Union Learning Reps: Supporting home learners

The current Covid-19 pandemic means big changes for the way we all work and learn. You’ll know your colleagues and learners and their workplace situation and be working on the appropriate support to offer as a Union Learning Rep (ULR) – for example are people keyworkers, working from home, furloughed, apprentices, looking after family or in other situations.

ULR Supporting home learners

We’ve put together a few ideas from ULRs and unionlearn for supporting people’s learning at the current time. Please let us know what’s working for you though – we’d love to add to this list for other ULRs to see.

Staying in touch with members and learners

  • Be available and let your colleagues know how to get in touch - by email, phone or video perhaps - and when they can contact you with questions or for support if they need it
  • Do you have learners on existing or planned courses? Staying in contact with learners, providers, colleges and employers so everyone knows what’s happening and so people’s questions can be answered, or worries addressed, could be important
  • Do you support apprentices? Unionlearn is regularly updating everyone about the impact of the pandemic on apprentices and sharing links to Department for Education (DfE) guidance. 
  • Promote the value of learning – for example it can be something for people to enjoy, help people stay connected, support good mental health, be a way of keeping busy and using time productively
  • Recognise people’s learning achievements

Giving practical support

  • Check in with learners regularly – share information, tips on learning at home and ideas on learning opportunities for example
  • Connect learners up – explore ways to keep the collective element of union learning going – for example use forums, facebook or WhatsApp groups, organise video and telephone conference call catch-ups. Try things out and find what you and your learners like to use and when’s a good time to connect
  • If learners are new to, for example, online learning offer technical support if you’ve skills in this area – or identify other sources of help such as digital champions or IT staff
  • Offer people online tasters, sessions and webinars

Getting the support you need

  • Look after yourself and get support – make use of information from the likes of the:
  • Resources – do you need any new or different resources or equipment if working arrangements have changed for you as a ULR, or for the workers in your organisation – with more people home working for example. Can your employer, union or learning centre help provide it?
  • Keep in touch with other ULRs – to share ideas and support each other
  • Learn yourself – develop your knowledge or try out home learning yourself if it’s new to you, or look into learning to use different communication tools that might help you keep in touch

Working with employers and providers

  • Consult with employers and let members know the results – these are just some questions that may come up:
    • what home working policies are in place?
    • can people use work time for home learning?
    • will employers pay for home learning courses where there are charges?
    • how will employers recognise skills gained?
    • are employers offering learning opportunities?
    • how is learning going to be accessible and available to everyone?
    • what support can keyworkers get as their time for learning will likely be limited at best
  • Do you have learners on existing or planned courses? Staying in contact with learners, colleges and providers and employers so everyone knows what’s happening next and people’s questions can be answered, or worries addressed, could be important
  • Do your usual providers and colleges have new offers such as online training?
  • Furlough - a furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or learning and training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for their employer – is this an option to explore?
  • The gov.uk website may be useful for information on the situation for learning providers 

Keeping the union at the heart

Future planning

  • Track learning – use something like the Climbing Frame to record what your home-learners are doing. Recording learning can be important, especially if you have a union learning project you report to and that can help on correct data collection guidelines
  • Plan ahead – where could learners want to go next? If you know what they’re learning at home this could set the scene for future learning the union could organise or advocate, now or when the situation changes and face to face learning is back in the mix
  • Subscribe to and keep visiting unionlearn. We’ll be adding new resources and ideas that you might be able to use to our learning at home section, as well as making available all our existing free tools like SkillCheck and Value My Skills

We’re keen to share other useful union learning tips from you at this time. Email Andy at [email protected] to share your thoughts with others.