Keith Hatch, Projects Communications Officer, Unionlearn

The Covid-19 pandemic, and the resulting lockdown, has meant a huge number of changes for working people across the UK, with many workers were forced to remain at home.

Unionlearn traditionally works with unions to provide workplace learning opportunities to workers across England. This would normally involve lots of face to face learning, along with distance learning resources, delivered through a whole network of union Learning Centres in workplaces and an annual series of regional and national events.

The Service Team at unionlearn immediately began exploring ways to support workers and their families staying safe at home. This resulted in the development of the Learning @ Home campaign to help these workers continue to access skills development opportunities.

With a huge section of the workforce being furloughed or encouraged to work from home, coupled with caring responsibilities or the need to self-isolate, time was of the essence and within weeks the new campaign page “[email protected]” was live, with a rolling programme of new content planned through to late summer.

This new resource has been proving very popular. Thousands of learners have been accessing content and attending online webinars over the last few months.

Usually unionlearn tends to have campaign weeks through the year with set start and finish dates that tie into priority areas of work – such as the annual Maths Workout Week or Literacy Works Week. This new campaign has been very different and is ongoing with new elements are being added regularly as we continue to promote new resources.

The main page has pulled together a lot of free resources and support including a course finder search engine, bite-sized eLearning units, the Careerzone 'one-stop-shop' for career information as well as our SkillCheck initial assessment tool, Apprenticeship Essentials app and unionlearn Climbing Frame.

We have also developed pages full of tips and ideas to help learners make the most of the lockdown, as well as resources to help workers supporting their children continue schooling.

This all sounds like a packed website full of resources, but there is more. Each week during lockdown unionlearn has been running webinars to support learners, whilst Project Officers have been supporting partner unions with online learning sessions.

Hundreds of learners registering each week to hear from union learning reps, officers, trainers and partner discuss subjects ranging from tackling isolation and mental health issues to apprenticeships and green skills – there was even a session teaching laughter yoga.

All the webinars have been loaded up to the unionlearn YouTube page, which can be accessed through the website, so people can catch up with sessions they may have missed first time around.

The [email protected] website will stay up long after lockdown is, hopefully, behind us and will provide a very useful source of information for union learning reps and learners alike.

Staff at unionlearn have found the experience a bit of a learning curve as well, and we’re really pleased with the positive feedback we have been getting for the way the team has risen to the challenge of developing all the content whilst we were also working from home. These lessons will be used to build up future online campaigns and digital materials around the recovery along with an autumn Festival of Learning.

Keith Hatch is the Projects Communications Officer with unionlearn, the learning and skills arm of the TUC (Trade Union Congress).

Keith started work as an apprentice at Imperial College and more recently has worked for TUC South West as a Green Workplaces Project Officer and unionlearn as a Union Support Officer – he now sources and develops case studies and news stories around union supported workplace learning for the unionlearn website and social media platforms and supports the organisations events.

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