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 (2011-14) 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

Unionlearn signs up to UK Digital Inclusion Charter

14 April 2014 Supporting learners

Unionlearn has signed up to support the UK Digital Inclusion Charter, launched to mark the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. The charter aims to help more people go online.

The Charter says:

"11 million people in the UK lack basic digital skills and capabilities. The consequences are profound. Without access, skills, motivation and trust people will continue to be digitally excluded, with a real social and human impact; affecting job prospects, health, education and more. 

Unionlearn sponsors 'Collective Learning Fund Agreements' in the South West

In 2013 unionlearn commissed case study research to access the impact of the ‘Call to Learn’ project. The publication, Call to Learn – TUC unionlearn South West collective action for lifelong learning, identifies the benefits and challenges of developing Collective Learning Funds (CLFs) to unions and to management and provides five CLF development case studies.

Video highlights work of ULRs in mid-life career reviews

19 March 2014 Supporting learners

A new video featuring personal accounts from union learning reps (ULRs) about how they delivered activities, utilised resources and engaged colleagues to discuss their career has been launched. The Supporting Mid-life Development video has been produced by unionlearn.

The video is the latest tool in the supporting learner's suite of resources and contains footage of ULRs discussing their experience of the Mid-life Career Review pilot project.

One participant said:

October Education, Learning and Skills Forum

10 October 2013 Northern Supporting learners

Unionlearn with the Northern TUC's forthcoming Education, Learning and Skills Forum (ELSF) will focus on the Family Learning Festival (which runs from 19th October to 3rd November 2013) and include Informal Adult Learning.  

There will be an update on the Learning and Skills agenda, including the Better Health at Work Award, Go ON North East and Apprenticeships.  There will also be the opportunity to take part in an informal learning taster session.

Registration and buffet lunch from 12:00.

The event will commence at 13:00 and close by 16:00.

Southern & Eastern region ULR network meetings

Book your place now for this autumn’s Southern & Eastern region ULR network meetings.

Please see below for venues and to register your attendance.

These meetings focus on activity in the area and give the opportunity for ULRs to work together and organise learning locally. Guest speakers also attend and this is a great opportunity for ULRs to meet and share their experiences.

The meetings are for reps and officers and will take place from 10:00-13:00.

Topics covered will include: