From education to employment

Liz Smith, director of unionlearn, writes her monthly column exclusively for FE News.

Lily Allen and the Levellers take part with unionlearn this month making cameo appearances in our new 10 minute animation film, Kate and Umar’s Incredible Learning Journey. This is the latest in a series of unionlearn films aimed at spreading the learning message to as broad an audience as possible. This film will be shown at Glastonbury later this year, as well as among unions, educational providers, and is available on the unionlearn website at It’s free of charge and post and packing is also free.

As many organisations are learning, DVDs and film are an effective method of bringing life to a message and engaging new audiences. FENews itself is taking a lead in this area, with its dedicated site, FEVideo. Unionlearn has so many heart warming stories of learners and Union Learning Reps (ULRs) that we are really keen to share these examples and encourage others to take up the learning challenge. It’s a great boost for the learners themselves and really puts flesh on the bones of brilliant learning stories.

The film will be an important addition to our promotional materials used in raising the profile of our network of learning centres. It is an excellent tool for ULRs to attract more people into union learning centres throughout the country. In over 3,000 centres, dedicated individuals are working with providers to create a learning culture in workplaces and communities. Unionlearn also works with learndirect in a network of centres that range from the Claret Centre, based at Rastrick High School in West Yorkshire to the Prison Officers Association (POA) Union Learning Centre at Ashworth Hospital in Liverpool. And through our Trade Union Education Centres, such as those at Newcastle College, City Centre College Norwich, and the College of North East London, we are able to work closely with providers. This has the added bonus for learners in that it encourages them to take the next step onto college courses, because they are used to being in a college atmosphere.

What makes union-led learning special, is that we support individuals through all stages of learning. So it isn”t just a matter of getting people onto courses, but helping them reach out further and progress. We have union learners who started on basic literacy and numeracy courses who are now taking teacher training courses and learners graduating who thought university just wasn”t for them. And that, in the words of Lily Allen, is a good reason to “Smile”.

Liz Smith, Director, unionlearn

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