- Employers as partners
- Learning with UNISON
- Learning locally
- Learning in Action
- Learning in the workplace
One of the great strengths of the OU/UNISON partnership is UNISON’s ability to negotiate and agree learning partnerships with employers. Learning partnerships are three-way agreements between UNISON, an employer and the OU.
In a learning partnership the employer agrees to support learning by providing resources and support for their employees; e.g. funding, time off for learning, access to IT facilities, etc. UNISON has the crucial task of negotiating the learning arrangements with the employer; the OU then delivers relevant and practical programmes of work-based learning.
UNISON also provides learners with valuable support through their 3,000 strong network of fully trained UNISON Learning Representatives who operate in the workplace. They work closely with branches to ensure that learners are encouraged and supported by employers, helping them to engage and achieve.
In other words, a learning partnership establishes a three-way agreement between UNISON, the OU and the employer that facilitates the delivery of an OU course to a number of students. Certain practical details will form part of that agreement; for example, UNISON might agree with a local authority which course they will deliver and how. Such an agreement will cover the following issues:
- which workers to target as potential learners
- the publicity required to recruit students onto the course
- navigation of the administrative procedures for recruiting to the course and registering the students
- time off required for work-based group study sessions
- time off for further study leave
- the payment of course fees.
Ideally, learning partnerships should be underpinned by formal Union–Employer Learning Agreements, which detail the rights and responsibilities of ULRs, although we can work with employers informally.
Benefits of learning partnerships
Learning partnerships can:
- enable the most positive features of work-based education to flourish, like work-based groups
- provide a valuable support mechanism for workers engaging in open learning
- provide a new dimension to industrial relations, which enables both workers and employers to benefit.
This new model of work-based learning is very powerful because:
- students can continue to earn whilst they learn
- most of the work is completed in the student’s own time and, as a result, the employer saves money on providing backfill cover for the student
- work-based groups have a very positive effect, both on individuals and the workplace (in terms of confidence, competence, loyalty, service level delivery and job satisfaction)
- studying in the workplace adds an extra element of ‘practical relevance’ to the student’s appreciation and understanding of the theory they are learning in their studies.