Union learning centres FAQ

Union learning centres – frequently asked questions

A learning centre is a place where learners can come at a time that suits them in order to learn, at their own pace, in a quiet, comfortable and supportive environment. Such an environment is of great importance, as it will facilitate a positive learning experience for the people using it. It can be in a fixed location or it could be mobile; it may be in the workplace, union premises or within the local community. It is important to be flexible as each learning centre should be responsive to its learners and no one model will fit every need.

A learning centre provides a chance for people to improve a range of skills or interests, such as adult Maths and English. It can also be a place where they can gain computer and IT skills, learn a new language, develop leisure interests as well as providing an opportunity for people to achieve qualifications.

You will need to speak to your union learning rep who will be able to advise you on time off for learning. Many trade unions have developed learning agreements with employers that will cover time off arrangements. In a workplace where training is negotiated, almost 40% of workers get an average of 5 or more training days a year, compared to less than 25% where training is not negotiated.

All trade union learning centres have access to a union learning representative (ULR). ULRs are trained to provide information and advice on learning opportunities that are available. ULRs also have access to unionlearn learning and careers service. This is a service to help union reps and member to develop new skills, improve their job prospects or change jobs. This service is operated by the National Careers Service.

Contact your union learning representative who will be able to advise you on what is available in your area.

Most learning centres offer excellent support for Maths and English learning. If they cannot deliver courses in the centre, they will give good advice on how to facilitate this and provide ongoing support to you when you use the centre.

It is necessary to plan carefully and co-ordinate how you go about setting up an effective learning centre. While getting the learning centre 'up and running' could theoretically be completed in a few weeks, in practice one should be more concerned with getting it right, rather than achieving it in record time. Setting up a learning centre can appear to be a daunting challenge and can require a substantial commitment, both in terms of time and effort, if it is to be a success. However, there are resources and support available to help you. Contact your trade union or unionlearn.

If trade union members want to become a ULR they should discuss if first with the union branch, shop steward committee or the full time officer. All ULRs are given training for their role through courses provided by the TUC and individual trade unions.

e-learning is the name given to learning which uses technology to deliver courses. They are typically delivered from a website which you log in to. Because the website is accessed via the internet, they can be accessed at any time.

Unions have a great track record of supporting e-learning to ensure that the learning is high quality, supported well and flexible.

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