Supporting learners

How do ULRs and other union reps support union learners?

The role of the union rep, particularly the ULR, in supporting learners is in informing, advising, coaching, mentoring and signposting. The ULR is in the centre of the unionlearn network model.

How can unionlearn help?

The Strategy for Supporting Learners

The unionlearn Strategy for Supporting Learners (2014-17) has been developed to support the delivery of impartial learning and careers advice services to union learners. It is an underpinning strategy for all unionlearn activity with the primary aim of making all learning and progression opportunities available to all union members, particularly those who are disadvantaged in the workplace. The contribution of union learning representatives (ULRs) is vital to the success of this strategy.

The network model

Unionlearn works together with a network of organisations to make sure that union learners can get the information, advice and support they need to make choices about learning and progression at all levels that are right for them.

Who is in the unionlearn network?

  • The ULR and other union reps
  • Union learning centres and project workers
  • The National Careers Service
  • Learning and training providers
  • Employers
  • Sector Skills Councils

The Quality Award

Thousands of union learning representatives (ULRs) across the country are promoting training and learning in the workplace on behalf of union members. The unionlearn Quality Award is given to courses and programmes that meet our good practice criteria and that helps signpost ULRs to providers that are working successfully and flexibly with unions.

Learn more about the Quality Award.

The matrix standard

All careers information and advice providers who receive public funding to deliver their services are required to be accredited or working towards the matrix quality standard.

Learning and careers advice

The unionlearn learning and careers advice service was set up to make sure that reps have the backup they need from the network to make sure that the information they give is current and accurate and that they know who to refer learners to for professional advice and support.

The National Careers Service is a key partner in this service, providing a free, impartial and confidential service to help adults and young people to progress through learning, develop new skills, improve their job prospects or change jobs. The service is available online at, by telephone at 0800 100 900 (free from a landline), face-to-face (call the helpline number to make an appointment), and in different languages.

What support and resources are available for reps?

Unionlearn has developed a range of resources for reps and learners to help them to develop their skills and keep up to date.

The Climbing Frame

The union learning Climbing Frame is a free website for ULRs to help them in their role of supporting learners in the workplace.

The Climbing Frame recognises that union learners have aspirations, experiences and skills which relate to all aspects of their lives: their current jobs, possible career routes and personal situations.

The Climbing Frame can be used to:

  • Provide up to date information to help during discussions with learners
  • Update ULRs about various learning opportunities
  • Develop individual action plans with learners
  • Keep records of sessions with learners
  • Store local information and contacts
  • Gather information about learner profiles to support negotiations with employers.

Climbing Frame Learning Themes include:

  • Supporting Learners
  • Personal and Professional Development
  • Higher Learning
  • Supporting Learners at 50+
  • Progression for union reps.

Higher Learning at Work

This website is for anyone wishing to progress to Higher Education while working. It is also for advisers, including union reps.

It has information and activities, including free e-learning modules, about what to learn, where to learn, studying part-time, getting ready for Higher Education, funding higher learning, support from employers, Foundation degrees, the Open University and lots more.

Supporting Learners News

Sign up for email alerts or keep an eye on the website to receive these regular e-bulletins with updates about what is happening in Supporting Learners in unionlearn, unions and the wider network.

Supporting learners at 50+

Union Learning Reps (ULRs) are in key position to help people investigate what their next steps are in improving skills and considering new jobs or careers. 

The Sector Skills Councils careers links

Most of the Sector Skills Councils produce careers information to help individuals to find out what they need to do to progress in their current job or to change direction completely. We have compiled a list of their websites where you can find this information.


Supporting learners Latest news in this section

Minister pays tribute to unionlearn's work

30 June 2014

The Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise has paid tribute to unionlearn's work reaching out to disadvantaged workers, the Technician Pathways project and supporting quality apprenticeships and traineeships. Matthew Hancock MP told the unionlearn conference last week:

"You deserve credit for reaching out to disadvantaged workers – people who face some of the biggest barriers to accessing in training and development at work – but who arguably, have much to gain from it.

National Extension College launches 2014 learning challenge

02 June 2014

The National Extension College (NEC) is launching a series of free courses during 2014, under the title 2014 Learning Challenge. The first course, 'Personal Development Planning' was launched during Learning at Work Week and runs for the month of May.

The course is aimed people who are working as or aspiring to work as a first line manager, or in order to gain a promotion.

The course will help learners to:

Unionlearn North West shortlisted for prestigious Digital Leaders Award

28 May 2014 North West

Unionlearn in the North West has been shortlisted in the prestigious Digital Leaders Awards for 2014. The awards recognise the top 100 individuals, organisations, and products "making a real difference in the world of citizen-facing eServices."

The shortlisting is in recognition for their Digital Inclusion work in Liverpool. Unionlearn has been working with trade unions, employers and the voluntary sector in the North West to set up 50 digital hubs, train over 200 digital champions and support over 1500 people to get on line for the first time.

Free resources for Learning at Work Week

21 May 2014

This week is Learning at Work week. To support workers seeking to engage in more learning at work, unionlearn has compiled a list of free resources to help workplace learning activities.

Prospect launches new careers and skills website for professionals

19 May 2014

A new website from Prospect union is designed to fill the gap in careers information and advice for professionals.

The recently launched Careersmart website focuses on careers and skills. It will offer impartial information on a range of subjects, including career progression, pensions, self-employment and CV writing.

It also offers tools such as a career skills audit, a salary calculator and a salary checker.

Related Campaigns: