Throughout 2017 staff at unionlearn pulled out all the stops to make it one of its busiest years to date. The year was full of campaigns, events and the launch of new resources aimed at supporting workplace learning across the country.

Throughout the year unions have been working hard to improve the lives of members through learning – many examples of this work have appeared on the unionlearn website as stories, case studies or blogs.

In February Literacy Works week once again highlighted the benefits of union led learning in supporting reading, writing and ESOL. This involved working with partners such as The Reading Agency and its Quick Reads initiative to encourage people to pick up a book. Consequently, thousands of adults reconnected with the joy of reading and progressed on to literacy courses to improve their reading and writing skills.

At the other end of the year unionlearn turned its attention to numbers with its Maths Workout Week and a series of training sessions for unions on how best to deliver maths courses at work. This proved popular with union learning reps, who supported many of their colleagues to brush-up and improve their numeracy skills.

The highlight of the unionlearn year was once again its annual conference at Congress House. Nearly 300 delegates packed into the Congress Centre and heard stories from reps about the difference union learning has made. There were also speakers from unions, industry and the arts along with a wide range of workshops and the launch of a number of new publications.

Speaking of new publications – 2017 was a very busy year for new unionlearn publications. Not only did the quarterly Learning Rep continue to deliver high quality and inspiring stories but we also produced a number of resources to give reps and unions the latest information to help keep up to speed and continue supporting workplace learners.

These included:

·         Opening doors to all: How union learning tackles disadvantage 

·         Measuring the success of union learning 

·         Unions supporting high-quality Apprenticeships 

·         Accessible Apprenticeships 

·         Apprenticeship Levy - 15 useful negotiating tips 

·         Supporting Mid-life Development Survey Evaluation report 

·         Supporting maths and English learning in the workplace - a guide for union learning reps 

These publications are all available online at the unionlearn website – and more are being planned for 2018.

Once again unionlearn has spent a lot of time supporting unions promote high quality apprenticeships. Unionlearn launched a new Apprenticeships - Know Your Rights eNote aimed at apprentices and workplace reps, there was also a lot of work supporting employers and unions understand the new apprenticeship levy which was launched in 2018. One highlight of the year was the Voice of the Apprentice event held in Hull, city of culture, during National Apprentice Week with the support of TUC Yorkshire and Humber– just one of many events that unions were involved with during the week. 

In the autumn unionlearn hit the road and held Supporting Learners events in London, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle and Southport. These events highlighted unionlearns core themes of maths, English and apprenticeships and drew hundreds of delegates keen to find out about the latest resources and support available.

Staff from unionlearn were also out and about at various events and held stalls at the TUC Congress in Brighton, The Skills Show at Birmingham NEC, Merseylearn's Adult Learning Celebration at the Museum of Liverpool, The Big Bang Fair in Sussex and at a number of regional union events.

The Rainbow Years is an exciting new Erasums + project that started in November, and will see the work unionlearn has done on Mid-Life Career Reviews shared across Europe. The project is just starting and there will be lots more about it throughout 2018.

Towards the end of the year unionlearn launched SkillCheck - a tool created by unionlearn for the use of unions to help deliver learning in the workplace. This tool contains three learning themes (with more planned for 2018) designed to help engage with learners, providing both an initial assessment and a way to encourage further learning.

TUC Education were also extremely busy throughout the year and have been developing new online reps course. Lots of brand new e-Notes have been launched covering areas as a diverse as Mentoring, Working with Figures, Mental Health awareness and the Union Learning Advantage – there are now over 30 eNotes with many more in the pipeline. 2018 also saw TUC Education deliver a series of very popular webinars, giving access to new to top quality facilitators and new skills to hundreds of people.

Unionlearn Director Kevin Rowan said: “2017 has been a busy, and very productive year – and 2018 doesn’t look like slowing down. Unionlearn has been supporting learners and unions in workplace across the country through the development of useful and practical resources along with exciting campaigns and events where people get to share experiences and ideas.”

“In 2018 unionlearn will be extending its core focus to include Digital Skills on top of maths, English and apprenticeships and as well as promoting varied learning opportunities through partner organisations. It will be another busy year – something that everyone at unionlearn is looking for to getting stuck into.”

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