About union learning centres

Union learning centres have become an integral part of the lifelong learning agenda. They help to create a positive learning culture and they widen participation. Learning centres build bridges between informal learning, Maths, English and ICT as well as vocational learning.

In many cases, union learning centres are an important element of learning agreements between unions and employers. They are supported by strong partnerships between employers, unions and providers to ensure that a wide range of learning and learning support is available. Many have book swap clubs and links to local libraries too.

There will be hundreds of union learning centres in the unionlearn union learning centre directory. They offer a diversity of opportunities. Some are able to offer learning to friends and families of employees, others are open to local communities while others are reserved for those working in specific workplaces. The directory lists those centres open to all.

Many learning centres and Union Learning Fund (ULF) projects are already working with community learners, unemployed adults and those in non-union workplaces. The benefits of unionlearn support can extend to any groups of learners working with unions, directly or indirectly.

Unionlearn's approach is informed by its understanding of the diversity of needs, situations and provision that exist across the network of union learning centres. Unionlearn aims to provide:

  • access to high quality teaching and learning materials to support English and maths learners, regardless of where learners are in their learning journey and to assist centres to develop partnerships with providers who may give free access to materials as long as they are being used with union learners and not used across other provision).
  • increased progression opportunities for learners through improved access to courses, programmes and qualifications that centres may not currently be aware offer.
  • advice on funding and learning opportunities, including how centres may be able to access their own sources of funding.
  • help with developing sustainable local partnerships and strategic relationships, including strengthening existing partnerships, or securing new ones.

Get involved

Please contact unionlearn to get involved. Unionlearn staff will ask you some questions about your centre and its support needs, as well as helping you get listed on our union learning centres directory if you are not already there. Depending on your needs, they may be able to help you directly, but, if not, they will pass your details on to colleagues who will call you back to arrange advice or access to learning materials.

Setting up a Learning Centre

This booklet will provide you with the practical help you need to set up your own learning centre. It looks at the benefits of a learning centre and helps you through the key decisions you will need to take to set up a centre that best suits your workplace. It then shows you how to plan, set up and manage your centre with advice from Union Learning Reps (ULR) and union reps who have been through the process.

Setting up a Learning Centre Guide

Learning Centre Survey

Union-led learning centres help tens of thousands of learners each year. Learning centres are an extremely valuable resource and over 30% are located in areas of high deprivation. In 2016, unionlearn undertook a survey of union-led learning centres. The survey report explored the experience, support and engagement of union learning reps (ULRs) and other reps supporting the learning centres. 

Participants were asked a series of questions about how the centre is supported and utilised. The findings of which have been consolidated into this interesting report. The survey found:

  • 84% of respondents reported that their learners achieved a recognised qualification
  • Nearly three quarters of respondents are working with a local FE college
  • Four out of five learning centres offer information, advice and guidance

Union-led learning centres are a great way to learn in a supported environment. The survey report shows commitment from unions and employers in their support for learning centres. From the responses, unionlearn have been able to make a number of recommendations for future support of the union-led learning centre network.