Scoring goals by agreement

The learning project at the Professional Footballers’ Association explains how they use learning agreements to help their members develop skills.

PFA event Learning Rep
©GeoffPenn

Signing learning agreements with employers, and putting in place the arrangements to implement and monitor their progress, have been underpinning the development of learning cultures in workplaces across the country for the past 20 years.

Learning agreements mean that ULRs are much more likely to have secured facility time to encourage their co-workers into learning; that access to training is more likely to be open to marginalised groups; and that organisations are genuinely able to address the skills gaps that could be holding them back.

Learning agreements are also crucial to developing sustainability for workplace learning projects since they guard against learning withering on the vine when supportive managing directors or HR personnel move on.

And at a time when unions currently have no statutory rights to collective bargaining over training, learning agreements go some way to closing that gap by establishing agreed approaches to learning, development and skills.

Learning agreements are essential for the Union Learning Fund (ULF) project run by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), says Project Manager Kris Irwin.

Learning agreements help preserve momentum for learning despite the turnover ofstaff and players that is common in most league clubs, and they help the union itself keep track of the outcomes it has agreed with the ULF, Kris says.

The main thing about our learning agreements is that the clubs know what to expect from us and what we expect from them in return: they keep us on our toes and make sure the project workers out in the field do everything in the right way as well.”

Agreements between the PFA and league clubs usually identify how both sides will agree critical success factors, share information on developments, work together to develop learning programmes and jointly organise learning activities and events, including awards and presentations.

They also tend to be complemented by agreements between the clubs and their players that set out what the PFA will be delivering.

Kris explained:

Because our project has been going for so long, the minute students come through the club doors at 16 years of age, they know they will be doing their initial assessments through the PFA ULF project, they know they will be getting an equality and diversity workshop with the PFA, and they know we will be coming in to give a union update on our welfare services and a general overview of the union.”

Every summer, the project visits all 15 learning centres the union is usually working with at any one time to determine their learner objectives.

Kris said:

We will look at their students, we will look at their squads, we know what their exam results are and we will determine their learning needs and choose the learning resources and activities they will need and then set our completion dates.”

Kris explained:

In addition to the learning agreement, the project also draws up a scheme of work with the clubs that sets out dates, staffing needs and key outcomes over the whole season. We use them for events, for courses we’re going to run, for learning centre set-ups.”

This story first appeared in the Summer 2019 Learning Rep.