“I think a lot of people who I speak with on a day-today basis don’t have a lot of self-confidence and I think using this process we can really help people to map out how they can best get on and how to give them confidence and help them to realise they do actually have some employable skills.” Emma Dudley, PCS, HMRC

“I thought all of the review was helpful because it takes a holistic approach. It took into account my personal life, hobbies, training and experience, what kind of training that would be available, whether I would have the time, family commitments. So it was very much a holistic approach.” Hazel Kjebbekk, UNISON, South Tyneside Foundation Trust

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“The review was systematic, thorough and the fact that it was conducted over the telephone was no barrier. I was asked to consider sometimes difficult questions about my future, but given plenty of time to do some research and reflection before follow-on sessions. Many RCM members are facing similar situations. This valuable personal experience will enable me to empathise with midwives and offer them support.”

Benefits to individuals, ULRs, and employers

engage with their employer work in partnership with the National Careers Service and other organisations gain experience in using the Climbing Frame to support learners, and have a chance to use the new Climbing Frame app. “The role and position of ULRs has increased and improved greatly over the years. I think the National Careers Service working with the trade unions and unionlearn is a fantastic support that, as a ULR, you’ve got on hand straight away to help you to help your learners.” Howard Fawcett, UNISON, Sunderland City Council


Helping older workers plan their future

The benefits for employers were: Staff are more motivated to stay and to take up training offers and new opportunities at work. Staff can develop new skills, knowledge, and experience to benefit the organisation. Staff can provide mentoring and pass on their skills and experience to other staff. Knowledge transfer within the organisation is made easier. Reduced staff turnover, recruitment and training costs can result. The organisation can develop and grow its own talent, and management. The organisation can develop new policies and procedures to help older workers to reach their full potential, and effective strategies for managing succession. “The nuts and bolts of ULR work are identifying a skills gap or a training need and then assisting your colleagues to search for that particular training or provide that particular training, or work with management in order for them to provide that training. It is the fundamentals of being a union learning rep. It enables you to go out there and get that job done.” Nigel Cawley, PCS, HMRC

“As part of my role within the National Careers Service employment engagement team, I am working with organisations undergoing redeployment or redundancy situations. I started working with ULR Howard Fawcett who works at Sunderland City Council, offering CV preparation, interview skills, application forms, and helping the staff to find out what was available out there for them. Eventually, because so many learners were coming to see Howard to access the NCS service, the management embed it in organisational practice. Howard also contacts me and some of the other learning providers to get free learning or heavily discounted learning in the workplace for staff.” National Careers Service

Benefits to individuals, ULRs, and employers

7


Mid-life career reviews

What are the issues for working people in mid-life? “I need to re-jig my work/life balance so that I can enjoy time with my family or do other things. I am organised at work but can’t seem to get it right at home. I can’t afford to cut my hours but I can’t improve my income if I stay where I am.” “I have more responsibility for elderly relatives and feel I don’t have enough time for grandchildren. My current working pattern does not make much allowance for short notice leave.” “Finding a new job is an issue – currently I’ve struggled to find direction in knowing what jobs to apply for. I have not found suitable vacancies. I want to change career but don’t know what to apply for.” “Life is too short to be doing what you don’t like, but on the other hand bills need to be paid. What I want is to find a job that I enjoy, if only I could work out what I really enjoyed doing and am good at.” PCS Members, HMRC

These comments are from the pre-review questionnaires filled in by working people who participated in the project. There are a range of challenges facing people at mid-life. They can be seen as problems but also as catalysts for change. People are living longer, are healthier, and have more opportunities open to them. The concept of sequential life stages has been replaced by many different life roles which may be played at the same time. There are new models of relationships, families and gender roles, and people may find that they have responsibility for both children and elderly parents or be caring for partners all at the same time. Life expectancy is improving and with it a hope and an expectation of enjoying good health for longer.

At work, the old model of jobs for life followed by retirement no longer exists, pensions are uncertain and people can expect to be in paid work for longer. Age discrimination and equality and diversity legislation have made this possible, although many workers are sceptical and think that age discrimination still exists in the workplace. Retirement planning is complex, and many workers may have to accept unplanned early retirement before they are ready. Work may not be satisfying, and people in mid-life may be under-employed, poorly paid, their skills not recognised or developed by their employer, and jobs may be inflexible and difficult to combine with family responsibilities. Re-structuring and redundancy may be badly handled and even unnecessary if workers’ skills are reviewed and fully utilised, and people prepared for re-deployment. “I think it is important to consider the transition stages workers go through, depending on their careers. For example firefighters retire earlier and are looking at career choices and options in mid-life. Many workers, after the changes to pensions and the policy changes about extending working life, will have to think about working longer and possibly changing their career to accommodate changes in health and well-being and family responsibilities.” Ian Borkett, Service Manager, unionlearn

“One of the key issues that we encountered was with regard to CVs and job application skills. This issue came from our union branch in our mid-life career reviews. Other issues were with regard to IT skills, people needing to up-skill their IT skills because of the changes in the Department, mainly in using Excel. People need training on Excel in order to move up the promotion ladder, because all the jobs that are going to be available require Excel skills. There were also issues regarding work-life balance and health and well-being.” Nigel Cawley, PCS, HMRC

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What are the issues for working people in mid-life?


Helping older workers plan their future

People may feel that their experience, skills and wisdom are not valued at work. Work/life balance and quality of life are important to people, and they want to talk about it. They may be looking at other areas of their life to provide a sense of purpose, a channel for their abilities and knowledge, and a way of engaging with society. For trade unionists the role as a representative may satisfy this need, and the skills gained are transferable to other areas of life. In this way, employers and unions can work together to create workplaces where everyone is working towards the goal of satisfying jobs, skill development, productivity and growth.

“In this economic climate job security is almost nonexistent and benefits are not sufficient to maintain people’s lifestyles. I feel that flexibility is the key to a happier lifestyle, less stress and better all round. Flexible arrangements can also have a positive impact for people who care for another or have dependents. Job satisfaction comes not just from knowing you are doing a good job and that being acknowledged, but also autonomy and a relationship between effort and reward. My priorities at present are: keeping my current job; having flexible working arrangements; and getting promotion with my current employer.

According to the ratings in the unionlearn pre-review questionnaires completed by participants, the top five issues that participants in the pilot project wanted to discuss were: better work/life balance; keeping current job; health; flexible working arrangements; and personal finances. Other personal worries were about a general lack of confidence, people thinking they are too old to participate in training and development opportunities or to change career completely, and how to deal with caring responsibilities while working. Many wanted to discuss development activities for activities outside of the workplace such as volunteering and learning for pleasure.

“Good health is the most important factor, as without this you cannot benefit from a better work/life balance. I would like to progress my career, however I feel like I would have to sacrifice my work/life balance to do this. Relationships with partner, family and friends will always be my number one priority. Making a difference to society has become more important to me since I started volunteering at Samaritans and have realised just how worthwhile and satisfying it is to feel you are helping your community.” Robin Middleton, UNISON, EDF Energy

What are the issues for working people in mid-life?

9


Mid-life career reviews

This wide range of issues creates challenges for ULRs and other advisers. People want to talk about big questions: Who am I? What am I good at? Who do I want to be? How can I get there? How can I overcome fears, insecurities and practical problems? ULRs who took part in the project were surprised at how open workers were with them about personal issues, but this process is actually well suited to the role of the ULR as a trusted intermediary. What people needed was a space to talk, to build confidence and motivation, to boost self-belief, to identify and describe their skills and be able to present or ‘sell’ themselves in a difficult market place, to get something positive from restructuring and redundancy, to keep jobs and progress at work, to communicate with employers get reassurance and to have some help to focus on future plans which may include career change and eventually active retirement. ULRs who took part in the project were called upon to use the basic skills of career guidance work, listening, exploring, identifying and presenting transferable skills and knowledge, helping people to develop career management skills, action planning and signposting. “A colleague has just performed a mid-life review and it has helped me think what my next move is, helped me identify my skills that I can use for the future and also helped me to identify new skills that I want to develop in the future as well, so it’s been really useful.” Emma Dudley, PCS, HMRC

“The things I wanted to discuss really were finding out my strengths and weaknesses within the workplace, which I think the review did highlight quite clearly.” Steven Darbyshire, PCS, HMRC

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“The transferable skills cards make you look at yourself: what do you know; what would you like to know; and what you do know but you don’t realise you know. It changes the whole perspective” John Hamshere, PCS, HMRC

ULRs were also surprised at how long the review sessions took once people started to talk. This is not surprising at all when the challenges facing people at mid-life today are taken into account. In their working lives alone they may face discrimination and stereotyping because of their age, more significant life transitions, a range of roles in life to juggle, massive technological and other changes to keep up with, and changing career patterns with constant change in the workplace and in the opportunities open to them.

What are the issues for working people in mid-life?


Helping older workers plan their future

The details of the unionlearn pilot project The unionlearn pilot project took place in three regions, North, North West, and Southern and Eastern. The unionlearn staff members involved were the Service Manager, the Climbing Frame Development Officer, the central administrative team, regional staff, and a project consultant. Approximately 100 ULRs participated from 15 unions: PCS; BECTU; FBU; UNISON; Unite; GMB; UCATT; TSSA; FDA; Napo; POA; CWU; Equity; UCU; and Usdaw. The original target was to complete 360 mid-life career reviews. Unionlearn decided to use the Union Learning Climbing Frame, an action planning and information tool available as a website or an App, to record data, create action plans and give easy access to information sources through the Learning Themes. Data for 770 reviews was entered on the Climbing Frame. Some ULRs opted to work collectively with a lead ULR registering on the Climbing Frame on behalf of the group and entering data for them all. It is likely that the data has under-reported the number of ULRs involved and the number of beneficiaries. ULRs are volunteers and although their role is clearly defined and legally constituted, and they are all trained, they work informally and have not generally been required to keep records of their interaction with learners at work in a specific format. The Mid-life Career Review Project was very demanding for them in requiring them to keep records in a specific way, and the volume of data collected is a significant achievement on the part of the ULRs. Briefing papers about the project and about regional support were developed, and some initial resources for testing during the project which were lodged in a specially designed Climbing Frame Learning Theme. This resource was added to throughout the duration of the project.

Considerable efforts were made to engage ULRs and union learners in the project. Initially three one-day Mid-life Career Review Workshops were designed, developed and delivered in three locations, Newcastle, London and Bolton in July, attended by 56 ULRs. The workshops provided background information about the project, identified the needs of workers at mid-life and later, introduced the model and resources through practical activities, involved partners such as the NCS to outline the way in which they could help with delivery, presented the unionlearn Climbing Frame as a tool for recording and action planning and finished with an individual action planning session where ULRs thought about how to engage their union, workers and employers in the project. The workshops aimed to encourage reflective practice, and were received with great enthusiasm. In addition ULRs were encouraged to use the TUC Learning eNotes to help them with interviewing skills (Supporting Learners) and with using the Climbing Frame. Support, advice, encouragement, reassurance and further one-to-one and group briefings were provided by unionlearn staff, both regional and national. Briefing materials were designed for use at further regional ULR Forums, and Powerpoint presentations, handouts and session plans added to the Climbing Frame Learning Theme. These materials were also suitable for use at meetings with unions looking to work in specific contexts. Promotional and support emails were sent to ULRs who have participated in the briefings, and reminders to those who originally submitted action plans.

The details of the unionlearn pilot project

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Mid-life career reviews

The email alert system on the unionlearn website was also used to engage ULRs and later in the project to encourage people to participate in surveys and to give feedback. An article about the project appeared in the autumn edition of the Learning Rep emagazine, Helping Older Workers to Plan their Next Steps, circulated to a distribution list of over 10,000. There were also articles in the Supporting Learners News and the Climbing Frame News, e-bulletins circulated to unionlearn staff, learning centres, trade union officials and ULRs. The unionlearn regional teams circulated publicity material encouraging ULRs to use the free mid-life career review resources. Union Learning Fund project managers were contacted and invited to participate by carrying out some mid-life reviews in their workplaces and promoting the project to ULRs. Events, workshops and ULR forums in the three regions were well attended, some attracting up to 70 participants, and all ULRs were briefed about the project alongside other relevant agendas and initiatives. Informal learning was used successfully as a hook to engage people in the project. A list of events is included in Appendix Three. This initiative, now re-named Supporting Mid-life Development, will continue to be a central part of the unionlearn Supporting Learners Strategy and will be promoted at unionlearn and union events across England in the future. The pilot has never been seen as an end in itself – this is a sustainable activity for unions and for unionlearn.

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The details of the unionlearn pilot project

BECTU ULRs at BVE North delivered CV workshops at their Celebration of Learning event in Manchester. 61 registered at the stall and 38 undertook one to one CV and careers advice with The Crewing Company, an approved BECTU training provider. BECTU ULRs also participated in the Salford Media Festival at the University of Salford Media City campus. 24 people visited the stall and 13 took part in a CV workshop delivered by Puma Events and Training. In the Fire Service people tend to retire younger than in other workplaces and will think about a second career, so preparing for a change by reskilling and up-skilling is very important. The FBU at Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service incorporated the mid-life career review project into their Celebration of Learning day by providing group activities on: developing new skills through learning (Functional Skills, NEBOSH, PTLLS, ECDL); health and well-being (mental health and exercise) and equality and diversity. Many ULRs made referrals or signposted people to the National Careers Service, or arranged for the NCS to deliver workshops in the workplace. These were not recorded on the Climbing Frame and were not captured in the reporting for the project. However, they illustrate the value of the partnership and the network in providing access to a range of free services, and this is an important part of the unionlearn model.


Helping older workers plan their future

UNISON ULRs at EDF Energy Sunderland undertook 20 reviews. Following the unionlearn MLCR workshop in Newcastle in November, they engaged colleagues and carried out one-to-one interviews. Unionlearn put them in touch with the National Careers Service and made initial contact on their behalf. The NCS then offered careers advice workshops, using David Hodgson’s ‘Buzz’ questionnaires, and were able to work with individuals. The unionlearn short film features interviews with Robin Middleton a ULR at EDF and Alison Rochford, an NCS adviser who was also a ULR herself. Alison says: “I am passionate about ensuring that the union learning reps are at the forefront of activity in the workplace, encouraging their learners to take up learning to increase their opportunities within the workplace, whether it is vocational learning, reading, or informal learning. I can also make sure that the employers know that the ULRs can broker non-formal learning within the workplace and that the learner is likely to talk to the ULR before they go to the employer.” A key method of engaging ULRs in the project was to offer ULRs a review themselves, either a short experience at an event, a peer review with a colleague, or a review delivered by unionlearn staff or NCS, which were longer and often extended to two or three follow-up sessions. It was astonishing how much could be achieved in a short peer review at an event. This engaged people, provided an initial set of action points for individuals, and, by giving the chance to have a practice run, gave confidence to ULRs to go back to the workplace and offer reviews to colleagues. Throughout the initial engagement process, ULRs and learners were asked if they were willing to be followed up as a case study.

The details of the unionlearn pilot project

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Mid-life career reviews

Engaging employers

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Engaging employers was a very important aspect of the project, but due to the short time-scale, there was insufficient run-in time to do this as effectively as some reps would have liked. It will be an important feature of the unionlearn model for the future. The pilot project was most successful where it was possible to build on a strong workplace infrastructure (which may include a learning committee, learning centres and learning agreements where these exist). Senior management commitment to the Mid-Life Career Review Project was very important, as was regular communication between union and management and the provision of reasonable facility time to carry out ULR duties. Experienced ULRs were able to build a business case and present the benefits of working together on this agenda to employers, and then found that it was easier to get release of time if a business need was recognised.

There were many ways in which employers could support the initiative, both during the pilot and in the future. The process was most successful where joint identification of learning and training needs was engaged in by both the ULR and the employer, and the career review fed in to HR processes, for example appraisal, matching against competence frameworks, and making decisions about up-skilling the existing workforce. The career review process also helped those at risk of redundancy, and was helpful as part of re-structuring processes. One of the most important employer contributions was to allow ULRs and staff time or cover arrangements to undergo training for the mid-life review process, to conduct the reviews and to complete follow up actions and make referrals. It was also useful when space or equipment was made available to carry out the review.

The potential benefits to employers in supporting unions to deliver mid-life career reviews are great. Employees will be more motivated to stay with the employer and to take up training offers and new opportunities at work to develop new skills, knowledge, and experience to benefit the organisation. This may result in reduced staff turnover, recruitment and training costs. Mature employees can provide mentoring and pass on their skills and experience to younger staff. Knowledge transfer within the organisation is made easier and the organisation can develop and grow its own talent and management teams. Where re-structuring is necessary, the potential of all employees to contribute to new arrangements can be properly considered, and skills, talent and competence will not be wasted. Those who responded to a survey confirmed that these benefits were attractive to employers, and could form the basis of a business case. The Mid-Life Career Review Project fitted with other workplace agendas of interest to employers such as extending working life, health and well-being in the workplace (for example, menopause, cancer), and health and safety.

There was insufficient time in the pilot to evaluate the support that could be offered by employers in the long term but hopefully this will include HR policies and procedures to benefit older workers being reviewed, training and promotion opportunities being made available to workers in the mid-life age range, and even mentoring and coaching schemes and workplace careers advice services being set up. Those who responded to the survey and had made some headway in engaging employers reported a better climate for employment relations, increased openness of management to new union initiatives on learning and more union-management joint working on learning issues. Levels of consultation on learning issues had increased, as had organisational support for union learning activities. Senior management and line management support for the mid-life career review initiative increased as the pilot progressed. Increases in employee demand for learning were beneficial to all.

Engaging employers

Good examples of employer engagement during the project were Durham Cathedral, the Fire Service, EDF Energy, South Tyneside Foundation Trust, Bridges to Learning, and Sunderland Council.


Helping older workers plan their future

A ULR Supporting Learners event was held in Taunton and the programme included a session about the mid-life career review project. As a result of attending this event GMB ULRs invited Careers SW into Babcock Appledore to deliver some midlife career review sessions. This is an important issue for the company as they have an ageing workforce and are concerned about the loss of highly skilled workers.

Hazel Kjebekk, UNISON ULR at South Tyneside NHS Trust, organised a ‘Buzz’ session with the NCS in the North East. Staff had the opportunity to explore their preferred learning styles and to see which learning methods best met their needs. The session was well attended and well received. The initial target group was hospital support staff but this was followed up with a session for nurses and doctors. Further sessions are planned.

Intensive workplace activity took place from the start of the project at HMRC in Salford, with the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), where there are temporary contracts and permanent posts at risk. A review day was held in November funded by the Celebration of Learning. This was based around civil service skills and competencies in order to enhance redeployment prospects. Approximately 380 people completed pre-review questionnaires and 20 reviews were conducted on the day. A diverse range of workshops covering a spectrum of learning activities were delivered, including health and well-being, financial advice, HE, CPD and mentoring, and various cultural activities. PCS ULRs and HMRC employees at Blackburn also ran an event and the MLCR questionnaires generated an interest in development and further support around pre-retirement, ICT training, volunteering, personal finance and careers advice. Employees were given an hour off work to attend the event and undertake a one-to-one mid-life development review. Two ULRs attended the NIACE good practice seminar.

Engaging employers

15


Mid-life career reviews

Debbie Inglett, from Durham Cathedral said: “There are many benefits for employers in offering mid-life career reviews. During the process, you can learn more about your staff that perhaps you would not normally have known, this helps create a new broader profile of your staff, but also makes them feel valued. We have discovered new skills and enthusiasms in our workforce. It is very good to have the opportunity to engage with employees on a more personal note, and they have been able to share things about themselves such as their aspirations for the future, and what their lives are like now. This provides an opportunity for the employer to help them where possible through training, learning and career development, and to facilitate and support their needs. Even if this cannot be done directly, it is possible for an employer to sow the seeds for people to think about their whole lives, to encourage and follow up the discussions informally. This is part of a culture change for us as an employer and it has significant rewards.”

“The project was most effective when those strong building blocks are in place: employers who are really committed to the learning and skills agenda and have learning agreements with unions; those that have a learning committee, where union reps can take these kinds of initiatives and issues to get employer buy-in; workplaces where maybe there are learning centres as well to help support this kind of activity and where there is a strong and vibrant ULR network. It is also about finding the right issues that will engage employers. For example at HMRC, a number of workers are under the risk of redundancy and so mid-life reviews were held to get workers looking at different options for them and what this would possibly mean, maybe career changes or looking at financial planning. In other workplaces where reps have carried out that preparatory work, they have found that health and well-being has been an important issue for the workforce and have taken it to management. These have been ways of really effectively engaging and getting the support of employers.” Ian Borkett, Service Manager, unionlearn

16

Engaging employers


Helping older workers plan their future

Working with partners

Unionlearn and unions benefited from the strong partnerships which were developed and consolidated during the project. The unionlearn network model for Supporting Learners relies on partnership working to provide access to services and to learning opportunities for working people. The Mid-Life Career Review Project built on this and has been mutually beneficial. NIACE and unionlearn have a history of working closely together. Strong relationships and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) already existed with National Careers Service Prime Contractors in some regions. Joint working with the NCS during the project was very successful. At least 30 people attended each workshop run by the NCS in the NE, based on David Hodgson’s self-assessment tool, The Buzz. The NCS found many of the resources developed by unionlearn helpful to use with their customers, and for training and briefing advisers.

It was also important to have local referral points, and to take advantage of free provision from local practitioners and projects (for example, health organisations, CAB, financial advice services, National Careers Service advisers). Reps were encouraged to identify their own networks and create local directories to support this work.

A MoU was signed with The Age and Employment Network (TAEN) during the project which established a joint agenda and work plan for the future, particularly to work together to campaign for the right to a mid-life review for all working people in England. Unionlearn is also discussing the terms of a MoU with the Workplace Learning Advocates, who provide voluntary support for learning in non-unionised workplaces, particularly SMEs. Resources were shared during the project to ensure that as many working people as possible could be reached by the mid-life career review project.

Working with partners

17


Mid-life career reviews

Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model The unionlearn model tested during the pilot provided a menu of activities in three stages from which ULRs could select components and resources to suit their workplaces. This is included in full in Appendix One. The model has proved to be flexible, adaptable and responsive to demand. Activity during the pilot included group sessions and one-to-one discussions, some of which were over the telephone. Different timings and lengths of sessions were recorded by ULRs, and different patterns of follow-up sessions. In addition pensions workshops, CV workshops, ‘Buzz’ sessions provided by the National Careers Service, and a wide range of other informal learning events were offered to complement the review sessions.

The Climbing Frame is a popular resource, originally designed for ULRs to use with colleagues, but now a freely available web-based resource. Anyone can register to use the Climbing Frame and much of the content is generic and suitable to use outside of a trade union context. It consists of a learner management area for recording personal data and recording and updating action plans, and an information resource in the form of 20 Learning Themes, which give access to web links, pdfs and other easy-to-use information sources.

Mid-life development reviews Work career and ambitions Finances

Values

Union role My: Story Skills Experience Work Learning Family and friends Feelings Values Future

Learning Listens Explores Identifies needs Builds confidence Motivates Informs Signposts Sets up Learning Action Plans Supports

Me

Leisure and retirement

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Relationships Caring Responsibilities

ULR Health and well-being

Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model

Work/Life balance


Helping older workers plan their future

Wherever possible, the Climbing Frame was used for recording project data, for finding information and signposting contacts from the Learning Themes, and for an action planning template. During the pilot, a ‘mix and match’ approach was taken to the recording of activity, and ULRs could enter data themselves using the website or the App on their phones or tablets, or they could keep a hard copy and send these to unionlearn to be processed. This data entry took a lot of staff time. Positive feedback was given about the use of the App and ULRs liked having access to the suite of Learning Themes from their phone. Hundreds of ULRs have downloaded the App since it was launched in July, at the same time as the mid-life career review project started. The unionlearn model for supporting mid-life development puts the union learning representative (ULR) or other union rep at the heart of a review process which takes the whole person into account, and applies to any working adult, whatever sector or workplace they are in, and whether they are a member of a union or not. The process is particularly helpful to support workers and prevent drop-out from the labour market, and to support those whose workplaces are being re-structured.

Mid-life can be any age that is appropriate for the individual or the job they do. A career in the unionlearn model means the whole of life, underpinned by values, interests, skill development, relationships and networking. People may want to develop themselves in all of these personal and professional areas: paid work; learning; voluntary work; leisure activities; and family commitments such as caring for others. The model has been designed to be adaptable so that different unions and workplaces can meet the specific needs of individuals. They can: fit the review process into the time available to both reps and workers choose the topics for discussion and the resources best suited to those topics decide how and when to involve other specialists or contacts decide whether to get together as a group to explore the issues or whether to work one-to-one.

Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model

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Mid-life career reviews

Care for

Lea rn s om eth ing Develo p new new skills f ? or paid work? Change my career? my parents and work part-time?

ements? g n a r r a g in xible work le f ork? r o w f k y s r A a t lun ugh vo o r h t ier? e c h n t e l r ea a diffe el h e Make f and s s e tr ith s w l Dea

?

“help!” Supporting mid-life development – seven key themes The development review looks at the whole picture, not just at work and career. All these things are interlinked: 1. Work options

5. Health and well-being

2. Finances

6. Leisure

3. Relationships

7. Values

4. Learning More details are included in Appendix One.

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Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model

ob? j t rren u c y pm ent? e m e e r i K y ret m n a Pl nsion? Get a pe Find a new job? Get a p romotio n? Deve lop m Bal y un anc ion r ole? ew ork and life ?


Helping older workers plan their future

Role of the ULR or other union rep These are the main components of the role of a union rep in a mid-life development review: Listen and ask questions Explore the issues Identify needs

More details of how to do this are in Appendix One. It is very important for a union rep to signpost colleagues to a specialist when needed. This may be for information and advice about careers, pensions, other financial issues, mental or physical health, caring responsibilities and anything else where expert knowledge is required. Websites, helplines and support organisations can be found in the Supporting Mid-Life Development learning theme at https://www.climbingframe.unionlearn.org.uk

Build confidence Increase motivation Give information

It is also very important that the ULR has support from unionlearn staff or from union project workers. This support includes training, briefing, encouraging and motivating through face to face, telephone and email contact, as well as providing information, advice, resources and networking contacts.

Signpost and make referrals Set up learning opportunities Help to make an action plan Provide continuing support Make a case to employers.

The Mid-Life Development Review – a three stage model The three stages of the model offer a menu of activities which reps can choose from in order to meet the needs of workers. More detail is included in Appendix One.

Stage 1 Preparation briefing and resources from Unionlearn and the National Careers Service

Stage 2 One-to-one or group work

Stage 3 Follow-up and ongoing support

listening and exploring

individual support

overcoming issues and barriers

reviewing action plans

building the infrastructure in the workplace

identifying transferable skills

celebrating achievement

finding information

mentoring and coaching

getting employers on board

getting specialist support

making the case to employers.

getting people in the workplace to come forward

action planning.

using pre-review questionnaires making a networking directory for information and referrals registering on the union learning Climbing Frame.

Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model

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Mid-life career reviews

The ULRs at HMRC Blackburn have developed their own model using the resources, activities and tools available on the Climbing Frame. They circulated the pre-review questionnaire prior to meetings with individuals and asked that they attend with the completed questionnaire. This information formed the basis of the initial discussion. The ULRs then introduced the transferable skills card sort activity to identify strengths and weaknesses. The outcomes of the card sort were mapped against the employer’s competency framework and the results helped to identify training needs and to produce individual action plans. The ULRs then replicated this at two other sites. A PCS regional official reported that the review process had been a catalyst for generating new ideas, demands and opportunities, from career decision-making to financial management to health and well-being. PCS had not expected the range of different themes that appeared as a result of the reviews. The regional official and the ULRs will be refining the learning offer to ensure that they keep up the momentum that the reviews have instigated. Senior management support has increased since the initiative was introduced.

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Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model


Helping older workers plan their future

Mid-life development review resources A wide range of resources has been adapted and developed for use during the project and for future use by union reps and other advisers to continue with this work in the future. From the start of the project, a toolkit of simple resources was assembled in a dedicated Learning Theme on the Climbing Frame. This has now been updated and expanded to form a new Learning Theme, Supporting Mid-life Development, which includes the content of the project resource and also the content of the theme, Supporting Learners at 50+, which was written two years ago and has now been fully updated. The resources available to union reps and others to support the model are as follows: briefing materials for regional events, ULR forums and the national conference (including Powerpoint presentations, activities such as practice mid-life review sessions, and a guidance note about how to use the Climbing Frame in mid-life career reviews Value My Skills card sort activity to help people identify and describe their transferable skills (adapted from The Rainbow Years by Barrie Hopson and Mike Scally, now produced as a printed pack available from the unionlearn website and from the Climbing Frame Learning Theme, Supporting Mid-Life Development) Life Values card sort activity to help people to decide what they want out of life and what role paid employment plays in this (also adapted from The Rainbow Years by Barrie Hopson and Mike Scally) pre-review questionnaires completed by participants in advance to inform the discussion and provide ULRs with information about the topics they may need to research

skills inventory questionnaires, some specifically linked to the role of higher learning in career progression quizzes with statistics about older workers, the labour market and other relevant areas to promote discussion of the issues Learning Themes on the Climbing Frame website and the App, Supporting Mid-Life Development; and also other Learning Themes, for example, Personal Development and Career Planning, Health and Well-Being, Higher Learning, and Supporting Learners Supporting Mid-Life Development eNote, a short e-learning module on the TUC Education website which takes 45 minutes to work through and is a practical account of how to implement the model, with activities and information (to register to use eNotes, click here www.tuceducation.org.uk ) a ten-minute film (produced by unionlearn with ULRs in Newcastle and Salford) and further filming of case studies at the Southern and Eastern Region Pathways to Progression event as part of ongoing resource development a Supporting Mid-Life Development page on the unionlearn website case studies (published on the Climbing Frame and unionlearn website, in The Learning Rep e-magazine and included in the final evaluation report) a list of websites and resources to be used by other partners in the NIACE project this final evaluation report which outlines the challenges and successes of the pilot project.

‘timeline’ and other activities to help people to review their career to date and to look forward to the next steps

Mid-life development review resources

23


Mid-life career reviews

“The questionnaires we would send out prior to the review. It’s basically to get an overview of what the individual prioritises, and what their worries and concerns are. There’s a list of fifteen questions and they put them in order and basically that just gives us an overview prior to the review as to what this individual is interested in and what they consider to be their priorities in their work or their personal life or their social life even, and that enables us to just look at that and it gives us a bit of a clue as to where the person wants to be and we can then use the transferable skills cards in order to reflect that or advise from there.” Nigel Cawley, PCS, HMRC

The transferable skills cards promote open discussion about careers and build confidence, identify strengths, skills gaps and personal interests, also look for patterns. Some HMRC staff borrowed the cards to use with family. They also used the unionlearn Match Up cards, which help people to understand qualification levels and how adult learners can often move more freely between levels if their prior learning and experience is taken into account.

24

Mid-life development review resources

“The things I wanted to discuss really were finding out my strengths and weaknesses within the workplace, which I think using the transferable skills cards did highlight quite clearly.” Steven Darbyshire, PCS, HMRC

“They make you look at yourself: what do you know; what would you like to know; and what you do know but you don’t realise you know. It changes the whole perspective, once you put the cards in order you think I do know that, but I didn’t think I did and it’s just different skills.” John Hamshere, PCS, HMRC


Helping older workers plan their future

Project challenges

The unionlearn pilot of the mid-life career review project has been very successful and has contributed beyond initial expectations to the NIACE project as a whole. The successes are outlined in the next section of the report. However, there have been challenges and lessons learnt, which will inform future activities. There was some time slippage initially, and the start of project also coincided with the summer holiday period, which had an impact both on the engagement of reps to take part and on the number of reviews delivered. This also affected the time available to get employer buy-in to the project, to develop a business case, or to put in place a good workplace infrastructure where none existed previously. Employer engagement was inconsistent across the country, and across organisations and unions (for example, the PCS union at HMRC were successful in initiating activity in the North West, but not in the South East). The HMRC reps discovered that rolling out activity for all employees may depend on individual managers and departmental culture. Employee apathy was mentioned as a reason for the initiative not having a high take-up rate, but this may again be due to the short lead-in time for the project or because workers may have been put off by the use of the term ‘career’ and did not think that this applied to them. The pilot project was undertaken at a time when capacity to support such activities was being severely reduced at unionlearn. Nonetheless a lot of support was provided to union reps by unionlearn staff both in the regions and nationally. This was very worthwhile. On the other hand, considerable staff time was spent on data processing and on eliciting and analysing responses to surveys in order to produce an evaluation report.

A lot of interest was generated at the briefing events for ULRs and through unionlearn contact with experienced reps, but although there was considerable enthusiasm at the time of the events, in many cases this was not followed by any recorded activity on the project. In the South East, even though individual two hour briefings were much appreciated, as was the offer to record data on the Climbing Frame, take up was very low. The reason for this is not clear. Follow-up workshops may have been helpful to motivate people but time and resource constraints didn’t allow for this during the timescale of the project. “Raising awareness and understanding was a challenge – the initial training was a good start but a lot of work needed doing on the ground to contextualise the project's potential and develop meaningful strategies for making it work” Janet Valentine, unionlearn, North West region

Another issue for reps was time for them to conduct career reviews and also time for workers to have their reviews. Facility time for ULRs and release time for workers to participate in the project was difficult to negotiate except in a few cases where it was immediately seen to fit with the employer’s agenda. This was also a problem when trying to arrange follow-up activities. These development reviews take time and need time in order to be effective. Some ULRs were surprised at how long they took, and the degree to which colleagues would ‘open up’ about their private lives and commitments outside of work. This could be quite stressful for reps and training, learning, resources and considerable support were needed for ULRs to develop this role and adapt the model for their own workplaces. Some reps were not comfortable with the idea of discussing people’s lives in such detail or with giving advice, since their role had mostly involved brokering learning opportunities and signposting to date.

Project challenges

25


Mid-life career reviews

“I think we’ve still got to be a little bit cautious that we might start opening things that we can’t get the lid back onto, so we’re very aware that we’re not going to do this in big groups. We’re going to keep it on a one-to-one basis and if people need to step back then it will be easy for them to do so. We need to know our own limitations, we need to know if people need to go into counselling or whatever, we need to kind of stop the process and pass them onto someone that can take this up, but every time you meet somebody you find something new about them. I think it’s amazing.” Matty Greenhalgh, PCS, HMRC

26

Project challenges

Engaging participants in the pilot to come forward to have a review was also not without problems. Lack of confidence and other personal barriers such as family commitments, health, caring responsibilities and the need for flexible working sometimes prevented them from engaging. This was ironic, because these barriers are the very issues which a mid-life development review could help with. Finally there were issues about recording data and action plans. The use of the Climbing Frame, although it is a very popular resource, was not suitable for all reps, and considerable unionlearn staff time was needed to input data for the pilot project and to feed in information to NIACE.


Helping older workers plan their future

Project successes

Unionlearn both met and exceeded the requirements set out by NIACE in the contract for the pilot project. Originally it was expected that 360 reviews would be carried out, followed up and recorded, and the final total at the point at which the pilot period ended was 770. The model evolved during this time, and was adapted by different unions for different workplaces. It has now been written up and also adapted as a ‘how to do it’ guide for ULRs and other reps. A range of individual and organisational case studies and examples were collected and included in resources, reports and on the website, some of these on video. A video presentation of ULRs talking about the value of the process in their workplaces was shown at the final event for the NIACE project. Resources were created and adapted for the project as agreed, with many additional resources being produced as activities progressed, so that new ULRs can now be supported to deliver mid-life development reviews in the future. The unionlearn pilot project tapped in to a huge demand and appetite for workers to have mid-life development reviews, and was clearly meeting a need. There was a massive demand for one-to-one sessions, and group activities such as pensions workshops and CV workshops. The activities designed to help workers to identify their strengths, transferable skills and to create a personal profile were particularly popular and described as very empowering.

“Try it for yourselves, but try it with a colleague and try it with somebody that knows you, because I think one of the things that’s coming out, and maybe it’s just a British thing, but people are always undervaluing what skills that they have, so though you might think you’re not very developed at something your colleague may think you are. As I say people have ambitions to become musicians, or they have ambitions to do things which they may put on the back burner and maybe just a friend says you’re really good at that, that might then push them along to pick up from these dreams that they might have forgotten about. I would advise anybody to go along with a mid-life career review, as I’m speaking from experience, I found it very helpful myself.” Matty Greenhalgh, PCS, HMRC

Peer support was important in many ways – as well as being the key to the relationship between ULRs and their fellow workers, reps at HMRC found that some people attended their review with a friend which gave them a lot of confidence. Those who participated also involved families, and other people at home, and colleagues who were not union members. The pilot also demonstrated that the model and process will work successfully with any age group – the youngest beneficiary was 24, and has already engaged others in her age range in assessing their transferable skills. For some people the experience has been lifechanging and has set them on a path to open new horizons in the future.

Project successes

27


Mid-life career reviews

Emma Dudley is an important ‘tester’ for the Unionlearn mid-life development review process because as she said when she came to an event in Newcastle, “I’m only 24”. Emma found that the process was helpful and relevant for a review at any stage of a career. She has since engaged young colleagues in the process. Although health and caring responsibilities are not issues as yet, Emma is acutely aware that planning your career is important at any age:

The briefing events and resources were very well received, and raised awareness of the issues facing workers at mid-life. The support provided by the unionlearn infrastructure and staff and by union project workers was vital to the success of the pilot, and will be vital for sustaining this initiative in the future. ULRs gained confidence through having a review themselves from peers or from unionlearn staff, and were immediately able to start delivering reviews in the workplace.

“I worry about the jobs market and the amount of competition I face; I feel I need a lot of development. This relates to my worry of losing my financial independence. I don’t want to be a burden to my parents or society. The market is very competitive and I am becoming increasingly anxious about my self-preservation skills. I want employment skills but I also want to increase my resilience to ensure my future security. I don’t want to be humiliated by being pushed back into a childhood culture. This may compromise my self-confidence which will inhibit my resilience.”

The unionlearn model proved to be not only fit for purpose, but both flexible and responsive, and reps liked being able to choose from a menu of activities to suit their union, their workplace, their employer and their own level of experience. It has proved to be a sustainable, cost-effective model to take forward in other workplaces, unions, and regions. It will form the centrepiece of the new unionlearn Supporting Learners Strategy 2014–17, and the basis for a campaign to gain a right for people to have a mid-life development review.

The project provided a natural extension of the unique role of the ULR, as a trusted intermediary with whom fellow workers could be open and gain confidence and motivation to progress at work and in their lives. ULRs are ideally placed to reach disadvantaged and vulnerable workers. ULRs are also in a position to engage with employers and get employer buy-in for providing services and learning opportunities for the workforce. In this project, ULRs were trained and briefed by unionlearn staff, and were able to take a professional approach to the role and establish a good network for back-up and referral.

28

Project successes

Another successful aspect of the project was the creation of a range of high-quality resources for ULRs to use to support their role and activities in the workplace (for example the Value my Skills cards, and the Supporting Mid-Life Development Learning Theme and toolkit, and the eNote). All resources can also be freely used by other organisations. Other resources which were used or adapted successfully for use in the project were the popular Climbing Frame, available as a website and as an App, and the pre-review questionnaires, which provided a structured way of preparing both the ULR and workers for the reviews.


Helping older workers plan their future

The project worked best when building on a strong workplace learning and skills infrastructure: learning agreements, learning committees, learning centres, trained ULRs, agreed facility time for reps and employer support and engagement. It was also helpful to find the right issues to get employer buy-in and support for development reviews (for example, redundancy situations and restructuring). Stage One of the model offers union reps advice about ways of engaging with employers. This can be found in Appendix One. Informal learning activities, examples of which are Celebration of Learning, Festival of Learning, and Learning at Work Day proved to be successful ‘hooks’ to engage people and also to bring together seemingly disparate elements which were actually part of a holistic approach. Health and well-being, personal finance, CV building, pre-retirement, equality and diversity and a wide range of community learning interests were linked with the mid-life career review workshops and briefings. Through external funding, small grants were available to unions to put on relevant workshops. These events were often combined with a celebration of individual achievements. Partnership working was very successful, on a national, regional and local level, and partnership activity was mutually beneficial.

Project successes

29


Mid-life career reviews

The future: a sustainable and effective model for unionlearn and ULRs Funding from BIS for the Mid-life Career Review Project, managed by NIACE, has made it possible for unionlearn, unions and ULRs to test a model which links closely with key unionlearn strategies and priorities. Under the heading Supporting Mid-Life Development, it will now be a central feature of the unionlearn Strategy for Supporting Learners 2014– 2017. Unionlearn plans to engage other regions and unions (through the Union Learning Fund projects) and to support ongoing initiatives in the pilot regions (for example, HMRC, Tesco, First Bus, and the Cathedrals (Durham is leading in engaging Winchester, and York). Unionlearn will continue to work closely in partnership with a range of national, regional and local organisations. However, it will be difficult for unionlearn to support and follow up this valuable work without further resources, and it will be necessary to seek and secure funding to ensure that the momentum is not lost. The backdrop to this in terms of government policy is a good fit. The TUC contributed to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) New Government Framework for Extending Working Life round table discussion to inform the development of a publication and an action plan. DWP officials were very interested in unionlearn’s mid-life development work and indicated they would like to explore this further. This initiative also sits alongside key agendas such as health and well-being and active ageing.

The demand for this work from working people is now established, particularly for one to one sessions. Unionlearn needs to review the lessons learnt from the project in the context of a new structure to the organisation with new strategic aims and objectives for the next three years. If funding can be secured, the demand stimulated by the project will be met and continue to grow. A three year strategy will allow for more in-depth activity which can develop over time. Further research is needed about how to engage employers. Developing the role of the ULR to support mid-life development has demonstrated that the use of volunteers at the front line is not only successful in terms of enthusiasm, commitment and engagement of workers and employers, but it is also good value for money. This does not by any means mean that it is free. Volunteers need encouragement, support, training, and updated resources. When they move on, new reps need to be recruited, trained and supported. Grants are needed to enable reps to put on events, celebrate success and engage people. The role of ULRs should be developed to help them in mentoring and coaching colleagues, which will mean providing training and support.

The TUC campaign about the rights of working women in their 50s, ‘Age Immaterial’ has resulted in a publication, a blog and a website, and the unionlearn pilot project is mentioned in this popular report. Unionlearn, with partner organisation TAEN, will campaign for working people to have a right to a career review as in France, by engaging with key policy-makers and opinion-formers to get this issue in party manifestos. Unionlearn will continue to support trade unions to embed mid-life development reviews in their learning and skills work within the context of all-age, intergenerational approaches to supporting learners at work.

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The future: a sustainable and effective model for unionlearn and ULRs


Helping older workers plan their future

“I have been really pleased about the results of the Mid-Life Career Reviews; how they have opened up people’s horizons and helped to transform people’s lives. It has surpassed my expectations. We are very impressed with some of the stories we have heard where people have gone on to do courses or plan a career change as a result of these interventions, and also with the help and support that has been provided as a result of signposting workers onto appropriate agencies and organisations. I think in a lot of cases people came into some of these review meetings without much expectation in terms of what it was going to deliver but then came away with so many ideas. It really opened up their horizons, opened up new chapters for them and has been very empowering and enriching for them. From that perspective, I think it has been extremely powerful.”

“This project has significantly enhanced the ULR role and enabled them to promote and undertake activities which can build confidence, raise aspirations and underpin future learning and development. Many employers will already be using tools for team building, succession planning and restructuring, and where that is the case the project has enabled individuals to gain insights into their skills and aptitudes so that they can be better equipped for these processes." Janet Valentine, unionlearn north-west region

Ian Borkett, Service Manager, unionlearn

It is very important that this work continues. A PCS ULR from HMRC pointed out that mid-life development reviews should become a natural and routine process, like dental or health check-ups. The project has shown the massive importance of personal interactions, face to face, not just via a computer or even a telephone. This is about ‘starting a conversation’, about discussing careers in the workplace in the context of the whole of people’s lives. People don’t get enough chances to talk about themselves in a positive way and it can be very exciting to discover that someone is taking an interest and it is not too late to make a change or take up new opportunities. It has had considerable impact on the lives of those who have participated. The project has shown the importance of giving people a space to think, take stock, reflect and locate specialist help. Most of all, the project has demonstrated yet again, the unique value of the ULR as a trusted intermediary in the workplace, reaching those who may be disadvantaged or vulnerable in the workplace, recognising that the aspirations of all working people are important and that everyone can develop their skills and make progress in their lives.

The future: a sustainable and effective model for unionlearn and ULRs

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Mid-life career reviews

Appendix 1

Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model The unionlearn model for supporting mid-life development puts the union learning representative (ULR) or other union rep at the heart of a review process which takes the whole person into account, and applies to any working adult, whatever sector or workplace they are in, or whether they are a member of a union or not. The process is particularly helpful to support workers and prevent drop-out from the labour market, and to support those whose workplaces are being re-structured. Mid-life has been interpreted flexibly, any age that is appropriate for the individual or the job they do. The review process is applicable to everyone, not just those who see themselves as having a professional career, or those who have been lucky enough to have stayed in work and been promoted. A career in the unionlearn model means the whole of life, underpinned by values, interests, skill development, relationships and networking. People may want to develop themselves in all of these personal and professional areas: paid work learning voluntary work leisure activities family commitments, such as caring for others. The model has been designed to be adaptable so that different unions and workplaces can meet the specific needs of individuals, and fit the review process into the time available to both reps and colleagues. They can choose the topics for discussion and the resources best suited to those topics, and decide how and when to involve other specialists or contacts. They can also decide whether to get together as a group to explore the issues or whether to work one to one. The model consists of:

Themes A mid-life review can be very wide-ranging and complex – these are just some of the areas which people may wish to discuss as part of a review. Reps can download a pre-review questionnaire to find out what needs and priorities workers want to discuss so that they can be prepared for the topics they wish to address first. ULRs or other union reps are not expected to be expert in everything – part of the briefing or training given is to ensure that they know their limitations and are not giving wrong, partial or incomplete information or advice. Unionlearn has identified a range of agencies which can help with information, resources and advice – the role of the union rep is to ‘signpost’ or to make referrals when specialist help is needed.

1. Work options Union members who took part in the pilot project have indicated that job security and flexible working arrangements are key issues for them at this stage in their lives. A ULR can help workers to think through what the options might be for both paid and unpaid or voluntary work, but it is helpful to involve specialists such as Human Resource (HR) staff and National Careers Service advisers to get an idea of the full range of opportunities. A ULR can also help to recognise transferable skills and knowledge and to put together a Curriculum Vitae (CV).

seven key themes three stages of the review process networks and resources.

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Appendix 1: Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model


Helping older workers plan their future

2. Finances

5. Health and well-being

Although this issue is an important concern and has to be considered before making an action plan, ULRs are not expected to give advice about personal finances, pensions, pay or redundancy payments. A ULR should know who to refer people to in order to get expert and personalised advice about these areas, both within the union and from external agencies. ULRs can find out about funding for learning, and grants and bursaries to support study but will advise the individual to check for themselves with an expert, taking their personal circumstances into account. A rep could arrange for an expert to come in to the workplace to run a workshop session (for example, about pensions), and to make personal contact with individuals so that they know how to find the information they need.

This will be an important part of a mid-life career review. People do not know whether they will be lucky enough to enjoy good health and whether this will affect their work. They do need to know how to plan for optimum health, and what role learning activities can play in this. ULRs will always refer people to medical specialists for specific problems, but can set up learning opportunities in the workplace to help everyone to keep mentally and physically fit.

People develop many transferable skills through leisure activities and may wish to spend more time on these as they approach retirement. ULRs can find information about leisure activities and learning linked to these.

3. Relationships

7. Values

This may be part of the initial exploration of what an individual would like to discuss – caring responsibilities in particular may become a major issue in continuing to work. It may be important to sort out relationships at home, in personal life and at work before the person can progress and move on in their career. The ULR is not expected to be a counsellor unless they have specialist training and will refer colleagues to relevant counselling organisations for further help. Caring relationships may have significant impact on careers and again there are specialist organisations which can help.

6. Leisure

This may form part of the initial discussion about careers – people may feel that their current job does not reflect their values. They may also feel that they want to spend the latter part of their career or their retirement doing something that seems worthwhile to them, or putting something back into society by helping others. Giving people some space to discuss these issues and taking them seriously can be very important, but again a ULR can refer people to specialist organisations for spiritual guidance as appropriate.

4. Learning

Role of the ULR or other union rep

Learning is likely to be part of an action plan following a mid-life development review. This is at the centre of the role of the ULR, and reps can find information, arrange for both informal and formal learning opportunities to be made available in the workplace, put workers in touch with providers, and offer continuing support for learning. The ULR and fellow workers can also get help from the National Careers Service and from course providers.

The ULR, as a trusted intermediary in the workplace, may be the first port of call in a complex pattern of discussions which may take place before people can take action to reach their goals. Although the union rep is not expected to be an expert in the areas outlined above, they have a pivotal role in providing access to a range of specialist agencies and information sources, and in providing continuing support to individuals.

Appendix 1: Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model

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Mid-life career reviews

It may be that individuals have never been given the opportunity to talk about themselves and their future before, and they may have very low levels of confidence and self-esteem. They may also prefer not to talk to their family, friends or employer until they are clearer about what they would like to do and what might be possible. This role is very important, and ULRs are well equipped through their basic training and experience in the workplace to carry it out. These are the main components of their role in a mid-life development review: Listen and ask questions. Explore the issues. Identify needs. Build confidence. Increase motivation. Give information. Signpost and make referrals. Set up learning opportunities. Help to make an action plan. Provide continuing support. Make a case to employers. It is also very important that the ULR has support from unionlearn staff or from union project workers. This support includes training, briefing, encouraging and motivating through face to face, telephone and email contact, as well as providing information, advice, resources and networking contacts.

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The Mid-life Development Review – a three-stage model The three stages of the model offer a menu of activities which reps can choose from in order to meet the needs of their colleagues.

Stage 1 – Getting started Briefing and resources from unionlearn and the National Careers Service Unionlearn staff can offer information, resources, support and encouragement for the mid-life development review process, and are able to provide a briefing session to start things off. The National Careers Service can work with adults who are facing restructuring in the workplace or redundancy, and may be able to offer workshops, group or one to one sessions in the workplace. Building the infrastructure in the workplace Unions have found that involving union reps in reviewing employee development works best when the groundwork has been laid for learning and skills activity in the workplace. This may involve a learning agreement, a learning committee, learning centres, trained ULRs and agreed facility time for ULRs to carry out their role. Getting employers on board There are many benefits for employers in supporting mid-life career reviews, and different ways of creating opportunities for staff to progress at work. Union reps could do a presentation about this to senior managers, line managers or the HR department and use this as an opportunity to ask for time to carry out these reviews and other forms of support. If the workplace is being re-structured unions may be able to work together with employers to achieve the best outcomes for everyone.

Appendix 1: Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model


Helping older workers plan their future

Getting people in the workplace to come forward Union reps have lots of ideas about how to engage colleagues and generate interest, using email, posters, focus groups, newsletters, learning needs questionnaires, learning centres and courses, workplace intranets, union and partner organisation websites, social networking sites, case studies, informal learning events like Learning at Work Day, Adult Learners Week and Celebration of Learning, bite-size or taster sessions, and, of course, talking to individuals – word of mouth. There may be an issue about where to carry out individual reviews so that privacy and confidentiality are possible. However, during the pilots, short starter reviews were carried out at events, with reps working in pairs – privacy did not seem to be an issue. Using pre-review questionnaires These get people thinking about the issues that are important to them in mid-life, and give the union rep an indication of what their priorities are. Questionnaires may include the themes identified above: paid or voluntary work; finances; relationships; learning; leisure; health and well-being; spirituality and values. The range of issues is likely to be wide, but the top six for participants in the pilot project were: keeping current job; health; flexible working arrangements; better work/life balance; finance and particularly pensions; and caring responsibilities. Reps can design their own questionnaires or use one that unionlearn has produced.

Making a networking directory for information and referrals The scope of the mid-life career review may be very wide, and include areas for discussion which union reps are not qualified to help with. Reps can prepare for offering reviews by compiling a list or directory of websites, national and local organisations or specialists and telephone helplines for referral purposes. A good place to start is the Learning Themes on the Climbing Frame, or to draw on the resources of agencies like the National Careers Service or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Registering on the Unionlearn Climbing Frame The Climbing Frame can be very helpful in carrying out mid-life career reviews, both as a recording and action planning tool and also to give easy access to information on a range of topics. There is a special Learning Theme about Supporting Mid-life Development, which includes card games, quizzes and other resources to help people to think things through. www.climbingframe.unionlearn.org.uk

Appendix 1: Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model

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Mid-life career reviews

Stage 2 – One-to-one or group work Meeting one-to-one can be the best way of approaching reviews, but union reps have been getting people together to start things off or to help each other in groups. Group sessions are often best for delivering information because specialist visitors can be invited (for example the National Careers Service or a pensions expert) to introduce themselves and their services or do a presentation with handouts on different topics of interest. It also works well in a group that people can review each other (this is known as peer review), working in pairs. They can help each other to get started and then refer individuals to a ULR or to a specialist for further help. All of the processes described below can be done in a group or an event. These don’t have to be long sessions, a lot can be achieved in a short bite-size or buzz session. One to one sessions can also be carried out on the telephone or online but face to face may be best if it can be arranged. An individual may have a mixture of different types of contact with different people during the review, depending on what suits them. During the pilot project, reps were offered a review for themselves before offering them to colleagues. This is a great way of getting a feel for the process, and the issues that colleagues will want to discuss. It can be set up with a fellow union rep, unionlearn staff, an NCS adviser, or it sometimes works best to talk to someone new at an event or a group session so that individuals can re-invent themselves without any preconceived ideas or assumptions getting in the way!

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Listening and exploring Interviewing techniques used by reps include active listening and questioning. This is covered in the basic ULR training and there is a Supporting Learners eNote to help to develop or refresh these skills. This stage of the mid-life development review is very important in helping people to think through their current situation and where they would like to be. Reps can use tools such as the Timeline activity, or imagining what life will be like in ten years time, and how this can be planned for by an individual. Overcoming issues and barriers People who have lived and worked for a long time will have overcome many barriers to progression in their lives. At mid-life, these may be different, and include financial issues, caring responsibilities, ill health, or lack of IT skills to take on new roles. These may all need to be addressed before someone can progress. Reps can help to identify these barriers and to build confidence to develop strategies to overcome them. Identifying transferable skills Identifying transferable skills is an important process at any stage of a career. This means skills which may be learnt in one situation and used in another. Everyone has a range of skills learnt in training, at work, in voluntary and leisure activities and in the home. ULRs develop a range of transferable skills in carrying out their work. People often find it difficult to find the right words to describe their skills, so this process can give them a lot of confidence. This process can form the basis of writing a winning CV or application form and covering letter when applying for jobs, promotions, courses or other opportunities.

Appendix 1: Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model


Helping older workers plan their future

Finding information For every stage in a career, different information will be needed. For the mid-life review it may be about finance, pensions, learning opportunities, redundancy support, health or disability, or career change. Information changes all the time and should always be checked to make sure that it is current, and relevant to the individual and their situation. ULRs can help people to become more confident about finding information for themselves, and ‘signpost’ them to sources of information they may not have been aware of. Getting specialist support Life is likely to be much more complicated at mid-life than it is on leaving full-time education, or at the time of full retirement. ULRs have been briefed not to give information or solve problems for people themselves unless they are sure they have the expertise. A range of specialists exist to help with finance, health, career planning and other issues, many of these in free services. ULRs have an important role in referring people to specialists, and in helping them to coordinate all the different aspects of making a career action plan. Action planning ULRs can help people to make an action plan, both for short and long term actions. This will probably consist of a series of small steps to an individual’s final goals, with information and support needs identified for each step. It can be recorded on paper, or using an online tool or App like the Climbing Frame. Hard copies of the action planning forms on the Climbing Frame are available to print out if reps prefer to use them in this way and enter the data later. Or there are some simple action planning forms for note-taking to download in the Supporting Mid-life Development Learning Theme. The process of setting goals, action planning and recording achievement is empowering and builds confidence.

Stage 3 – Reviewing, follow-up and ongoing support Individual support A mid-life career review should be an ongoing process in order to be effective. People may need a lot of time to think things through and to progress their plans. ULRs can provide continuing support in the workplace, and this will provide opportunities for reviewing action plans regularly. The Climbing Frame includes ways of recording revised action plans and goals that have been achieved. Celebrating achievements, however small, can build confidence and encourage people to take the next steps. Mentoring and coaching Mentoring and coaching activities will help to build confidence, to keep motivation going, and review the success of carrying out planned actions. Some unions have trained groups of ULRs in mentoring and coaching skills. Making the case to employers If employers are engaged in the process, the rep may need to keep a dialogue going about providing time off for training, considering new approaches to flexible working, succession planning for the older workforce, and providing support for learning in the workplace. ULRs may also be able to support employees to make a case for support to carry out their plans in their current workplace. Networks and resources Resources to help with every stage of the mid-life development review process can be found in the Supporting Mid-life Development learning theme at https://www.climbingframe.unionlearn.org.uk.

Appendix 1: Supporting mid-life development – the unionlearn model

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Mid-life career reviews

Appendix 2

Individual case studies

Kevin Kevin is a civil servant, and is a member of the trade union PCS. He is also a union learning representative (ULR). He had a short mid-life review with a fellow ULR at a Unionlearn event in where he was able to explore the issues that were most important to him at this stage in his life, and to make a brief action plan. Kevin is 58, and, in addition to his paid work, currently shares with his sister the care of his parents, who are disabled. He lists the most important issues for him to address at the moment as: his own health; caring responsibilities; relationships; keeping his current job and getting flexible working arrangements. He has had a stable career throughout his working life as a civil servant. He is happy in his current role at work, but has concerns about the impact of his health issues and caring responsibilities on his attendance and performance at work. He feels that support through flexible working arrangements would be helpful to allow him to fulfil his caring responsibilities and also to do his job to the best of his abilities. “My overall health is not good at present. 2013 was a bad year with various illnesses and a death in the family. I help to care for my two 88-year-old parents, who are disabled. I have suffered bouts of mild depression.” His immediate action points as a result of his review session are to approach Age UK for help and advice about caring responsibilities, and to investigate the possibilities of more flexible working. If these current issues can be addressed, Kevin can think more about plans for the future for his time outside of paid work: to spend time getting the house updated and repaired before retirement, to spend more time with his grandchildren in Scotland, to continue with a role he enjoys but doesn’t have much time for at present as an amateur DJ and to do some more learning for pleasure.

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Appendix 2: Individual case studies

Kevin’s review raises some issues which are very common at mid-life. People’s lives can be very complicated, and having lots of time to talk about the issues and untangle them with a sympathetic listener can be very helpful. It can also help to have a step-by-step action plan, reviewed regularly, to stop the issues becoming overwhelming. In Kevin’s case, there are a range of specialist agencies who can offer advice about caring. A longer conversation with a ULR could help Kevin to make a case to his employer for flexible arrangements which reflect his current situation. The time available for this activity was just 20 minutes, and Kevin was also able then to help a colleague to review his thoughts at this stage of his life. The mid-life development review process does not have to be lengthy and does not require a professional helper to start things off and to provide continuous mentoring support if needed. It is important to involve specialists where needed to take things forward, but ULRs are skilled at listening, exploring issues, identifying barriers and how to overcome them, making action plans, and signposting to other services, so they are in an ideal position to provide the central contact point for the mid-life development review process.


Helping older workers plan their future

Peter Peter works for the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), and is a member of the trade union Unite. He has wide experience of paid roles in learning and skills in the trade union movement, and still wishes to develop his career in this way. He has had a mid-life development review with a member of the unionlearn team by telephone, and two follow-up sessions where he was able to explore the issues that were most important to him at this stage in his life, and to make an action plan to shape his thinking about taking his future plans forward. His action plan is recorded on the Union Learning Climbing Frame. Peter is 58, and, prior to the mid-life development review, he identified his most important priorities as: keeping his current job, finding a new job if necessary; developing new skills for paid work; flexible working arrangements; learning for its own sake and planning for retirement. He is currently on a short-term contract and is not sure that it will be renewed. Peter is currently finishing a degree course in Business Studies and History of Art, and, after completing a Level 2 course, has booked himself onto a seminar about delivering IAG by telephone and email, a new service being offered by RCM, opening more doors for career progression. He has a wide variety of skills and knowledge to bring to a new role, and is used to transferring skills into new jobs and new organisations.

His immediate action points as a result of his review session are: 1. complete degree course and ALISON Photoshop course 2. follow up contacts for financial and pension planning 3. ensure job-seeking skills are up to date and keep in touch with NCS. Learning is an important tool for Peter to progress in work and with his personal goals. The mid-life development review process does not have to be lengthy and does not require a professional helper to start things off and to provide continuous mentoring support if needed. It is important to involve specialists where needed to take things forward, but ULRs, other reps and unionlearn staff are skilled at listening, exploring issues, identifying barriers and how to overcome them, setting up learning opportunities, making action plans, and signposting to other services, so they are in an ideal position to provide the central contact point for the mid-life development review process. Peter is hoping to offer some mid-life development review workshops to colleagues at work. During the pilot project, this was a great strength, where ULRs and union professionals had a review themselves from a colleague and then offered them to others.

Peter says ‘The review was systematic, thorough and the fact that it was conducted over the telephone was no barrier. I was asked to consider sometimes difficult questions about my future, but given plenty of time to do some research and reflection before follow-on sessions.’ Many RCM members are facing similar situations and Peter said ‘This valuable personal experience will enable me to empathise with midwives and offer them support.’

Appendix 2: Individual case studies

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Mid-life career reviews

Hazel Time is a big issue for Hazel. She balances her job as a phlebotomist for the South Tyneside Foundation Trust with her role of Project Worker for the UNISON Bridges to Learning project. The project is a joint venture between the Open University, the WEA and UNISON and is part funded by the Union Learning Fund. In addition to her work commitments Hazel balances her duties as a daughter, mother and grandmother alongside her union roles of union learning representative (ULR) and Branch Chair. In July, Hazel attended one of the Mid-life Career Review project workshops delivered by TUC unionlearn and was quick to engage in the project. Initially she undertook a one-to-one review with a fellow ULR to discuss her career, her life plans and aspirations for the future. The review concluded with an action plan for Hazel to follow. During the discussion Hazel highlighted that she had been previously been offered training and development opportunities including NVQ Level 4 Information, Advice & Guidance and a PTLSS course but hadn’t followed up these opportunities. Hazel explained that she had been feeling “too old” to undertake new training and development opportunities adding “if it hadn't been for the project I would not have spent time reviewing and planning for my future career”. Hazel and her ULR agreed to meet again to hold a follow-up review during September. Following her own Mid-life Career Review, Hazel, in her ULR role, was very active and quick to engage with colleagues from her workplace to conduct four Mid-life Career reviews. She also organised a workplace session with the National Careers Service. Hazel is utilising the unionlearn Climbing Frame to record the details of the reviews and the careers support she has provided colleagues.

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Appendix 2: Individual case studies

Hazel met with her ULR again in September. This was scheduled to revisit the action plan from her initial review; however, things had really changed for Hazel. She reported that since her initial review her plans had changed significantly. The courses that she had intended to pursue had been put on hold as, shortly after her first review, she received an email entitled ‘Leadership & Management Level 5’. Hazel explained that before her involvement in the Mid-life Career Review project she would have immediately deleted the email but discussing her plans for the future had given her the added confidence she needed. Hazel recalled “If it hadn’t been for Mid-life Career Review project, I wouldn’t have even opened the email”. But she did! Hazel went on to explain that she went to talk to her line manager, who agreed to provide some funding for the course and, before she knew it, she was enrolled. Hazel said “I can’t believe it; I am enjoying this so much. I’ve only attended twice so far but it’s great. I know it’s not going to be easy, but it’s great”.


Helping older workers plan their future

Emma Emma works for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and is a member of the trade union PCS. She is also a union learning representative (ULR). Restructuring at work means that her job is under threat. Emma had a short development review with a fellow ULR at a Unionlearn event in Newcastle where she was able to explore the issues that were most important to her at this stage in her life, and to make a brief action plan to shape her thinking about taking her future plans forward. She was then able to offer the same experience to her colleague. Emma is an important ‘tester’ for the unionlearn midlife development review process because as she said, “I’m only 24”. Emma found that the process was helpful and relevant for a review at any stage of a career. Although health and caring responsibilities are not issues as yet, Emma is acutely aware that planning your career is important at any age: “I worry about the jobs market and the amount of competition I face; I feel I need a lot of development. This relates to my worry of losing my financial independence. I don’t want to be a burden to my parents or society. The market is very competitive and I am becoming increasingly anxious about my self-preservation skills. I want employment skills but I also want to increase my resilience to ensure my future security. I don’t want to be humiliated by being pushed back into a childhood culture. This may compromise my self-confidence which will inhibit my resilience.”

As Emma points out, it is a concern, even at 24, to plan for financial stability and eventually retirement. The unstable situation with state and private pensions makes this very difficult. She lists her most important priorities at the moment as: finding a new job or changing career completely; developing new skills for paid work; finance and relationships. Learning for its own sake and developing skills for leisure and voluntary work are also high on the list; Emma is a strong believer in learning throughout life. Emma is aware that she was gained a range of workrelated skills in her current job and her previous job included administration and sales. She would like to find a new job which will make good use of this skills and experience and where she can continue to develop her skills through training and learning opportunities. Her immediate action points as a result of the review session are to: 1. go on a PTLLS course (Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector), and also dancing training 2. improve job-searching and application skills with help from the National Careers Service 3. learn to drive. Emma’s action points all highlight the importance of learning in any stage of development. She has a wide skillset drawn from paid work, leisure activities and from her involvement in the union. The mid-life development review process does not have to be lengthy or limited to people of a certain age. It does not require a professional helper to start things off and a ULR can provide continuous mentoring support if needed. It is important to involve specialists where needed to take things forward, but ULRs are skilled at listening, exploring issues, identifying barriers and how to overcome them, making action plans, and signposting to other services, so they are in an ideal position to provide the central contact point for the mid-life development review process.

Appendix 2: Individual case studies

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Mid-life career reviews

Appendix 3

Workshops and events to introduce and promote the project to ULRs and other reps In the South East, ULR meetings were held at: Southampton Council Depot; Brighton Council Depot; the Red Star Learning Centre in Chatham; Meadows Community Centre in Cambridge; the USDAW office in Bury St Edmunds; County Hall in Hertford and the Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London. Other workshops and events were held in the autumn – a wide range across the three regions, including an event for Prospect mentors and a subsequent professionals mid-career event, working closely with the C2 careers information service; the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP); TSSA South Eastern Trains learning at work event; CWU/Royal Mail union branch meeting in Chester; multi-union and employer North West Equalities Forum in Salford, North East Education, Learning and Skills Forum; UNISON meeting at Hertfordshire County Council; PCS branch meeting in Peterborough; FBU in the East of England; the Careers Open Day at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow; Merseytravel; a Supporting Learners event in Taunton; ULR meeting in Warrington; a workshop at the unionlearn national conference; TUC Wales Learning Services conference workshops; 17 Celebration of Learning events in Blackburn, Bootle, Salford, Liverpool and Manchester (involving FBU, BECTU, PCS); training sessions for ULRs working in the aviation and retail distribution sectors; SE Region annual conference; unionlearn North West region annual conference; pensions briefings at HMRC Salford; Royal College of Midwives (RCM) workshops planned in spring 2014 in Leeds and London; and Supporting Mid-life Development Newcastle and Pathways to Progression in London.

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Appendix 3: Events to introduce and promote the project to ULRs and other reps


Published by unionlearn Congress House London WC1B 3LS Tel 020 7079 6920 www.unionlearn.org.uk

JUNE 2014

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Midlife career reviews - Helping older workers plan their future